Today I’m delighted to bring you an interview with the author of “Beneath a Marble Sky,” John Shors. John, thank you for joining us. It’s a pleasure to have you here.
In the reader’s guide included in the novel, you mention that a lot of the book was taken from history, but that you also took liberties with some members of the royal family. Was Jahanara romantically involved with the builder of the Taj Mahal, or was that one of the liberties?
Most scholars believe that Jahanara was Isa’s assistant on the Taj Mahal, and she worked with him for eleven years on the project. They were said to have been rather close. I decided to take their relationship to the next level, and have them be lovers. I wanted love to be a powerful theme in “Beneath a Marble Sky,” and it seemed to me that my narrarator ought to fall in love at some point during her story. And for her to fall for Isa, the architect behind the Taj Mahal, seemed an obvious choice. I certainly enjoyed creating their love story.
What other aspects of the book were based on history? The conflict between the brothers? The imprisionment of Jahanara and her father?
For the most part, the rest of “Beneath a Marble Sky” is true. All of the major events in the novel (the love affair between Shah Jahan and Arjumand, the rise of the Taj Mahal, the civil war, the imprisonment of Shah Jahan and Jahanara, etc. were real events, and I re-created them as accurately as I could.
This book is so richly steeped in atmosphere and ambience. Can you tell us a little about the research you did to create such a believable setting?
As far as creating a believable backdrop for the story, I spent a month traveling in India, so I had a rather good feel for how things look, smell, taste, and feel in that part of the world. My time in Asia was key to my efforts to bring this place and era back to life. I wanted “Beneath a Marble Sky” to be as authentic as possible, so experiencing India for a month was obviously quite important in terms of creating such authenticity.
I noticed on your site that the film rights were sold in 2005. Is the movie in production currently?
Eriq LaSalle’s (Dr. Benton on ‘ER’) production company, Humble Journey Films, bought the film rights to “Beneath a Marble Sky,” and is in the process of making it into a major motion picture. For a first-time novelist like myself, this process has been a great deal of fun. I’m supposed to see the screenplay in a few months and am really looking forward to this.
I also noticed that you’ve traveled extensively. Have those experiences made your writing richer?
I’ve spent about five years of my life abroad (mainly in Asia), and yes, this experience has made me a better writer. Experiencing so many different cultures has had a powerful influence on my work.
What projects do you have in mind for the future?
I plan on most of my novels to be set overseas. For instance, my second novel, Beside a Burning Sea, will come out in September and is set in the South Pacific. And my third novel will take place in Saigon…
John, thank you again for joining us. This has been fascinating and I look forward to reading your forthcoming books.
For more information on John Shors, his book and his movie, click here to visit his website.