While I was on recently on a quest for my next great summer read to take with me on my long weekend vacation, a neighbor brought Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors. The only thing that disappointed me with this historical fiction novel was that it didn’t last me for the duration of my long weekend. Once I started the book I literally could not put it down and finished it in a day.
Beneath a Marble Sky is the gripping story behind why the Taj Mahal was created. It is filled with tales of inspiring love, tragedy, war, and hate that tears apart a family set in the 17th century. This riveting story genuinely depicts life’s polar struggles where love collides with hate, betrayal with trust, and where family members become enemies. This brilliantly written novel showcases the marvels and disgrace of ancient India. When I completed the book I found a letter from the author. It was not your general, cookie cutter memo, but rather it was truly heartfelt and sincere words from John Shors. At the end he listed his email address, encouraging book clubs to contact him so he may make a call in to your group’s discussion. I thought this was the perfect opportunity to speak to such a profound author, though I didn’t really think I would be contacted. However, a mere ten minutes after my initial email to author John Shors, I received a reply, and before I knew it I was talking with him! Below is the interview with John Shors.
Lindsay Rosasco: What inspired you to write Beneath a Marble Sky?
John Shors: It was really when I traveled to India and saw the Taj Mahal. It was so amazing, and I felt like I had to bring this magic to life. The stories behind the making of the Taj Mahal are celebrated in India, and I saw an opportunity to bring the story to the West.
Since it is historical fiction, are any of your characters inspired by your real life?
No, the characters are based on real people, and I tried to stay true to the real life stories behind them. I found enough foundation in my research to stay true to the characters, but when I needed to and saw an opportunity, then I was able to embellish the characters to how I imagined them to be.
I understand you lived in Japan for three years to teach English. What about Asia captivated you to move there?
I have always loved to travel. After graduating college I saw a good opportunity to make money teaching English in Japan. I really loved the exoticness of the culture.
Do you have any ideas for your next book? Will it also be inspired by your travels?
My second novel is coming out in September and has a similar title to the first book, Beside a Burning Sea. It takes place in the South Pacific in World War Two. It is an epic tale of an American nurse who falls in love with her Japanese patient. I was inspired by this part of the world because I lived in the South Pacific for six months.
Beneath a Marble Sky was on many best seller lists, and it was only your first book. Did you ever expect such success your first time around?
I feel truly blessed for the success. It got good reviews, which helped pique people’s interest. I got the idea to put the letter in the back of the book and published it that way, inviting book clubs to include me in on their meetings. This really got the book into people’s hands, and I have now contacted over one thousand book clubs. It was really great for the book, and is now published in sixteen languages.
You wrote so convincingly as Jahanara, a 17th century Indian princess. Was this an obstacle for you?
It was tough to try to think of myself speaking in the first person as a 17th century Indian princess. I just tried to tap into who she was and what she wanted to be and bring that to life.
What were your favorite parts and/or challenges in writing this?
Writing is very hard work. Most of the time it’s hard work, but I most enjoyed the emotional scenes. They’re very fun and enjoyable to write. There were also some parts of the book that were just very tedious; they’re not too exciting or rewarding to write, but it’s all just a process.
Are you going to be involved at all in the making of the film?
I’m really not involved. Basically what I did was sell the rights. Eric LaSalle read the book, then hopped on a plane to India and is in the process of screen writing. I believe it will come out in three or four years.
Why did you choose the Children’s International Summer Villages charity for some of the profits from your book?
For someone who has traveled the world, I know how people are more alike than different. Unfortunately we focus on our differences, and I wish we’d focus on our similarities. The organization brings children from different cultures together in camps. It is truly a wonderful group.
Is there anything else you’d like your readers to know?
Just that I appreciate their support, and I wouldn’t be living the dream of a full-time novelist without my readers. I don’t take that for granted, and I am happy to communicate with them.
Shors’ third and fourth books will be set in modern Vietnam and Thailand. And one fun fact about Shors is that his favorite food is Asian food. He says it drives his kids crazy, but it’s so flavorful! Check out Shors’ website for more information, or get your book club involved. I promise this is a book everyone will thoroughly enjoy.