09 December, 2018

#Interview with Sadhna Shanker, #Author of Ascendance

About the Author:

Sadhna Shanker is an Indian author, blogger and civil servant. This is her fifth book, and second fiction work after “Never a Disconnect’ in 2010. She has written for the International Herald Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, Times of India, Hindustan Times, The Hindu, Indian Express, Huffington Post and The Wire. She blogs at http://zindagitalkies.wordpress.com. A PhD in Economics, she is a passionate wordsmith and has an avid interest in books, movies and theatre. She lives in New Delhi and is in the Indian Revenue Service.  

Social links:
Facebook * Twitter * Blog

An Interview with the Author:

How did you come up with the idea of your current story?
Ascendance grew over time within me spurred on by life, being a woman in India and the rapid changes that are happening around us. As sexuality and gender identities have been getting blurred and more fluid, I really wondered what would be the shape of things to come if the reproductive link between men and women is demolished. I do think we are moving towards that in the future. Cloning and incubation of babies outside the female form will dramatically change the way men and women interact. The idea was something I decided to write about.  When I started out I had somewhat nebulous ideas about the potential of technology to transform our existence. As I researched for the book, my own ideas changed. We are moving towards a huge change in human life – I don’t have doubts about it anymore. The future will arrive much faster than we want to accept or can foresee. 

Tell us about your writing process. 
Ascendance took me eight years to bring out in final form. How and where you write depends on your comfort zone. I have learnt one thing in the long years of juggling job, family and writing – there is never a perfect time to write. Or do whatever it is that you want to do. Waiting for a time when all other things will be in place is like an economics model – never a reality. The time is now. You have to find order in the chaos around. I write in my own home on a desktop. I have not got used to a laptop at all. 

What is your favourite scene in the book? Why? 
Ascendance is literary science fiction. It does not have the human race battling alien species or machines. The theatre of the book is the change in life of men and women that is driven by technology. It tries to imagine a world thousands of years in the future, where life is indefinitely extendable and the reproductive link between man and woman has been terminated, and each can clone their off-spring independently. The philosophical underpinnings of the story are layered on top by a whodunit. Interestingly, what I enjoyed the most was writing about Earth in the 23rd and 24th century, and imagining how life as we know it could be transformed with the rapid change in technology in all fields.

Did any of your characters inherit some of your own quirks? 
As a writer I feel some character always does reflect some of the author’s beliefs, biases and maybe even prejudices. In Ascendance I feel Maya, the woman’s consciousness from 24th century Earth, who makes her way to the new planet Elone does reflect that. Especially her lust for life and her spirit of enquiry. 

Do you read? Who are your favourite authors and how have they influenced your writing style? 
Yes I do. Though I must admit when I am writing a book, reading becomes secondary. I pick it up again when I have finished with a book. I love reading fiction, especially whodunits, science fiction, and increasingly non-fiction too. My favourite authors would be Ayn Rand and Agatha Christie. I think the former inspired me to write stories that say something beyond the story, and the latter an eye for detail. These days I am enjoying reading ‘Sapeins’’ by Yaval Harari. 

What is the best piece of advice you have received, as a writer till date?  
The best advice I have got is always from the editor of the book. More often than not, the suggestions enhance the book manifold. A good, sincere editor is your best friend in the rather tedious and often times painful editorial process.

If you were stranded on the famous deserted island, what three things would you carry? 
- Blank paper and pen
- My radio
- My swim suit

Can you share with us something off your bucket list?
My bucket list mainly is about travel – I want to see the Northern lights and travel to Antarctica. In my dreams I want to go to Mars!

What do you have in store next for your readers?
Lots of ideas are playing in my head. Sometimes I think of a sequel to Ascendance, at others something totally different. I still have to decide.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with your readers?
When I was young trainee officer, a senior had come to our Academy to address us. He had said that always maintain a hobby, something that engages you apart from work. Overtime I have understood the wisdom of his words. In the hustle, bustle, stresses and strains of everyday life, writing is like an oasis for me. When I get down to write, everything else recedes in the background. So it actually works both as a passion and as a place of my own to retreat to. All of us should have something in our lives that engages and keeps us alive!

About the Book:

The night Seeni died, the fault line reappeared. The existing equilibrium between men and women, the antagonistic species that inhabit Elone began to crumble. 

If a clash happens, how long would it last? What would remain? Who? How many? Were they heading for a time like the last days on Earth?

As each side regroups along the Fence, Maya, a woman’s consciousness from twenty third century Earth, reveals the past intertwined existence of men and women. Would knowledge of their shared past change the course of the future?

Delving into ideas of divergence, immortality and consequent new social constructs, 'Ascendance' is set in a world that represents a possible, and not a dystopian future. 

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