In Tantimedh’s second series novel, Her Beautiful Monster (Leopoldo, Dec.), PI Ravi Singh sees Hindu gods when he’s under stress.
How did the series concept originate?
Ravi came out of my desire to write a series that could address situations in crime and politics that go beyond the personal stories of murders, perpetrators, and victims. I wanted a more political dimension and social commentary. I also wanted to write about London and Britain in a way that very few novels and TV shows portray it, the way my friends and I have experienced it. I also wanted to write a nonwhite protagonist to address how diverse the U.K. is now, and that the world is a lot more morally gray and complicated than the simple black-and-white morality of a lot of crime fiction.
How did you come up with your lead character, Ravi Singh?
The choice of a British-Indian lead was conscious, because one theme I wanted to explore in the series was that of Britishness in the postcolonial 21st century. Curry is now the national dish in Britain, overtaking bangers and mash. Many Indian-British and Pakistani-British are said to be “more English than the English,” and I’ve known enough of them to find that to be true. I wanted a quintessential Londoner, and a British-Indian protagonist fits the bill these days.
What about the Indian pantheon appeals to you?
I appreciate that the Indian pantheon of gods is a massive family saga that’s also an allegory and commentary on the formation of Indian society in ancient times. There are endless stories within stories that address almost every facet of family relationships, and warring kingdoms that also serve as moral lessons and fables. I also find it interesting that Indian gods are largely righteous and moral, as opposed to the Greek gods, who are massively dysfunctional and destructive, which probably addresses the anxieties and preoccupations of ancient Greek society.
What has been the hardest part about writing these books?
I was surprised by how strong my impulse was to directly reflect current events in the series. The second book ended up injecting much of the real-life sense of chaos we’re now experiencing directly into the story. Keeping on top of current events is very hard. Truth is stranger than fiction, and I want to reflect that and put more layers on it, rather than just recreate or report on it. I didn’t want real life to overtake the events of the novel.