Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Q&A with Shashi Bhat

From my Q&A with Shashi Bhat, author of The Most Precious Substance on Earth:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The Most Precious Substance on Earth refers to a moment in the book when the main character's high school band conductor tells them that platinum is the most precious substance on earth. (Their band is called the Platinum Band.) It turns out this statement is false—the most precious substance is either diamonds, rhino horns, or meth. So it’s a bit of a bait-and-switch, which is a pattern that occurs throughout the book. Symbolically, what I had in mind was that the most precious substance is whatever is lost when a girl comes of age—a mix of innocence and hope and confidence and the beliefs that we hold in girlhood.

Very early on, my agent suggested changing the title to Mute, which is one of the chapter titles and is a clear nod to one of the book’s key themes: the ways in which women are conditioned to be silent. My main character, Nina, is a person who often wants to speak and has something to say but just can’t make herself say it. I was attached to my original (and current) title though. I liked the obliqueness of it, and I’m a bit of a sucker for...[read on]
Visit Shashi Bhat's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Most Precious Substance on Earth.

Q&A with Shashi Bhat.

--Marshal Zeringue