Olivia Chadha writes science fiction, fantasy, comic books, and literary novels for middle grade, young adult and adult audiences. She has a Ph.D. from Binghamton University’s creative writing program and a master’s from the University of Colorado Boulder’s creative writing program. Much of her research centers on the history of exile, India’s Partition, precarious borders and boundaries, global folklore and fairy tales, and the relationship between humans and the environment.
SunLit: Tell us this book’s backstory. What inspired you to write it? Where did the story/theme originate?
Olivia Chadha: This book is a culmination of several passions and interests. I look to the future as a way of discussing the present-day, planetary climate catastrophe that we are enduring. Places like India and South Asia are already experiencing devastating floods, famine and unbreathable air.
I wanted to recenter the conversation that tends to be western-centric to a global conversation to emphasize that we are all living on one planet, and every choice we make impacts everyone.
SunLit: Place this excerpt in context. How does it fit into the book as a whole? Why did you select it?
Chadha: This excerpt is the first chapter of the novel. It shows the main character, Ashiva, as she’s being taken into custody for criminal activity. As we ride with her in the transport we learn about her world, how certain people aren’t deemed fit to live inside the domed city, and just what she’s fighting for.
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SunLit: Tell us about creating this book. What influences and/or experiences informed the project before you actually sat down to write?
Chadha: I’m inspired by global mythology, folklore and fairy tales as well as comic books, animation and science fiction. In my doctoral program I studied India’s Partition, folklore, multiethnic literature and literature of the environment.
So, in a way I’ve been thinking about the major themes and elements in this series for quite some time. The climate crisis influences most artists today, in one way or another. This anxiety surrounding our planet and future is a part of the zeitgeist.
And while I wrote the first draft before the pandemic, like many it was clearly already something that was haunting my creative brain.
SunLit: Once you began writing, did the story take you in any unexpected directions? If so, how would you describe dealing with a narrative that seems to have a mind of its own?
Chadha: I wrote this novel in a few genres before settling into this cyberpunk cli-fi world. The first version was contemporary, the second was a high-fantasy landscape. Neither felt right.
“Rise of the Red Hand”
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SunLit present new excerpts from some of the best Colorado authors that not only spin engaging narratives but also illuminate who we are as a community. Read more.
I wanted to build a world that would allow my main character to show the very best and worst of humankind. As a writer one of the things I’ve learned is when to get out of the way of the story and when to reign it in.
Once I found the world, the novel nearly wrote itself.
SunLit: What were the biggest challenges you faced, or surprises you encountered in completing this book?
Chadha: Sometimes when you finish a novel it doesn’t live up to how you originally pictured it. But when I finished revising the novel, I felt in my heart that it was what I’d intended, which was a lovely feeling.
SunLit: Has the book raised questions or provoked strong opinions among your readers? How did you address them?
Chadha: I would love to engage about some of the topics I bring up in the book, climate change, power structures, class systems. However, most of the readers seem to be just really happy that there’s a new take on cyberpunk that is socially conscious and brings the genre current to today’s landscape.
SunLit: Walk us through your writing process: Where and how do you write?
Chadha: Everyday I make coffee, turn on my distraction app and get to work in my home office with my two little dogs. I write until I can’t anymore, then I take a walk.
After lunch, I revise. It’s always important for me to leave a bit of a seam of the current work in progress undone. That way, the next morning I can pick it up and enter the world fairly quickly.
When I’m on deadline these hours are expanded and I could write for way longer than my body likes. I don’t take the time I have now for granted because all my life I’ve juggled multiple jobs and had to write in the early morning or late at night. Now that I write fulltime I am productive and thankful for the time.
SunLit: Tell us about your next project.
Chadha: “Fall of the Iron Gods,” book two in The Mechanist Series, is coming out winter 2023. The sequel to “Rise of the Red Hand,” it’s a searing portrayal of the future of climate change in South Asia. After inflicting a devastating blow on the autocratic provincial government, Ashiva, Synch, and their remaining allies must infiltrate the planetary government before it can exterminate the Red Hand and everything they stand for.
Despite hard-won victories, the revolutionary forces known as the Red Hand are more endangered than ever: the Planetary Alliance Commission—the PAC—has branded them public enemy number one, ramping up their efforts to eliminate the Red Hand’s remaining members even as the pandemic rages on.
Greedy and unyielding, the PAC is all too willing to sacrifice the people of a province to achieve their optimal results, leaving Ashiva, Synch, and Taru to save their homeland from a government claiming to act for the greater planetary good.