Madhuri Blaylock is an Indian girl everyone thinks is Black, or Spanish, or Black and Spanish. She’s from down South, has lived in the New York City area for more than twenty years, and is proof that your can take the girl out of the South, but you can’t take the South out of the girl.
She loves Old Scout bourbon, tattoos, french fries, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, my mom’s Indian food, all kinds of naughty, sexy things, Friday Night Lights, coffee, and Martha’s Vineyard. She can wiggle her ears, flare her nostrils, and curl her tongue.
She is an introvert who can fool people into thinking she’s an extrovert, all the while wishing she was home alone, not having to speak to a soul, lost in a fantastical world of her own creation.
She does other things to pay the bills.
NAW- Tell us about yourself and your writings?
I wrote and published my first book, Crossing Paths, way way back in 2000. It’s a middle reader series I developed called The Coco Butta Kids for children of color because there was such a dearth of books out there for them, depicting them as the main characters and not relegated to stereotyped sidekicks. I published two books in the series and then started working on my paranormal trilogy, The Sanctum.
I published the first book in the trilogy, The Girl, in 2013, the second book in 2014 and the finale was just published this past February.
I’m currently working on two projects, one that works off The Sanctum Trilogy called The Warriors, and another totally different project, but in the similar urban fantasy genre.
NAW- Tell us about the sanctum trilogy series. How did you get the idea for it?
I was reading a lot of fantasy and paranormal fiction full of these total badass girls, but quite often they knew nothing of their powers until a boy clued them into how amazing they are – it was driving me nuts. I was also quite dismayed by the lack of diverse characters in what I was reading – the industry is just so far behind reality when it comes to representing diversity.
Anyway, so I set about to create a kickass, badass, smart, uber-powerful woman that knew she was all those things and didn’t need a boy to tell her about herself and from that grew my main character, Dev. I’m a very character-oriented writer, so once I had Dev and her back story, I then created Wyatt, her counterpart, and Ryker, his best friend, and from there the story came together. But the initial idea, the seed that planted and took root was all about the girl – I created the girl I wanted to read. And she is the business.
NAW-The Sanctum in particular can also be perceived as a political organisation with all the corruption. Were you inspired by any country in particular when you formulated the idea or did it just develop as you wrote the book?
That’s true and I think it plays into my belief that with great power always comes the capacity for also great misuse and abuse. I wasn’t thinking of any particular country, but I do think it’s human nature and there need to be checks and balances on power and yet, even when those exist, there is still room for evil, as evidence in the power plays and lines drawn within The Sanctum itself.Also, corruption within any powerful organization always makes for a good plot point.
NAW- Tell us about the research you did for the book. It comes across that you also seem to be heavily inspired by Hindu mythology. Correct?
Yea! My parents will be so proud to hear that – evidently I listened to some of the stories they told me over the years. I researched places – in tremendous detail. I have pages of handwritten notes on the backwaters of Kerala or the streets of London and of course, NYC which is just so deep in my blood. But the rest is all in my head. I’m telling you, I have some crazy stuff bouncing around between my ears. My husband is currently finishing reading the trilogy and sometimes he’ll look up at me from his tablet and I know he’s saying to himself “I am married to a crazy person”
The battle sites from book III are also heavily researched, but yeah, the rest is all my imagination. Maybe I shouldn’t have admitted that…
NAW- There is a lot of violence but still the overall experience is nice and not over the top. We’re you apprehensive since the book is also aimed at young adults?
Honestly, I never set about to write a YA book and in my head, it’s totally not YA, it’s fantasy, it’s urban fantasy, it’s paranormal, it’s paranormal romance, but it’s definitely not YA. And I never marketed it that way – other people say it, but I pretty much steer clear of that title only because it is very violent and as the books go along, it’s also really sexy. I love writing sex and that comes into play a bit more in books II and III, so I’m always careful NOT to raise the YA flag when discussing my books.
Of course, if others want to put me into that totally awesome and energetic market, by all means, go for it.
NAW-Tell us about the characters of Ryker and Wyatt. The romance between them is so refreshing and funny at times. How did you develop these two characters?
I love writing men, like they’re my favourite and their voices come to me quite easily but I’ve always wondered why it’s only women who get to have these epic, totally intense, platonic but so very loving relationships with their women friends. I’ve seen men have very intense incredibly close friendships in real life but in books, it’s rare. So it was important to me, from the get-go, to give that to Wyatt and Ryker. Some of my friends beg me to have them also be lovers, and they would probably have no problem doing so, but I feel like that would almost cheapen their bond. Not that it wouldn’t be totally hot and I’m confident I could write some seriously good M/M sex, but I think what they have is even deeper than that.
NAW-What made you go the indie way? How difficult was it marketing your book? And what strategy did you have in mind to get noticed?
Ha! The million dollar question. I went indie because I figured no one would pick me up and I had tried going to traditional route the first time around with The Coco Butta Kids, received a lot of “wow, your book is great, but you don’t serve a market” which to me was another way of traditional publishing saying people of color don’t read, which is such bullshit, excuse my language, so I decided this go ’round, I would skip listening to that nonsense and just do it on my own.
The marketing is exhausting. I feel like I’m forever on Facebook, Twitter, and every other social media platform out there, I’m doing events, attending events, and blogging.
I actually love blogging…
NAW-Since you also have a day job, how do you make time for writing? What is your writing schedule like?
I never sleep!
Actually, last night I went to bed at midnight and my husband looked at me like I was crazy but I told him I was exhausted and just needed some rest. I write WHENEVER I can – my commute, a break during work, at the doctor’s office, at my son’s soccer games, at his baseball practice, road trips, and at night.
lots of night writing. If you’re looking for me at 2am, it’s a guarantee, I’m at my laptop.
NAW-What got you interested in the fantasy genre? And your favourite authors in the same genre?
I love the freedom. I’ve always been this girl who did quite a lot of crazy living inside my head and the genre just allows for all of that. So long as you respect it and build your worlds and do your due diligence, pretty much anything goes and I LOVE that.
Favorites: JRR Tolkien (duh), George RR Martin, LainiTaylor (my inspiration for The Sanctum Trilogy – thank you so much, Ms Taylor), Octavia Butler
And I would like to include my favorite author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who I know is not fantasy, but his magical realism taught me that I really could put my slightly crazy stories down on paper and someone might read them and love them and not find them to be so crazy after all.
NAW-Did you consciously portray Dev as a person of colour? Usually such novels have a white protagonist especially when the setting of the book is New York?
And brown, like deep brown, because I know how Indians love some light skin so it was important to me that she is portrayed as beautiful AND brown. I should say Indians and Black people, because Dev is Black but I’m Indian and both cultures share this skin-color obsession that drives me bananas.
NAW- Being an indie author, how did you tackle the various steps that go into publishing? Did you hire a publicist, artist for cover design, editor for editing or did you do it all by yourself?
I worked with my good friend, Michele Mason Holmberg, who is an amazing grpahic artist, to come up with the book cover design. I shouldn’t even say worked with her, because it’s ALL her. She is the magic-maker behind those covers, I just told her the book titles. And I have a group of beta readers, my Bad Bitches, who read and edit for me (one of them is actually an editor and has been a godsend in this process), but the rest is all me, be that good or bad…
NAW-What do you do when you are not writing?
Nothing. Just kidding. I am a wife and a mom, so that’s a lot of work. And laughter. And we just got a puppy, so I’m now also a house-trainer. I like to run, although it’s deadly on my ankles, I like hiking, playing sports, and drinking bourbon with my friends.
NAW- How supportive is your family of your writing life? Do you take feedback from them or hide your book until it’s in print?
They’re totally supportive, especially my husband who now lives with a woman attached to a laptop. My son would like me to maybe not be so attached to my books and writing, but then he’ll tell people that I write books with this really proud grin on his face. They’re the best and I love them. But not enough to give them my work before it’s finished and in print. Oh! I take that back – my dad edited a lot of The Girl, but as the other books got a lot sexier, I kind of backed off of using him as my editor.
It was too embarrassing to have him edit some of those scenes…
NAW-Any advice for budding authors?
I say it all the time: write, write, and write some more. And when you feel like you have nothing left, pour yourself a shot of bourbon and get back at it.