Aditya Shukla was born in Adelaide, Australia. He spent his early childhood in Mumbai, India, before moving to New York City, where he attended the United Nations International School. He graduated magna cum laude from Cornell University, and currently works in New York City.
An avid reader of the fantasy genre since childhood, Aditya captures his passion and the thrill of his reading experiences in Tales of Zygorra.
TBE: For people who haven’t read “Tales of Zygorra”, what is it about? Can you share with us something about the book that isn’t in the blurb?
Aditya Shukla: “Tales of Zygorra” is a fantasy coming-of-age novel. It is an exploration of how teenagers navigate an unfamiliar environment without supervision, focusing on the internal battle between individuality and group mentality. The supernatural elements evoke a sense of magic and adventure as the reader discovers each character’s unique story. I started writing this book in 2013, after attending the Gotham’s Writers Workshop in New York. Therefore, it is a culmination of 8 years of writing and revision.
TBE: What brought about the idea for Zygorra, a fantasy land with magical people?
Aditya Shukla: When I was growing up, I was especially enamored by the fantasy genre, eagerly reading series such as Harry Potter, Percy Jackson and A Song of Ice and Fire. I wanted to create a fantasy land with magical people from my own imagination to present to a new generation of readers.
TBE: How did you get interested in writing about teleportation and how did you want to depict it in your story?
Aditya Shukla: Attending a summer camp in the Adirondack mountains, upstate New York, inspired me to start my book at a similar setting. Since I wanted the book to mostly be set in a fantasy world, I needed to incorporate a magical means. Teleportation was the logical choice. I wanted to depict teleportation as a mysterious phenomenon, outwardly beautiful, but in reality, painful and startling.
TBE: When you develop characters do you already know who they are before you begin writing or do you let them develop as you go?
Aditya Shukla: The characters are inspired by the diverse and multicultural interactions and experiences that I have been fortunate to have, living in Mumbai and New York. I discovered my characters in the process of writing, as their voices became clearer in my mind through plot progression.
TBE: If you could give each of the main characters one piece of advice, what would it be?
Aditya Shukla: I would provide the following advice to characters
Kiba: You cannot bring everyone together single-handedly.
Diana: It is important to see everyone as their own person.
Rafan: Do not approach others believing they have already made up their mind about you.
Firuza: It is helpful to observe people’s interactions outside of your own notions.
Banko: It does not make you less if you are wrong.
Hannah: Scapegoating someone for your grievances is an unhealthy coping mechanism.
Thao: You cannot be responsible for taking care of everyone.
Luis: Distraction only delays the inevitable fallout.
James: It is better to voice what is on your mind than to keep it in.
Ganiru: You can be courageous even when scared.
TBE: What do you enjoy about fantasy writing and why did you pick it?
Aditya Shukla: My favorite aspect of fantasy writing is that my imagination can run wild! When creating a new world with supernatural elements, the writer makes the rules. Given the time period I started writing the book, I wanted to focus on teenagers having to come together while dealing with their problems. Weaving in a supernatural element was exciting as part of exploring this narrative.
TBE: According to you what is the most essential aspect about fantasy? The characters, the settings, or the superpower structure?
Aditya Shukla: The setting and superpower structure are crucial aspects that define fantasy. For me personally, while characters are the most compelling component of a successful story, they are not the defining aspect of the fantasy genre. The context surrounding the fantasy world is critical, as it determines the characters’ interactions and experiences. This context is enriched by explaining the connection between the setting and the superpower structure.
TBE: How will you differentiate fantasy, science-fiction and mythology?
Aditya Shukla: Fantasy involves a magical touch, usually involving imagined worlds and supernatural elements. Science fiction includes use of scientific reasoning with technological involvement. Mythology uses established folklore as a backdrop for the narrative.
TBE: Do you read much and if so, who are your favorite authors?
I have been a voracious reader since childhood. Growing up, my favorite author was J.K. Rowling. Today, I am a fan of both fiction and non-fiction. In particular, I enjoy reading books by Malcolm Gladwell, George R. R. Martin, Agatha Christie, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Amy Tan.
TBE: How was your publishing experience with Leadstart?
Aditya Shukla: My publishing experience with Leadstart has been interesting and fulfilling. The editing process was a collaborative endeavor focused on language, consistency, world building and character development. It allowed me to crystallize areas of development and elements for preservation. I had only focused on writing initially, so the design and marketing phases have taught me new skills. From deliberations about the book cover to selecting the font size of the text, and engaging in blogger interviews to supervising social media, I have been challenged to step outside my comfort zone. As a result, this process has facilitated growth and learning for me.
TBE: Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue or interest your readers?
Aditya Shukla: While “Tales of Zygorra” can function as a stand-alone novel, I have further material for what could become a trilogy. It depends on the response from my readers. Stay tuned if you want to know what happens next to Kiba, Firuza, Rafan, Diana and the rest.