Monday, March 09, 2009

Guest - Karin Shah

Good morning, everyone! Grab your coffee and sit back to enjoy this week's guest, Karin Shah.

From childhood, Karin Shah wrote herself into her favorite TV shows before falling asleep every night. She adores Paranormal Romance, Romantic Fantasy, and Science Fiction Romance/Futuristics, but will read anything with great characters and a satisfying, happy ending.

Karin lives with her amazing husband Nikhil, brilliant children Natalie, and Roman and two mischievous basenjis in Columbus, Ohio. She belongs to RWA, Central Ohio Fiction Writers, the Futuristic, Fantasy and Paranormal special interest chapter of the RWA, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.


I Just Flew in From India, And Boy Are My Arms Tired

Being married to an East Indian, I have the pleasure of spending weeks visiting his family and touring the beautiful country of India. In fact, as I write this, the last twinges of jet lag are only now leaving my body from our last trip.

But this article isn’t about India, it’s about the importance of world building.

Whatever genre you write, whether Contemporary Romance, Suspense, Fantasy or any other world building is an inextricable part of the storytelling.

The reason I mention my recent trip is because it was the collision of my culture and my husband’s culture that truly taught me how unique a culture can be.

My husband is Gujarati. His ancestors came from the Indian state of Gujarat and though he -- like his parents before him -- was raised in Mumbai, Gujarati is his mother tongue. In Gujarati, politeness is built in. When you are asking for something politely the word is modified so the person being asked knows you are asking with respect. A “please” word is extraneous.

English, of course, relies on please and thank you to keep interactions respectful, so when we first married my husband thought I was insulting him by saying “please and thank you” and I thought he was insulting me, by not. You can imagine the conflict this raised in our household!

It had never occurred to me before, that a language might not have an exact equivalent for please.

Our early relationship was fraught with opportunities for me to realize how much I didn’t know about his culture because I was too close to my own for me to even know to ask.

I assumed everyone slept on a spring-filled mattress and made the bed the same way. But a cotton mattress is traditional in Mumbai and when it’s sweltering hot, having two covers over both people (sharing body heat) is the last thing you’d want to do.

We had different ways of dealing with everything, neither was wrong just formed from our different worlds.

When most people think of world building, they think of Fantasy and the glamorous parts of world building -- designing a government, naming the currency, the languages, the peoples. But even in a traditional Fantasy while those larger aspects are important, they don’t truly define the essence of a world.

The spirit of a world, in my opinion, is in the details of every day life.

I don’t mean that we, as authors, should describe in exhaustive detail every facet character’s environment and routine. The reader, as they say in spy movies, is on a “need to know basis,” but we should know, because the character’s surroundings, interactions, and daily life shape both the character and the plot.

World building is important because in the end the environment shapes characters. And each character has his or her own world.

My character Tia in STARJACKED grew up on a space ship. More it was a pirate ship, everything about that fact defines her, from her reaction to being hurt to her attitude about other people.

Her friend Kaber, also grew on the ship, but because she is a different person, her view of that world is slightly different. They share some similarities, but each is uniquely her own.

The clash of those worlds drives plot. World building forms each characters’ goals and motivations, and fuels the conflict, and is therefore fundamentally necessary to any story whether the setting is a modern office building (Die Hard) or a civil war plantation (Gone with the Wind).


With the fate of the galaxy at risk, love may not be enough.../span>

In the lawless fringes of deep space, pirate Tia Sen has a rep for being hard as plascrete, tough as Amalan leather, and as strong as she is beautiful. She also has a secret that courts death: For years she has been freeing enslaved children. Stepping in to rescue a valiant mechanic from a near-fatal beating risks more than her life. Thanks to her traitorous heart, her web of lies is in danger of unraveling.

Undercover operative Rork Al’Ren is no stranger to lies. Emotionally scarred by the murders of his wife and unborn child, he burns to eradicate every bit of pirate scum in the galaxy. Then his mission goes sour, and he finds himself Tia’s personal slave—and falling in love with the very pirate he’s sworn to destroy.

Yet love is a luxury he can’t afford. Tia possesses a powerful new weapon that could overwhelm the Union of Planets and plunge the galaxy into war.

If Rork can’t convince her to surrender it, he may have to break her trust—and her heart.

STARJACKED can be purchased at It’s also available at, and


Lynda here - I hope you've enjoyed meeting today's guest. Be sure to leave a comment for her. Oh, and I'm now on Twitter so if you're there, if you follow me, I'll follow you :-D I'm at

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Marcia James said...

Hi, Karin! Very interesting blog post. I can't wait to read your book!
-- Marcia James ;-)

Karin Shah said...

Thanks, Marcia! :-)


Karin Shah said...

Ooh and don't forget to stop by and leave a comment there. I'm giving a digital copy of STARJACKED AWAY and there's lots of other booty being given away, too!

Marcia James said...

Hi! I noticed that you joined the anniversary party at Barbara Vey's Publisher's Weekly blog ( ;-) What a bash she's having! I'm participating on Friday, but I commented today, too, to be entered in for the great prizes authors like yourself are giving away!
-- Marcia ;-)

Anonymous said...

Hi Karin,

I also write paranormal and fantasy for YA. I had never realized that the day to day details were so important in world building. The culture, government , physical structure etc but not the intricacies of language and interpretation of it. So thanks for the heads up, I will be looking at my wips again with this in mind.
Karen Ender

Patricia Altner said...

Excellent post on world building and clash of cultures. So important to keep in mind when constructing a story


Cynthia Eden said...

Interesting post! And I love the blurb for Starjacked. :-)

Angelia Almos said...

Excellent post on the little details of world building. Everything is so important and can really be used to add conflict in a story where you have different cultures meeting up (or just people from different backgrounds).

Karin Shah said...

Thanks for commenting, Karen! Best of luck with you WIPs. :-)

Karin Shah said...

Thanks for the kind words, Cynthia, Patricia and Angelia!

And thanks for stopping by! :-)

Arianna Skye said...

Hi Karin!

Love your blurb. I can't wait to read Starjacked. Great cover, btw. Awesome blog, too!


Arianna Skye said...

Hi Karin!

Love your blurb. I can't wait to read Starjacked. Great cover, btw. Awesome blog, too!


Margaret said...

Conflict - it drives the story. I never thought of it being as basic as the clash of cultures but DUH - of course it is.

Thanks. Looks like a FABULOUS book


Karin Shah said...

Thanks, Margaret! :-)


Elizabeth L'Inconnu said...

Hi Karin - just stopping by to say love your title - Starjacked. It's a great cover too.

Mary Marvella said...

Interesting way to remind us that we need to show our characters within their worlds instead of a vacuum. As a Southern child in the USA I often confused adults from "Up north" when I insisted on please and thank you and ma'am and sir.

Karin Shah said...

Thanks, so much Elizabeth! And thanks for dropping by! :-)


Tarot By Arwen said...

Karin, I can't wait to read this. :) It's on my "payday" list. LOL. Give those rascally 'senjis an ear rub for me.

Karin Shah said...

A good point Mary! Even people from different places in the same country can have cultural differences. A nice reminder to those of us who also write fantasy to factor this in to the mix.

Thanks for posting!


Karin Shah said...

Thanks, Arwen! I hope you enjoy it. And I will. :-)


Heather said...

Great post! I love learning about what inspires authors. Karin, your life sounds like a wealth of intriguing source material.

I read STARJACKED and it was a blast! Love me some tortured lady space pirates! Karin, it was obvious to me you put a lot of thought into your worldbuilding.

Lynda K. Scott said...

Wow, everyone said what I was thinking, lol. That's what I get for having to work late.

I think a lot of us who write the more SF type material tend to think of the hard sciences but the 'soft' psychological sciences can have a pretty large impact too. Thanks for pointing that out, Karin. I think many of us forget that.

And thanks for being with us here at Star-Crossed.

Marie-Claude Bourque said...

Hi Karin,
A little late coming to the party. I love how you relate world building to a difference in culture. It is so true (and I am a little jealous of your visit to India LOL).
Your story looks really interesting. I am just getting into romantic sci-fi and your blurb really peaked my curiosity !

Elysa said...

Hi Karin,

I'm eager to read Starjacked. Love the concept of space pirates. World building can be such fun, can't it? When you consider all the different cultures here on Earth, the possiblities for other cultures in the vastness of space is limited only by our imaginations.

Elysa Hendricks
FORBIDDEN MOON avaible now from ImaJinn Books

Karin Shah said...

Thanks again for having me Lynda!


Karin Shah said...

Thanks Marie-Claude! I hope you'll read it. :-)


Karin Shah said...

Thanks for stopping by Elysa! I had fun writing STARJACKED and hope people enjoy reading it. :-)


Frances said...

Karin, thanks for a great article. I look forward to the rest of this week. I read the excerpt of STARJACKED, and it looks awesome. Can't wait to read the whole book.

Frances Drake

Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real Future

Jessa Slade said...

Pirates in space? What's not to love? :) I was just doing some research on Chinese and learned that there isn't really a word for yes. They just repeat the relevant noun. For example, if someone asks "Do you want to get some lunch?" instead of saying yes, you'd say "Want." What wonderful -- and confusing! -- diversity we humans create.

Karin Shah said...

Thanks, Frances! I hope you will! :-)


Karin Shah said...

Thanks,Jessica! Wow, that's a neat fact about Chinese! Thanks for sharing! :-)


Linnea Sinclair said...

Hey Karin, I LOVE your language example. I teach world building (online and at confs nationally) and I'm going to filch your example (with credit to you--ka0ching!) because it so superbly illustrates what's often lacking in beginning writer's pages. (I judge a number of national contests and so often the characters on the pages are just Americans with silly masks on, or purple wigs...if you get my drift).

On the other hand (besides four fingers and a thumb), there can be a tendency to overdo the world building. Invented nouns pepperthe pages like a bad case of measles. SF author Melissa Scott talks about "the strangeness budget" in her how-to "Conceiving the Heavens" and I concur. World building is like spice: too much odd stuff and it's unpalatable. Not enough and it's bland.

So thank you (because I'm American I'll add the polite extra words) for a great post! ~Linnea

Karin Shah said...

Thanks so much for stopping by Linnea! I know I don't have to mention it (I'm sure Games of Command is not only MY favorite book)
But Linnea's new book HOPE'S Folly is available now! (rubs hands together)
And I would be honored to have to you filch anything of mine. LOL
Oh, that sounds bad. You know what I mean.

Thanks again for visiting!


Lynda K. Scott said...

Karen, thanks for being with us at Star-Crossed Romance this week. You've been a wonderful guest and we've enjoyed having you. Come back any time ;-)