Author Interview with Vijaya Schartz

March 4, 2010

Today we have the privilege of interviewing Vijaya Schartz, author of 10 novels and novellas in the romance and sci-fi/fantasy genres, most of which are full of action and adventure.

Welcome to The Hope Chest Reviews, Vijaya.

1. Since we share our home state of Arizona, I am curious to know what you like most about living here.

The heat, definitely. After living in tropical and subtropical countries for many years, I hate the cold, and after two winters in Philadelphia, I was ready for warm weather. Give me three-digit temperatures anytime. Besides, in Arizona, it's a dry heat!

2. Perhaps it's because Coyote Gorgeous takes place in Arizona, but the settings (the homes in Cave Creek, the art gallery, the canyon where the Hopi ritual takes place) really came to life for me. Are any of these places real?

Cave Creek is a real town, not very far from where I live. I invented the hero's house, and the ranch resembles many in that area. The Mexican ranch hand is also a common feature in Arizona. I'm very familiar with the art galleries in Scottsdale, with their high end crowd. I do love art, and some of these Native American artists are incredibly talented. I also like to explore, and the scenery in Arizona is breathtaking. The canyons are so beautiful that it would be a crime not to use them as setting for a book. 

3. You were born in France, currently live in Arizona, and have traveled all over the world. Do you have any favorite spots that hold a special place in your heart?

Although I regularly visit my family in France, I feel mostly international. I spent almost a decade in Hawaii, and it definitely has a special place in my heart. As a former surfer, the thing I miss in Arizona is the Pacific Ocean. India was a fascinating place, and I enjoyed the rich colors, the smells, the smiles, and the whole experience of living there. For me, life was easy in India, as if I had lived there before. 

4. When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?

For the longest time, I didn't know it was possible to be a writer. Authors were these fantastic creatures living in another world. I was an avid reader and admired these ethereal writers, never thinking I would become one. But I have been writing since I was six. Poetry at the time. Journals, letters, travel logs followed. Then one day, after moving to Arizona in the nineties, I felt settled enough to start writing for publication. My first novel came out in 2000.

5. You seem to be quite the adventurer. What would you say is the most daring thing you've ever done?

You could say that abandoning a promising acting career and buying a one way ticket to India, and leaving my country with only a suitcase and no place to go back to, was an adventure. It certainly felt like one. But more recently, simpler adventures include jumping out of an airplane in free fall from 13,000 feet, or braving the river wild in the Grand Canyon. My husband cringes each time I speak about doing such things.

6. I understand you are a cat lover. Could you tell us a little bit about the cats who are a part of your life?

Yep. I love cats, and they love me back. I had many little companions over the years and still think of them fondly. Currently, I have two at home, Jasmine a calico, and Spunky, a little black and white male. Spunky is the baby and decided to be a writer. He often steps on the keyboard to add his own touch to my manuscripts, while Jasmine is content to nap on my desk, to the sound of the keystrokes.

Of course, in the large backyard where my husband tries to recreate his native Oregon (it's a challenge in Arizona), we also feed and shelter a bunch of orphaned and abandoned cats who came for refuge (and mostly for food). Other cat guests were born and remain feral. On top of that, all the neighbors' cats come to play, so my backyard is like the local cat jungle park.

7. In Coyote Gorgeous, Kaletaka has a bobcat that is almost like a pet. Do all of your stories have cat characters?

You'll find at least one cat in each of my books. Cats are wonderful characters. I remember a review of RELICS a few years back praising the depth of my characters, including Isis, the heroine's Siamese cat. Actually, my new series The Chronicles of Kassouk is set in a society where people keep large cats as pets, and all the titles relate to large cats.

8. Kaletaka is also a talented sculptor. Do you enjoy the visual arts?

Art, for me, is part of life. I was once a painter. I still draw sometimes. I was raised visiting the Louvre Museum in Paris every weekend. I took classes in Paris and I have a good eye for color. In sculpture, I also like futuristic shapes, daring lines, minimalist expression. Art is like writing fiction. Making something perfect in an imperfect world. It warms the soul.

9. You are a self-described author of "Girls with Guns", and your depictions of Madison's handling of her firearms in Coyote Gorgeous seemed very realistic. Is that the result of good research or first-hand experience?

My slug line about girls with guns came out when I was looking at a display of my book covers. On each one was a girl holding a gun. But my personal specialty is the sword. I'm a martial artist, black belt in Aikido and I learned the Japanese Sword in Hawaii and Japan. I believe I once was a Samurai. As a result, many of my heroines wield swords. But when it comes to contemporary stories, the modern kick-butt heroine wields a gun. The mentality is the same, only the weapon is different. So I do a lot of research. But nothing beats experience. My neighbor, retired from the Police Department, is a walking encyclopedia of firearms, but he also shoots at the range mentioned in COYOTE GORGEOUS several times a week and knows every marksman and his weapon in the Phoenix area. He is a big help when it comes to guns.

10. Sometimes it can be difficult for me to relate to kick-butt heroines, but I thought that Madison was the perfect blend of toughness and femininity. How did you find that delicate balance?

The same way in each tiger is a purring kitten longing to be loved, I believe that every tough woman has a soft, sensitive side, and a secret desire to be seduced. The tough exterior is only meant to scare away the undesirable, in order to get the job done. Strong women make mistakes and suffer like everyone else. They just don't show it. They reserve their vulnerability for the few, the worthy, the one...

11. I love the Native American culture, so the Hopi rituals and Skinwalker legends depicted in Coyote Gorgeous were fascinating to me. Did you consult with any members of the Hopi tribe as part of your research?

Not officially. The Hopi rituals are not public or common knowledge, so I had to do some serious research. Many tribes have official sites full of great information. You have to be careful when researching on the web. Fortunately, I have a few Native American friends here in Arizona, and they did help me make these rituals realistic.

12. What was the most challenging part of writing Coyote Gorgeous?

Bringing the emotion to surface in these characters. Think about a tough girl focused on her job, and a Native American rather introverted because of his upbringing. Getting these two to connect was the challenge. But I love a challenge, and such opposite characters also bring up very interesting conflicts in a story.

13. What was your favorite part of writing Coyote Gorgeous?

Definitely the research into Native American culture. A lifetime wouldn't be enough to explore their legends and folklore.

14. Many of your other books are set in futuristic, sci-fi worlds. What are your main inspirations for these settings?

Inspiration comes from many places, dreams, newscasts, and a lot of "what ifs." But sometimes I just start writing and the world and the story ooze from my fingers as I type. Or I have a character in mind and start asking questions about the world he/she lives in.

To me the world is just as important as the characters, like a character in itself. The setting is so much part of the story that these events couldn't happen anywhere else. I make the story relevant to the setting. It's the same in contemporary stories. In A DESPERADO FOR CHRISTMAS, it's the Arizona border and a border patrol agent. In COYOTE GORGEOUS, it's the Hopi Reservation and the canyons. In the Chronicles of Kassouk, a Human expedition called Noah's Ark crashed by mistake on a frozen planet, bringing the fauna of Earth to a frozen world where they started a new civilization.

15. White Tiger, the first book in your new sci-fi/fantasy, romance series, The Chronicles of Kassouk, was just released at the end of 2009 and there are two more books scheduled for publication this year. Can you tell us more about this series?

In the Chronicles of Kassouk, the small Human society that survived the crash lost its technology in their fight for survival. They had to start from scratch in freezing temperatures. Centuries later they flourish and have reached a medieval level of civilization, when they are confronted with advanced galactic races bent on exploiting them. Basically, how do you stop a spaceship with swords, bows and arrows? Most would be tempted to answer "you don't." But that's because they don't have a lot of faith in Human ingenuity. I do. I like to place my characters in impossible situations then figure out how I'm going to extricate them without killing them and make them win the day. I like impossible odds.

16. What else are you currently working on besides The Chronicles of Kassouk?

I'm writing BLACK JAGUAR, and the Chronicles of Kassouk will likely continue after that. I still have several sci-fi romance manuscripts waiting for the right publisher. And I'm working on a medieval fantasy saga, a series of big books, featuring magical ladies from post Arthurian legends. And of course a lot of ideas are running in my head about future books as well. These ideas are still hush-hush. You can follow my upcoming books on my Coming Soon page.

Thank you so much for visiting with The Hope Chest Reviews today, Vijaya. It has been a pleasure interviewing you, and we wish you all the best.


Read our review of Coyote Gorgeous.

Read our review of White Tiger.

Read our review of Red Leopard.