Interview with Tanaz Bhathena
Updated: Sep 6
Brief Bio: Tanaz Bhathena writes books for young adults. She is a two-time nominee of the Ontario Library Association’s White Pine Award, most recently for her novel, The Beauty of the Moment. Her acclaimed novel, A Girl Like That, was named a Best Book of the Year by numerous outlets including The Globe and Mail, Seventeen, and The Times of India. She is also the author of an upcoming fantasy novel called Hunted by the Sky. Her short stories have appeared in various publications including The Hindu, Blackbird, Witness, and Room. Born in India and raised in Saudi Arabia and Canada, Tanaz lives in Mississauga, Ontario, with her family. Hunted by the Sky is set to release on June 23, 2020.
What does “diversity” in books mean to you as both a writer and a reader?
As a writer, to attempt to depict various types of people with sensitivity and care—knowing that I may not always get things right and be prepared to learn from that. As a reader, to read stories by different and authentic voices.
What book did you first see yourself and your experiences represented, and how did that feel?
Rohinton Mistry’s Tales From Firozsha Baag, a short story collection about people living in a Parsi colony in Bombay. I felt seen for the first time. I was also surprised that readers were interested in stories about people like me.
Tell me about a book that changed how you look at the world. How did that book explore diverse voices or characters?
Russi Lala’s autobiography The Thread of God in my Life. He wrote this book while undergoing cancer treatment and it has tons of great wisdom. Now that I struggle with chronic illness, it helps a lot to read this book and to look at the world positively when I’m feeling low. Russi Lala was a well known Indian Zoroastrian biographer—he wrote and edited many books about the Tata family—who are Parsi and Indian icons; the name can be found on nearly every truck in India.
How has being part of a particular identity group shaped your writing process?
I grew up outside America, learning along with English, three different languages that aren’t rooted in Latin. When I think, I do so in a hybrid of these tongues—and it allows me to experiment with my own narrative style, which is a lot of fun! I’m constantly challenging myself to write from a perspective that may be unfamiliar to American readers and introducing them to new worlds, while simultaneously connecting us on a human level.
What are some diverse identities and experiences your book explores?
Medieval India was a melting pot of different races, cultures, and faiths. While my fantasy kingdom, Ambar, isn’t meant to accurately reflect fifteenth century Hindustan (no magic then!), I certainly wanted to reflect the diversity one could see in India back then and the diversity you can still see in India today. For instance, there are people of different faiths living in relative harmony in Hunted by the Sky. There are also openly gay characters in the book and the inhabitants of Ambar annually celebrate the love of a pair of gay goddesses. While religion and sexual orientation can lead to people being persecuted in the real world, it didn’t make real sense for these things to happen in Ambar. Ambar has its own issues though and you’ll find out more about that as you read the book.
Which character in your book do you connect with most? Why?
This is such a hard question because I connect to different characters at different points in time. When I’m feeling furious, I connect to Gul or Amira. When I’m thoughtful, I’m more like Cavas or Juhi. No character in Hunted by the Sky is entirely me, yet all these characters, including the villains, have little parts of me in them.
What type of reaction are you hoping your readers will have to your book?
I hope readers will enjoy the world of Ambar and the adventures the characters go on! I also hope I get to see some fan art from readers!
What’s next for you? Do you have another book you’re working on?
I’m working on the sequel to Hunted by the Sky, which releases in spring 2021.
Thank you to Tanaz for being so willing and helpful in answering the questions I had.
If you want to preorder Tanaz's book, click HERE!
You can look forward to more author interviews soon.