The Hope of Shridula, Blessings of India Series #2The Hope of Shridula, Blessings of India Series #2
Kay Marshall Strom
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Life is unbearable for Ashish. Born into an untouchable family in India, he and his family have toiled for the high-caste Lal family for 48 years. Now as the struggle for independence from the British simmers to a boil, he fears for his daughter, Shridula. Will her name---which means "blessing"---bring her good fortune?
     

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Kay Marshall StromOf Kay Marshall Strom’s 39 published books, four have been book club selections, nine have been translated into foreign languages, and one has been optioned for a movie. Her writing credits also include numerous magazine articles, short stories, two prize-winning screenplays, books and stories for children, and booklets for writers. Her writing has appeared in several volumes, including More Than Conquerors, Amazing Love, The NIV Couple's Devotional Bible and
Titles: The Call of Zulina (2009)

Favorite verse: Micah 6:8: He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.


 

 Our Interview with Kay Marshall Strom


 

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

In my twenty-five years as I writer, I have tried just about every type of writing imaginable: writing for kids, writing screenplays for TV and movies, writing magazine articles, writing curriculum, writing booklets for writers.  Oh, and of course writing books. I just finished book #40. But I am much more than just a writer.  I am a follower of Jesus Christ, a wife, a mother, a traveler, a speaker. We are all multi-faceted, aren’t we?

What is your favorite Bible verse (translation too, please)? Why?

The year I was thirteen, I decided to really get on God’s good side by reading through the Bible—in the King James Version, no less.  Parts were interesting (Genesis). Parts tedious (Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Numbers).  Parts confusing (Ezekiel).  But when I came to Micah 6:6-8, it knocked me to my knees.  Micah dared to voice my own question: “Is there any possible way I can ever please God?”

The answer still moves me to tears:  “He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  Micah 6:8 (NIV)

How did you come up with the concept for Hope of Shridula?
 
We cannot truly understand India until we gain some understanding of their fight for independence and the horrors that marked the partition between Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan.  Since this trilogy is a saga of two families and covers an entire century, the setting of independence made sense.  Certainly, this event altered every part of the country and every caste in the social order.  It shaped the India we know today.

What was your inspiration to develop the story The Blessings in India series?

One thing I love about this series is that it came about at the request—maybe I should say pleading—of Indians themselves.  Few Westerners really understand what makes this second most populated country in the world both great and wretched.  Few of us understand the caste system and the crushing influence it has had—and to a degree still does have—on India.

I chose to tell the story through the eyes of two families—untouchables and the high caste Christian landowners who own them.  The main character in each of the three books is named a different Hindi word for blessing, and the three themes are: Faith, Hope, and Love.

 

How much of the story is historical fact?

A great deal. The plot is embedded in the historical end of British rule and India’s emergence as a democratic country. The fictitious characters carry out the storyline within the framework of historical events.  Real characters—Mahatma Gandhi, Muhammed Jinnah who pushed for the partition of Pakistan, and B.R. Ambedkar who fought for constitutional rights for untouchables—influence the fictitious characters and push the storyline forward.  I love that sort of interweaving!

Do you have a favorite character in Hope of Shridula? Why?

I would have to say Shridula. She encapsulates both the horrors and the hope of the time.  She also shows what one determined person can accomplish.

How much research did Hope of Shridula take?

So much!  More research by far than either of the other two books in the series.  I am fairly well acquainted with India today, though I still needed to do a good bit of research (The Love of Divena-book 3).  India at the turn of the twentieth century required a lot of research (The Faith of Ashish-book 1). But I knew so little about the intricate workings that surrounded India’s independence and the subsequent partition of Pakistan.  I had to dig in and both learn and unlearn what I had seen in various movies and read in popular books.

My most interesting research came when an elderly Indian man who had been personally involved in the partition struggle contacted me through the internet and tearfully shared his reminiscences.

What are the most interesting facts that you learned while researching and writing Hope of Shridula?

A different picture of Gandhi.  Basically, he single-handedly blocked the untouchable outcastes from having equal rights and political representation under the constitution.  That explained the tomato-splattered statues of him I saw in India.  Also, I was shocked at the horror that surrounded the resettlement of Hindus and Muslims after the partition of Pakistan.  No wonder anger and resentment persist.

 

Based on the premise of the story, was it hard to write when you researched the darker side of India's history?

Oh, yes.  I so wanted the Christian West to be the good guys.  But they weren’t.  I’ve tried to be as fair as I can, yet I have gotten a couple of angry rebukes from people in India who claim there is not one good thing to be said about the days of the British Raj.
 
Was it difficult to find factual information?
 
Not at all.  The difficult thing was to find unbiased information. Facts from the point of view of Hindu Indians are quite different from facts presented from a Muslim point of view.  And both are totally different from the British point of view.  But then, isn’t that always the case? It is so hard—maybe impossible—to truly be objective.

How many books will be in the Blessings in India Series?

Three: The Faith of Ashish Released August 2011
  The Hope of Shridula TBR March 1, 2012
  The Love of Divena TBR August 2012


Have you been to India?
 
Oh, yes.  Eight times in the past ten years.  My husband and I will go back in February for an Indian release of The Faith of Ashish, and I’m also scheduled to go back in November 2012 to speak at various venues and to conduct more interviews.

What are some of the challenges you face as an author?

Time!  There just are not enough hours in the day to do everything I should do for my book.  This is especially true now that so much of the marketing responsibilities fall on my author-shoulders.

What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?

I love learning through the research.  I learn ten times as much as ever makes it into the book.  Want to play Trivial Pursuit?

What clubs or organizations are you involved with helping with your writing?

I am loosely affiliated with several, but not too involved with any. (That old bugaboo of too little time!)  AWSA is one I especially appreciate.  Also Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, held annually the week before Easter in California.  It is such a great place to get up-to-date on the latest in Christian writing.  In addition, I meet regularly with another author to mutually critique and encourage.
 
What new projects are on the horizon?

Shhhh!  My husband and I are beginning a new fiction series together. He describes it as:  Jessica Fletcher meets Indiana Jones.  Good sound bite for this global fiction/historical mystery series.

What message would you like your readers to take from reading Hope of Shridula?
 

The power of Christian hope, even in the most difficult of circumstances. This is not an “easy answer” series.  But it is a series that demonstrates God’s abiding patience and grace.

What were your favorite books as a child?

I know this sounds a bit silly, but my early favorite was 50 Famous Fairy Tales. I read and reread that book until I could recite the stories word for word.  In eighth grade, I read my favorite book of all time: The Tale of Two Cities.  That’s when I decided I wanted to be a writer. If I could ever write with such power, I decided, my life would be complete.

What is your greatest achievement?

Raising two wonderful children who are now two wonderful adults. Both have been blessed with sharp minds and gentle hearts.

What do you do to get away from it all?

I love to travel. Of course, that is a pricey interest, so I help out by speaking on cruise ships.  That way we get to cruise without having to pay.  How cool is that?

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I so appreciate all the readers who are willing to step outside their own comfort zone and delve into unfamiliar surroundings—Africa, in my first fiction series, and India in this one.  I have great hopes for the genre I call “global fiction.”

 


 

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