Thursday, April 6, 2017

🏰 AUTHOR INTERVIEW: 'The Mountain Goddess' Shelley Schanfield & Book Giveaway!

Shelley Schanfield’s passion for Buddhism and yoga arose sixteen years ago, when she and her son earned black belts in Tae Kwon Do. The links between the martial arts and Buddhist techniques to calm and focus the mind fascinated her. By profession a librarian, Shelley plunged into research about the time, place, and spiritual traditions that 2500 years ago produced Prince Siddhartha, who became the Buddha. Yoga, in some form, has a role in all of these traditions. Its transformational teachings soon prompted Shelley to hang up her black belt and begin a yoga practice that she follows to this day.

Because she loves historical fiction, Shelley looked for a good novel about the Buddha. When she didn’t find one that satisfied her, she decided to write her own novels based on the spiritual struggles of women in the Buddha’s time. She published the first book in the Sadhana Trilogy, The Tigress and the Yogi, in 2016 and will publish the second, The Mountain Goddess in early 2017.


About the Book:

A beautiful warrior princess. A tormented prince. A terrible choice between love, duty, and spiritual freedom.

In ancient India, rebellious Dhara runs away to a sacred mountain to study with the powerful yogi Mala, a mysterious woman with a violent past. Flung by war onto an adventure-filled journey, Dhara
meets and captures the heart of Siddhartha, whose skill in the martial arts and extraordinary mental powers equal her own.

Worldly power and pleasure seduce Dhara, creating a chasm between her and her husband, who longs to follow a sage’s solitary path. She takes on the warrior’s role Siddhartha does not want, and when she returns wounded from battle court intrigue drives them further apart. As Siddhartha’s discontent with royal life intensifies, Dhara’s guru Mala, who has returned to her life as a ruthless outlaw, seeks her former pupil for her own evil purposes.

Dhara’s and Siddhartha’s love keeps evil at bay, but their son’s birth brings on a spiritual crisis for the prince.  If he leaves his kingdom to seek enlightenment, he turns his back on love and duty and risks destroying his people. Only Dhara can convince him to stay. 


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As a book bloggin’ and book luvin’ Princess, I’m always curious to find out how authors got the ideas for their books.  How did you come up with the idea for your book?

I love to explore the romance of other times, places, and cultures, and historical fiction is a great way to do it. In college I studied Asian history and developed a passionate interest in India’s religions, rich traditions full of amazing myths and stories. Prince Siddhartha, the founder of Buddhism, is a historical figure shrouded in legend, and as a Princess, I know you will find him fascinating. Born into wealth and privilege some 2500 years ago, he had everything—looks, talent, a beautiful wife, a royal future—but nothing satisfied him. The night his first son was born, he slipped away disguised as a humble seeker of truth, determined to find enlightenment. What he found has eased the suffering of millions. His teachings have helped me through difficult times, but I often wondered about his poor wife, left back at the palace with a newborn son. His story just seemed to beg for a good novel, and as a lover of historical fiction I searched for one. None that I found satisfied me. As Toni Morrison says: “If there's a book you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.” So I decided to write my own.

Can you tell us what your book is about?

The Mountain Goddess is Book II in a trilogy about women who Siddhartha loved and who loved him. It focuses on Dhara, the rebellious daughter of a warrior from a poor clan. Determined not to marry, she runs away to a Himalayan cave to study with Mala, a woman with a mysterious and violent past, who has mastered yoga’s supernatural powers. When war drives master and pupil from their sacred cave and casts them adrift in the lowland kingdoms, Dhara meets and captures the heart of Prince Siddhartha. But as wealth and power seduce her, he yearns to cast aside his royal destiny and seek spiritual freedom. In a time of religious and political strife, they face terrible choices.

Fiction Authors: Can you tell us a little about the main characters of your book?

Rebellious Dhara’s indulgent father teaches her the warrior’s arts, and her guru Mala teaches her yoga’s secrets. Siddhartha falls in love with her passionate nature and her extraordinary abilities as a warrior and yogi. But her gifts make her the object of jealousy at court, and rumors of infidelity test their marriage.
In Book I of the trilogy, The Tigress and the Yogi, we meet the low caste woman Mala. When her daughter Kirsa is stolen from her she embraces violence, then rejects it to seek peace through yoga. In Book II, she shares the highest spiritual truths with Dhara, yet demons from her past torment her and pervert her powers toward dark ends.
Sakhi, Dhara’s best friend, wants all the things Dhara doesn’t: husband, children, and an ordinary life, but she must find extraordinary courage when war comes to their mountain clan. She proves a true compassionate friend to Dhara when Siddhartha’s spiritual crisis comes.
Siddhartha’s handsome charioteer Chandaka is a carefree companion to the serious and conflicted prince. Dhara’s jealousy of their relationship soon turns to lust for her husband’s roguish best friend.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would that be?

 Master the mechanics of language, plot, structure, and character development. Only then can you ignore their rules.

 Follow Barbara Kingsolver’s advice: “Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don't try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It's the one and only thing you have to offer.”

What would you say is one of your interesting writing quirks?

Several times a week, I get up at 2 or 3 a.m. and write until 5 or 6. When the world is asleep, I can feel really alone. In the quiet dark, it’s possible to find a space where what the writer John Gardner called “the vivid, continuous dream” that is fiction flows onto the page. It’s wondrous and scary, like a particularly deep meditaiton.

Do you hear from your readers?  What do they say?

Not so much. Like a lot of writers, I’m a little shy that way. The reviews of my work on Goodreads and Amazon have really pleased me, though! It’s wonderful when a reader says your work is engrossing and mesmerizing and moving.

What is the toughest criticism given to you as an author?

A favorite high school teacher once told me the journals I kept for his class were like diving into a garbage can. It took me many years to get up the courage to write again.

But you know, when I finally did, I realized he did not intend to discourage me. A writer needs to be ruthless with her own work. Nowadays, I am my own toughest critic. The French writer Colette said: “Put down everything that comes into your head and then you're a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff's worth, without pity, and destroy most of it." These are words a writer should live by.

What has been the best accomplishment?

Writing a novel is a long and lonely road. I often felt it was sheer madness to continue. But I couldn’t stop, and the sense of achievement when I held my first book in my hand was overwhelming.  To every aspiring writer I say: Just keep writing.

Do you Google yourself?

Well, of course I have. And there’s not much there—my characters may have grand passions and adventures, but my idea of excitement is sitting in front of a fire or on a beach with a glass of wine and a good book!

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

            Right now my only WIP is Book III of the trilogy, which will weave the fates of Dhara, Kirsa, Siddhartha, Mala and the others together. But I have endless ideas for new novels. I just need all the time in the world to write them.

Do you have anything specific that you would like to say to your readers?

I hope you will experience the deep wonder, mystery, and sense of discovery that possessed me as I wrote these books.

Giveaway Details:

Shelley is giving away a Kindle copy of THE MOUNTAIN GODDESS!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to win one free e-copy of THE MOUNTAIN GODDESS.
  • This giveaway ends midnight April 28.
Good luck everyone!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

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