Aditi Krishnakumar: Interviewed by Parinita Shetty

Aditi Krishnakumar’s first novel for children The Magicians of Madh creates a joyful world of fun and magic and mystery. The book will be published in July 2018.

She is interviewed by Parinita Shetty, author and children’s book lover.
PS: Hints of the sinister kingdom of Melucha are scattered throughout the story not least with their poetic guide to surviving courtly life. Could you tell us readers something about the kingdom which we don’t discover in the book? (This may or may not be me dropping “Make this book a series!” hints)
AK: I do want to write a story set in Melucha sometime! Although life in Melucha is very stressful, what with never knowing if it’s safe to eat your dinner, it’s also a major centre for the arts and home to some of the finest paintings, sculptures and architecture in the world. They like beautiful things in Melucha and historically the royal family have been very generous patrons.
PS: I would love to study at the Royal Academy of Science, Magic and the Arts because I’m a huge nerd. Would you rather be a student or a professor there? What would your favourite subject be? And your least favourite?
AK: A student, any day! Much less stress. I think my favourite subject would be Maths, just like it was in real-world school. I’m not sure about least favourite, but the one I’d find hardest would be Alchemy. I’d probably barely scrape a pass.
PS: Is the Yuanic realm the human world or just one which sounds very like ours? Does our regular old human world exist at all in the world of The Magicians of Madh?
AK: Yauna isn’t our world; it’s a country distant enough from Madh that in the past there’s been a lot of misinformation in each place about what the other is like. As for our human world, I guess it depends on how you look at it. There’s no country in The Magicians of Madh where there’s no magic at all, although there are places where it’s less prevalent. But there are people everywhere who don’t have magical abilities and who get on with things much as regular humans do. So I’d say our world does exist, right there as a part of the magical world–they’re very intertwined and it would be difficult to separate them.
PS: There are some really interesting extracurricular student groups at the Academy. I was particularly taken by the Disembodied Voice Society. What would I need to do to become a member?
AK: Thanks! Those were fun to come up with. What you’d need to be a member would be creativity. They’re always looking for people with good ideas about where disembodied voices might be heard and what sorts of things they can say to produce the most interesting results.
PS:  I would have loved to meet more of the beings who live in the Inter-Realm. If you could summon/befriend a being in real life, who would you think would be the most useful?
AK: I think there’d always be an element of danger in summoning beings from the Inter-Realm… which might make it more fun, of course! If I could, I’d like to summon some of the very early beings–the spirit of the earth, maybe. Just think of everything they’d have seen through the course of human history, and all the stories they could tell!
PS: If you could bring any fictional creature to life using a spell like Meenakshi did, which would you choose?
AK: I’d say one of the daemons from His Dark Materials would be a nice companion to have. I was going to go for the winged monkeys from Oz so they could help me get around, but I’ve always found them a little scary so I’ll stick with the daemon.
PS: As I was reading the book, I stumbled upon a reference or two to Alice In Wonderland, the Academy reminded me of Discworld’s Unseen University, and I also caught whiffs of the Bartimaeus trilogy and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. I love all these books so I was delighted to be reminded of them here. Which are some of the books which have played an influence in your writing?
AK: This is a hard one! All of those, especially Terry Pratchett, Wodehouse, mythology– which I’ve always loved. Maybe a selection of YA fantasy and school stories… It’s so hard to narrow it down, isn’t it? You’re the sum of everything you read and I’m sure there are loads of books that have influenced my writing, even if I don’t know it myself. I will say this–I owe a debt to Shakespeare for the idea that led to the creation of the universe for The Magicians of Madh. And that really influenced how I built up the characters.
PS: If you had to save the world (our current real-life one seems to be in need of some amount of saving) and could only turn to one of Madh’s assorted government departments, who would you want on your team?
AK: No question about that–the Office of Counsel to the Governor, aka the Counsellor. He doesn’t have magic, but he has wisdom, brains and and the ability to get things done. That’s an invaluable combination.
PS: In most books, I usually tend to like supporting characters more than the actual protagonists. In The Magicians of Madh though, I grew really fond of both Meenakshi and Kalban (as well as Chitralekha the Celestial Dancer and a few other supporting characters). Is there any character who became your favourite or one you most identified with?
AK: Oh, yay! I’m quite fond of all of them … But the one I developed a lot of sympathy for during the writing process was Asamanjas. He’s stuck in an unenviable position, trying to keep everything running and maintain diplomatic relations while dealing with all the complications Paras causes. It can’t be easy, but he does his best, and considering that Madh is still standing, it’s a pretty good best.

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