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Shiva's Arms - Cheryl Snell (TOUR & AUTHOR INTERVIEW)

Is there a happy medium between Hindu tradition and American style, or does the battle of wills between a mother and daughter-in law for the love of the man caught in the middle trump all else? When Alice marries Ramesh, she is plunged into a battle of wills with her mother-in-law. Amma wreaks havoc over Alice's household until a family secret is revealed that costs the old woman everything. Now it is up to Alice to heal the rift. Shiva's Arms evolves into an exploration of cultural identity, the power of reconciliation, and the meaning of home. ***Bonus: Delicious recipes straight from the author's kitchen are included in the back of the book!***


Author Interview:

First of all welcome to my blog Cheryl, and thank you for taking some time to answer a few question for readers. I wish you the best success on your future endeavors!

1. Please tell readers about your current book.

It's multicultural literary fiction. An American art student, Alice, marries Ramesh, and is plunged into a battle of wills with her new mother-in-law. Amma wreaks havoc over Alice's household, in the traditional Indian joint-family style, until a family secret is revealed that costs the old woman everything. Alice must restore the family equilibrium, and Shiva's Arms evolves into an exploration of cultural identity, the power of reconciliation, and the meaning of home.

2. Who or what inspires your writing?
My husband, a mathematical engineer, is a great influence. He communicates a reverence for how things work that is very inspiring. His explanations of scientific principles are evident in certain pieces of my writing. He was raised in India, and details from that culture have given me lots of material. Another inspiration: Words themselves, watching them play; Old music and new art. Music and writing have many elements in common, and mastering a piece of music is not unlike getting a piece of writing right. And I am inspired by modern art. Looking at it loosens my ability to make connections between disparate things. Did I just define a poem?

3. When did you know you would be a writer?

I'd always loved to read, and had the run of my father's large library. I'd write poems for family occasions and loved to play with language, but I was also a musician, and becoming a classical pianist too most of my effort. When I married my husband, I began to write seriously. It was one way to understand my new environment.

4. How long did it take you to write your first novel?

Several years, I took the novel from a short story through many incarnations, trying to find the right fit for all the elements. I wrote early drafts on legal pads, which I don't bother with now. I've come to like the squashy quality of the computer, the ease at which phrases can be moved around, sparking new ideas and fresh connections. These endless possibilities can lead to other problems, of course. Ralph Ellison couldn't finish his second novel, and it grew to thousands of pages.

5. What's the hardest part of writing for you?
The endless beginnings found in revision, and finding out what I really think--which often means more revising. A writer must be willing to kill her darlings.

6. Do you have any writing rituals?
I begin every day by playing Bach, either at the piano or on a CD. His harmonies ground me. That's the good habit--the bad one is that, once I'm at the computer, I surf way too much.

7. Have you written anything else?
A few books of poetry and fiction, most of them listed at

8. Any advice to aspiring writers?
Write every day, and read more than you write. Find a writing group slightly beyond you, leave your ego at the door, and learn.

The online community, especially the workshops, is effective for many people. But there's a glut of it now, every one vying for the eyeballs. Writers have to be mini-moguls, with publicity campaigns and platforms and branding, in order to be heard. The voice gets strident, or else hoarse.

9. Who is your favorite author?
Alice Munro for her wisdom, Tolstoy for how he weaves the social fabric of a time and place into personal drama. The poets Levertov, Merwin, Rich, Emily Dickinson, and Tomaz Salamun. The essayists and storytellers: Kundera, Stegner, Maxine Hong Kingston, Louise Erdrich, Italo Calvino, Arundhati Roy. I respond to anything that ignites the imagination with respect to ideas.

10. What is your favorite book?

Sentimental Education, by Gustave Flaubert. Thwarted desire and irony. What more could you want?

11. What are you currently reading?

I'm always reading contemporary poetry, (a habit from my days as a book review editor) but this summer I'm rereading some old faves: Bellow's Humboldt's Gift, George Eliot's Middlemarch, Roth's The Dying Animal.

12. How do readers find out more about you?

Author's Blog:
Art and Poetry Blog:
My Videopoems:

My Opinion:
Right from the beginning of this story I was lured into the lives of a family, most specifically a woman, who culturally is not accepted. Yet she keeps with it until the very end. I felt so much empathy for her, and then at the end I felt her strength. Truly powerful!
This is a book that will hit nerves with most who read it, but in a way not offensive.
The writer has done an outstanding job on the detail of emotion, good and bad. Conveyed to the reader it rang loud and clear.
Yes there is recipes, but I did not try. Though I will one day.
I am recommending this book, it was fantastic!

~I received a copy from Writer's Lair Books. I was not compensated for my opinion.~


  1. Hello!

    Thank you so much for having me today. I especially appreciate your response to my book, and your empathy for Alice - who could be a handful, herself!

    I'll be available throughout day to answer questions about the book and the writing life.

  2. Hi Cheryl,

    I love your book and the characters. I love the lyrical writing style and learning about Indian customs.

    I am wondering if you could say a few words about Nela.

    to live on the wind

  3. Hello, Nanette.

    It's nice to hear from another author!

    Nela is a mirror character for Ram. Each of them breaks the taboo against unsanctioned romances, but their punishments vary in type and degree. They both excel in mathematics, but he achieves success first, while she is left behind. They each have a complex relationship with their mother, and resolve it in different ways, but toward a similar goal.

    Ram and Nela could also represent avatars of the same god. Shiva, for instance, is often depicted as half man and half woman.

  4. Great interview. The book sounds interesting. I havent heard of it before, but now I am adding it to my very large booklist. Hopefully I can read it very soon.

  5. Thanks, Nina.

    You can purchase the book online at

    Or you can order through my publisher,The Writer's Lair Books. They will ship the book internationally.

  6. Hi Cheryl,

    yes, avatars of the same god. How poetic and interesting. Thank you.

  7. It was one way to build resonance and realism into the characters, without being too obvious. I didn't want to disturb the readers' "fictional dream".


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