Words with a Wordsmith: Rashi Rohatgi
By Edie Cay
November 27, 2020

From translations to short fiction to literature, author Rashi Rohatgi has something for everyone, and a little something from everywhere. Snippets of language, memories from different continents, and the historical bent of her debut novella, Where the Sun Will Rise Tomorrow, which is response to the racist undertones of the original Secret Garden. Set during the same cholera epidemic that spares Mary, the heroine of the novel, we see through the eyes of Leela, instead.

Do you tend to write about places you’ve been to, or places you wish you could go to?

I tend to write about places I’ve been, through eyes that aren’t mine. Since we’re talking about historical fiction, though, I don’t know if it’s accurate to say that I’ve been to the places in which my stories are set. Places change so fast; I’ve lived away from the USA for about ten years and when I go back to visit, it’s disorienting. But it’s that disorientation that’s kernel, isn’t it, of every story: here’s a character who’s suddenly not quite as at home in their body, in their town, in their time, as they once were. Are they going to try to put things back together again or are they going to try to bring themselves up to speed?

Are there TV shows or films that have influenced your writing?

It’s an adaptation, and I both read the book and watched the 1993 film, but WHERE THE SUN WILL RISE TOMORROW is a direct response to THE SECRET GARDEN. I was fascinated by the historical setting of that story and refreshed by how overtly racist Mary was, since so much of what I read as a child was racist in a way that I couldn’t at that time articulate. Leela, my protagonist, lives in the aftermath of the same cholera epidemic that spared Mary, and she’s also a terrible person trying to figure out the new century, and writing her story helped me think through what it was I couldn’t articulate twenty years ago and what the past – from 100 years ago or 10 years ago – might mean to us now.

Where is your next vacation planned? Where do you WISH your next vacation would be instead?

God, this year it feels like I could spend all day dreaming about vacations. There’s the conference in France this winter that is sure to be moved online, my best friend’s postponed wedding, the cancelled Diwali and Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings. I miss people! And then there are the trips to introduce my son to his Indian heritage, and his Irish one, that keeping pushed further and further back. But if we’re talking about new experiences at a leisurely pace – the kind of vacations I’d be dreaming about in a normal year – I’d love to visit Angkor Wat. We don’t have a Hindu temple in my area, and I’d love to see such a huge, dazzling temple complex.

Do you speak a second language? Do you think differently in that language? Does it influence your writing?

I speak a smattering of different languages, and they show up in my writing most prominently, I suppose, in terms of allusion – for me, rain will forever be associated with the monsoon and the Hindi lyrics used to describe it in film songs, and cigarette smoke with the poetry my doorman in Russia used to recite. I can’t describe what it’s been like, being a mother, without reverting to the Norwegian that is my son’s primary language. But really, it’s been speaking varying versions of English that has shaped how I write. Knowing that grammar, even, is so culturally specific, has allowed me to be more ambitious in how I craft individual sentences.

What piece of clothing tells an interesting story about your life?

I am a terrible dresser. Now that I’m middle-aged it’s a proper mutton-dressed-as-lamb aesthetic, but I’ve always had an inflated sense of my own hotness that explains why I own – and wear – an American flag bikini. I know all about how ruching can hide a post-baby belly, but it’s never been clear how a hidden belly would benefit me, whilst the American flag bikini makes me feel happy every time I put it on.

Rashi Rohatgi is a Pennsylvania native who lives and teaches in Arctic Norway. Her writing has appeared in, amongst other venues, The Toast, Apartment Therapy, and Electric Literature. Her recent short story, “A Year in the North,” was a finalist for the Prime Numbers Magazine Short Fiction Prize, and was nominated for a Best of the Net Award by The VIDA Review. A reader for The Rumpus, she has served as an intern for Ayesha Pande Literary, Reviews Editor for Africa in Words, and Fiction Editor for Boston Accent Lit, where she convened the Accent Prize. She is a former AWP and Binders mentee and a Bread Loaf and VONA alumna. Her translation of the seminal Mauritian novel Blood-Red Sweat [Lal Pasina] will be released in 2020 with Prabhat Publications, New Delhi. Her debut, Where the Sun Will Rise Tomorrow, won the Galaxy Galloper Novella Spectacular Award, and was published through that press in March 2020. She is currently at work on a novel.

You can follow Rashi on Twitter.

Buy WHERE THE SUN WILL RISE TOMORROW on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other outlets.

Edie Cay
Written by Edie Cay

Edie Cay writes award-winning feminist Regency Romance about women’s boxing and relatable misfits. She is a member of the Regency Fiction Writers, the Historical Novel Society, ALLi, and a founding member of Paper Lantern Writers. You can drop her a line on Facebook and Instagram @authorediecay.

View Edie’s PLW Profile

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