Our guest this week is wolf-whisperer, Chaaya Chandra. Canines, wolves in particular, have had a tumultuous relationship with humans for a long time, from spiritual companions to competitive rivals, and I think Chaaya’s work is steeped in the essence of this relationship. Chaaya is a veteran whose home is in south Utah.
It is worth mentioning that Chaaya’s book covers are some of the best I’ve seen out of this crop of authors. Please enjoy this fascinating interview.
I’m guessing you’re a dog person. Describe your experience writing canine characters.
Interestingly enough, I’m not a dog person. I used to be, but now prefer to just like them from a distance. When I was in college studying conservation biology, I studied wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone and the things I learned there color my writing. The story that landed me the contract with RP Games references wolf number 9, from that real life program. I received permission to post it. It’s not that good and was never finished, but it’s available here. The story of the wolf people of the books (which I didn’t write. It’s in a game world) is they’re humans that turned into wolf people, so the culture is mostly human, but I throw in wolf culture when I can. They don’t have a very strong national government and there are some times when their society is downright aggressive. If a human is caught stealing in their country, it’s perfectly acceptable to kill him on the spot. They also make use of the concept of dominance.
Thank you for your service. How has your time in the army colored your writing?
My service in the US Army was as a chaplain’s assistant. In garrison, the job is pretty boring, mostly janitorial. In combat, I turned into a bodyguard. In Faux Scent, the character Annalace is a result of that. She’s a paladin with PTSD who acts as the queen’s bodyguard. I wouldn’t say I put myself in the story with that character, but some things that happen to her were painful to write and I found myself sobbing over my keyboard. I choke up just thinking of some of the scenes.
My military service also affected some of the concepts in the books. The story for the game is a technologically advanced society invades a world that’s in the steam age. I didn’t leave the Army as a tactician or anything close to that, but there are some story concepts I don’t control that drive me crazy. The enemy has jet planes. This whole war thing should have been really short. I do put in some explanations that explain why it wasn’t, but it still drives me nuts.
Tell us about the Vykati.
About 2500 years before the books take place, two nations (Rhidayar and Jzianrhune) went to war and met in what is now the Vykar Forest. The night before the battle a deep sleep fell over them and they awoke as wolf people. The two groups rushed to their home nations, hoping to find a cure, but instead were greeted with superstition and distrust. They returned to the site of the battle and came to terms with each other and their new forms. The animosity of their home nations continues to the current time, but they’ve developed their own country and embraced their wolf appearance. They play a very important literary role in the books. I see a lot of “steampunk” books that are missing the “punk” element. There’s supposed to be a counter culture—something that doesn’t go with the flow of society and Vykati fill that role nicely. They aren’t the only example of a counter-culture in the world, but since the books are mostly about them, I don’t worry about the others.
I see you live in Utah, which looks like a beautiful state. Acting as a travel agent, please sell us a visit there.
Utah is its own kind of beauty. Most people drive right up I-15 and all they’ll see is brown. I’m fine with that. Leave the really pretty places to the locals. I’m in south Utah and so Bryce Canyon and Zion’s National Parks aren’t that far of a drive for me. I’m too old to hike it now, but the Narrows is a great hike. You walk right up the stream with walls of red sandstone to either side and there are places you end up rappelling down. The local photographer Fatali captures some great images of that. If I mention it though, I feel obligated to say: get permission from the park to go there. Flash floods are a real thing there and not a year goes by when I don’t read about someone skipping the permit and forgetting that just because it isn’t raining in the valley doesn’t mean it isn’t raining in the mountains. The Parawan petroglyphs are also nice to see and a little off the beaten path. I take my kids there every now and again.
What do you have in store for the future?
Right now I’m hard at work on What Once Was Eden and Benayle’s Gambit—the last two books of the Ship Called Hope trilogy. Those are supposed to be done by August 2021. When I’m finished with those, I’ll work on what’s called internally Sajani Tails 4. I’ve got a spoiler on that. I’m medically retired, so other than my writing, I don’t have a lot of aspirations. I enjoy a quiet life with my family and am pretty content with that. I’d like to eventually rewrite and finish the Cici and Number Nine book I linked and see about getting a big house publisher to look at it. I’d have to remember who the murderer was. I’ve forgotten. I just know who it wasn’t.
For more on Chaaya, visit her Amazon author page.