Remarkable women don’t often make their way into our textbooks. Queen of Earth by Devika Rangachari is the story of one such woman. The book follows the life of Prithvimahadevi and is a must-read for anyone who loves to read historical fiction. When we at thenotoriousreader came across the book, we knew we had to get in touch with the author to know more.
Dr. Devika Rangachari is an award-winning writer whose book, Queen of Ice (Duckbill), was on the White Raven list, won the Neev Book Award for Young Adults, and has been optioned to be made into a movie/television series. She is currently the recipient of a prestigious national fellowship awarded by the ministry of culture to research aspects of gender and historical fiction in Indian children’s literature. Devika recently completed her postdoctoral research on gender in Indian history.
What inspires you to pick up your pen and write?
If you are a voracious reader, you are already halfway to becoming a writer. So my reading has always inspired me to write.
Can you please give us some more information about your book? Can you please tell us more about the main characters of the book?
Queen of Earth is about Prithvimahadevi who ruled the Bhaumakara dynasty of Orissa in the ninth century CE. Her father, the Somavamshi ruler, Janamejaya, arranges her marriage to the Bhaumakara ruler, Shubhakaradeva, as part of a humiliating treaty. Through a series of circumstances, Prithvimahadevi later finds herself replacing her brother-in-law, Shivakaradeva, on the Bhaumakara throne, setting aside the claims of his two sons.
Why did you choose to write about this particular topic? Why did you choose this particular genre? Will you be trying your hand at any other genre?
My doctoral and post-doctoral research was on gender in early medieval north India and Orissa, respectively. Prithvimahadevi’s reign formed part of the latter and as the story of this little-known woman was so remarkable, I decided to write about her for young adults who are unlikely to get to know about her through their textbooks or any other source.
I like to write gender-based historical fiction based on my research so that my readers can get to know about important women from the past who have been virtually written out of the historical narrative due to gender bias. For the moment, I would like to continue with this genre of writing.
When should we expect your next book? What will it be about?
My next book, entitled Swordswoman! The Rani of Jhansi in the Indian Uprising of 1857, will be out in February 2021 as part of the True Adventures series of Pushkin Press, U.K. The Indian edition will be published later that year. The book deals with a significant part of the life of Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi and explores her relationship with her adopted son, Damodar.
If not a writer, what would have been the career of your choice?
I would have probably taught History or English to older schoolchildren if I had not been a writer.
Can you tell us about your favourite author/ authors?
That is a difficult question to answer as I have too many favourite authors to name! While a child, it was Enid Blyton and Elinor M. Brent-Dyer. Later, it was P.G. Wodehouse, Mary Stewart, Agatha Christie, and A.J. Cronin. I admire many contemporary writers, such as Alan Gibbons, Linda Newbery, and Hilary Mantel.
What do you like to do when you are not busy writing?
I read when I am not writing.
Are there any words of wisdom that you would like to share with our readers?
For young readers: Keep reading. Read anything and everything you can lay your hands on. And be aware of the fact that most of the history you read is male-centered.
You can find out more about her book here.