My wife Kerry and I lived in India 2006-2010, in New Delhi. In 2007, I had my first novel accepted for publication (The Bone Tiki, a YA fantasy set in New Zealand, by HarperCollins New Zealand), and that encouraged me to look for more writing inspiration. As a Kiwi living in Asia for the first time, India provided plenty of that.
The result was the four-book Return of Ravana series, inspired by and set in modern India, using the concept of reincarnation to tell a story of ancient heroes and demons, a retelling of the epic Ramayana woven around Indian history. In it, a group of young Indians discover that in all their past lives, they’ve been afflicted by the same evil being – and he’s coming for them again in this life. This sets off a quest that will see them travel the length and breadth of India, and relive past lives during some of the pivotal moments in Indian history.
The series was initially published by Penguin India, but a couple of years ago JFB/Quercus (the publisher of my Moontide and Sunsurge series) purchased the rights and asked me to revise the text, to suit ‘house style’ and ‘anglicize’ a few aspects, while leaving the story and setting the same. In the end we also aged the characters up a little, and in truth it was a bigger job than any of us anticipated: apparently one’s writing can “mature” in the space of seven years of professional authoring – who knew?
To mark the change, we retitled each book, and this month marks the release of the final one, The King. For the record, the books are titled:
- The Pyre (formerly the award-winning Pyre of Queens)
- The Adversaries (formerly The Ghost Bride)
- The Exile (formerly Souls in Exile)
- The King (formerly King of Lanka)
The task of ‘refreshing’ the series has been very enjoyable. The only major change was to give one character a background of having grown up in England, so that we could see India through the eyes of someone who can compare east and west.
The real joy has been to pull out my old photographs and to think about what was a very happy four years of my life. I’d only just met Kerry when she was offered the India post, and she asked me to join her. It was the most wonderful adventure, we got engaged at the Taj Mahal and married in Indian wedding garb, and saw many amazing places – the Golden Temple and the Golden Triangle, the Himalayas and the hill stations, the beaches of Goa and Chennai and the ancient monuments that are everywhere; and we met so many wonderful people, locals and ex-pats alike. I hope this series can give you a taste of that, as well as a new appreciation of one of the oldest and most unique cultures on our planet.
Here’s the blurb for The King. I hope you give the series a go:
Vikram, Amanjit, Deepika and Rasita are trapped in a terrifying cycle: for them the Ramayana is not just a tale. It’s their fate!
In every life they have ever lived, the four of them have been pursued, persecuted and murdered by Ravindra, once a brutal raja who aspires to the throne of Ravana, the Demon-King. In this life, for the first time, they are fighting back – but Rasita has been taken captive by Ravindra, and demonic creatures are rallying to his call. His triumph seems inevitable: in every past life, Vikram has died at Ravindra’s hands, but this time, if Ravindra wins, it will be forever.
Age-old mysteries must be uncovered and forgotten powers regained, as the quest to end the tyranny of Ravindra moves toward a heart-stopping climax, and a finale that is as startling as it is electrifying.