Roshani Chokshi (13C) graduated Emory with a English degree, with an emphasis on Medieval English. After working as a legal secretary and attending law school at the University of Georgia for a year, Chokshi left her law plans behind to follow her passion as a writer. Her first novel, The Star Touched Queen, a young-adult fantasy, came out April 2016 and was included on The New York Times Bestseller List. Her second novel, A Crown of Wishes, releases March 28. The new book’s launch party will be held at Little Shop of Stories in downtown Decatur March 28 at 7 p.m, kicking off a week-long national tour. The Wheel spoke with Chokshi about her newest book and her time since Emory. This is an edited transcript.
I grew up in a mixed-race home: my mother is Filipino, [and] my father is Indian. When I was growing up and devouring every fantasy book that I could, there was never anyone that looked like me. If I looked at the covers, nobody had names like mine and so, for me, writing meant I was writing space for myself. I was writing myself into a narrative.
The more fairy tales and myths you read, [the more] you see across every cultural spectrum. It’s inspiring because it says, “okay, these are stories of shared human experience.”
[My] story is a lot about fate and destiny and how those things are squishy boundaries. That was a really important thing for me to remember, because, when I was writing [the novel], I felt so locked in with my choice [to write]. Everyone told me that when I graduated with a degree in English I would either go to law school or become a teacher. [But] that is such a narrow view of looking at the world. When you have a great educational experience, like the kind Emory provides, it is on you to become imaginative about what to do with that.
It’s really scary to put your work out there and to have other people not just critique it but tear it apart. The scariest thing is trying to stay tuned into your voice and to tune out all [other] voices, because at the end of the day that’s your name on the book, nobody else’s.
Self comparison will be the death of you. This is a world driven by social media, and we never take the time to appreciate that these are highlight reels of our’s and other people’s lives. If you spend your life bitter and envious because you want the flames that somebody else’s career or spark might have, it doesn’t make your life burn any brighter.
Success is not like a jug of milk. There’s no expiration date. You do things at your own pace and you believe in yourself above all.
One of biggest things that you learn after graduating is that you can do this on your own. [For example], working as a legal secretary, as I did, for a year in a freezing tax law office will teach you a lot about yourself. It was that moment of going into a cold dark office and studying for the LSAT in complete and total silence that told me I don’t want this with my life. I wanted to do something else, and nobody was going to hold my hand and that was okay.
It’s a shock to find out once you graduate from a liberal arts [college] that the world doesn’t revolve around you. Nobody is going to hand you anything. That’s one of the things that made college so great. Everything was handed [to you] on a silver platter, and all you had to do was reach.
It’s so easy in college to get lost and to feel as though your voice doesn’t matter or that what you’re learning is just sort of passive absorption. It’s on you to make it active. It’s on you to push yourself farther.
Take advantage of it all. Go to … the Schwartz Center and listen to those concerts. Go look at the manuscript, archive and rare book library. It will just shock you, the tiny treasures tucked away. If you haven’t already, hang out in the Carlos Museum because it’s amazing. Allow yourself to find the little different worlds tucked into the campus.
Everyone should always go walk in Lullwater in autumn at least twice, to feed the ducks and then to chase them. There’s one creepy mill thing off to the side, and I swear if you make a wish on a quarter and throw it in, it’ll come true.