Chasing Shadows Blog Tour: Interview with Swati Avasthi

Posted 09/29/2013 by alicemarvels in Author Interview

Today we are thrilled to have Swati Avasthi stopping by to discuss her latest novel, Chasing Shadows, a powerful story told via prose and graphics about the aftermath of violence. We’ve been huge fans of Swati’s since her debut novel Split, and we’re thrilled to report Chasing Shadows is just as thought provoking and beautifully written as its predecessor. Without further ado, let’s get into the interview!




How did you make the decision to divide Corey, Holly and Savitri’s story in CHASING SHADOWS into prose and graphic novel sections?


I wanted to use the graphics for those moments when our words leave us entirely, when they cannot encompass the way the world has shattered.  For Holly that happens when she sees a gun pointed at her and Corey.  After that, everything is different; she has entered another realm — The Shadowlands, Kortha’s world, which is always in graphics.   So, speaking in code so as not to give away too much: the rule of narration became when Holly feels grounded in the reality she knew prior to the shooting, she narrates in prose.  When she is in the world that haunts her post-shooting, she narrates in graphics.

Savitri, on the other hand, is Holly’s anchor to language and all she knew before the shooting.  And, while Savitri is in deep grief, she is never exposed to The Shadowlands the way Holly is.  So she remains in prose throughout.


What was working with Craig Phillips on the graphic portions of the book like?


It was excellent. Craig had his art editor, Sarah Hokanson, and I had mine, Nancy Siscoe.  Notes and questions were passed from me to Nancy to Sarah to Craig and vice versa.  Sort of like a game of operator, but the kind you win.  I was a little concerned about this process at first, but I became quickly comfortable with it because Nancy and Sarah and Craig are all so good at their jobs.

I’m not sure another writer has gotten as much of an editor’s time as I did with Nancy. We probably talked half a dozen times talk for entire afternoons, five hour phone calls getting through notes.  At one point, I thanked her for letting me give so much input (which is unusual for an author to get if we’re talking about the world of picture books)  and I can’t remember exactly, but I think she said that they were trying to realize my vision of the book, so it would be impossible to do without knowing what that vision was.  I couldn’t have had better support or people who were more committed to the book.


Do you have a favorite superhero?


Hmm… Not really.  Not the way that Holly does.

I’m sure I did when I was kid. In fact, once I tried to make a leap that only the bionic woman could have while I was pretending to be her.  My mom, the real hero in this scene, ended up grabbing me out of the river while I sputtered.  So, the Bionic Woman was probably my favorite, but she was on TV, not in comics.

I wasn’t that satisfied with the female comic superheroes.  I liked Wonder Woman, but her invisible plane and lasso of truth felt a little too lame. Superman could fly after all.  And I couldn’t get into the female spin offs from the originals, like Supergirl and Batgirl.

I suppose that’s why I created the Leopardess the way I did — to make up for the female superhero I didn’t find as a kid.


If you could sum up Savitri and Holly’s experiences in this story with one song each, which songs would you choose?


From Holly to Corey, “Limits of our Love” by Charlotte Martin

From Savitri to Holly, “Annabelle” by Dessa


Both CHASING SHADOWS and your last novel, SPLIT, deal with the aftermath of violence, and are quite intense, emotional reads. Does that emotion and intensity bleed into your life when you’re writing?


Actually, it’s just the opposite. I’m sure you’ll be shocked to hear that I have a dark imagination that works overtime.  I know, I know. I’ll give you a moment to recover from that surprise.

If I’m not writing, then I end up with lots of nightmares (which actually seem to be cured since I started using the trick that Holly’s dad tells her to use — to imagine my way out of the situation).

By putting the darkness on the page, I keep it out of my life.  And *chuckling evilly* let it enter yours.


Do you have any graphic novels or mixed media stories you love that you’d recommend for fans of CHASING SHADOWS? 


“The Killing Joke” by Alan Moore and “The Joker” by Brian Azzarello are dark and gritty and interesting. I love Blankets by Craig Thompson and Fun Home by Alison Bechdel for graphic memoirs; those have depth, characters and resonance I appreciate. And, looking forward, I am excited to read Boxers and Saints by Gene Yuen Lang.


What can we look forward to reading from you next?


I’m sorry, but it’s too nascent to talk about. I will say that I’m listening to a lot of Muse and U2 in preparation and that it is also going to be an emotional book.


Thank you for stopping by!


Thank you! What a pleasure!


About Chasing Shadows:


Before: Corey, Holly, and Savitri are one unit—fast, strong, inseparable. Together they turn Chicago concrete and asphalt into a freerunner’s jungle gym, ricocheting off walls, scaling buildings, leaping from rooftops to rooftop.

But acting like a superhero doesn’t make you bulletproof…

After: Holly and Savitri are coming unglued. Holly says she’s chasing Corey’s killer, chasing revenge. Savitri fears Holly’s just running wild—and leaving her behind. Friends should stand by each other in times of crisis. But can you hold on too tight? Too long?

In this intense novel, Swati Avasthi creates a gripping portrait of two girls teetering on the edge of grief and insanity. Two girls who will find out just how many ways there are to lose a friend…and how many ways to be lost.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository | Indiebound | Google








Read an excerpt:

About Swati Avasthi:


Swati Avasthi has been writing fiction since she read Little House in the Big Woods at age five. Emily Bronte, Harper Lee, and others furthered her addiction. She institutionalized her habit at the University of Chicago, where she received her B.A., and at the University of Minnesota, where received her M.F.A. Her writing has received numerous honors including a Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship, the Thomas H. Shevlin Fellowship, Loft’s Mentor Series Award, and a nomination for the Pushcart Prize. She is a creative writing professor at Hamline University and lives in the Twin Cities with her two large-ish dogs, two small-ish kids, and one husband (though he is worth two).

Catch Swati on her: website | twitter | goodreads



    I love the cover! The Leopardess sounds like she is a kick butt hero. Fun interview!


    I have seen this book once before and it had my attention from the start. I love the cover and the whole idea of the story seems so interesting. I have started reading this excerpt and it’s really great. I’ll have to read it. Graphic novels are relatively new for me. Great post 🙂


    I had no idea that the book is split up in prose and graphic novel. Score! After reading this fabulous review, I can’t wait to read Chasing Shadows. I do agree that there aren’t too many great superheroines but Rogue from the Xmen is my fav. 🙂


    I just received this book and love the author’s approach to writing this. Dean Winchester is my favorite superhero. I mean hunters are superheros right? He has the cool tools, a book to guide him, cool tunes and a sweet ride..superhero right?


    This sounds very creative and unique. I have Split but I haven’t read it yet. I know that her books are going to be super emotional though.


    Great interview! I loved hearing more about how the graphic parts were created.

    I also think Swati Avasthi would enjoy female superheroes more as they’re written today then when she was a kid. (Wonder Woman has deffo gotten cooler . . . although female superheroes do still have a ways to go.)

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