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Interview with Janisha Chatterjee

Eric Brown is a prolific writer of speculative fiction and whether writing about telepath’s investigating sinister cults on distant spaceports; an isolated populace of New York in 2040; or a half-british, half-Indian student evading Russian assassins in an alternative and steampunky India: you can be assured of a fast-paced novel set within a highly imaginative world that is full of interesting characters.

Brown’s latest is a Young Adult Steampunk adventure novel. Here’s the blurb:

JaniJani and the Greater Game is the first book in a rip-roaring, spice-laden, steampunk action adventure series set in India and featuring a heroine who subverts all the norms…

It’s 1910 and the British rule the subcontinent with an iron fist and with strange technology fuelled by a power source known as Annapurnite discovered in the foothills of Mount Annapurna. But they rule but at the constant cost of their enemies, mainly the Russians and the Chinese, attempting to learn the secret of this technology… This political confrontation is known as The Greater Game.

Into this conflict is pitched eighteen year old Janisha Chaterjee who discovers a strange device which leads her into the foothills of the Himalayas. When Russians spies and the evil priest Durja Das find out about the device, the chase is on to apprehend Janisha before she can reach the Himalayas. There she will learn the secret behind Annapurnite, and what she learns will change the destiny of the world for ever…

Sounds interesting? Well, today we’re hugely excited to print an interview that was conducted with Jani (yes, that’s Eric Brown’s fictional protagonist!) as a way of introducing her to you and for a few of the novel’s themes and plot points to be revealed too… Check it out!

The following Interview first appeared in the London Gossip, May, 1925.

I caught up with Janisha Chatterjee, whose adventures have been chronicled in Jani and the Greater Game, while she was in London recently. We met at Claridge’s, and over afternoon tea she told me about her life, her recent adventures, and her hopes for the future. I had been informed by my editor that Miss Chatterjee is highly educated for an Indian, though this might not be so surprising as her father was a minister in the Indian Government. Her late mother was English, and this might explain a certain aspect of her demeanour; for although Miss Chatterjee is as dusky as any Indian maiden, she carries herself with the poise of an English lady. In appearance she is of medium height, with a flowing mane of raven hair and large brown eyes, and her spoken English is excellent. In manner she is somewhat reserved, though perfectly pleasant and extremely articulate. She was dressed in the fashion of the day in a modest knee-length dress and sun hat.

LG: I must begin by expressing my condolences on the passing of your father. He was a great man.

JC: And a wonderful, loving father. I shall miss him greatly. I had the good fortune to be at his bedside when he passed away; I regret that circumstances necessitated my hasty retreat from Delhi before I could attend his funeral.

LG: The account of your recent adventures, detailed in Jani and the Greater Game, does rather beg the question of how much artistic licence the writer, one Eric Brown, took in describing the downing of the airship the Rudyard Kipling, which you were aboard, and your subsequent flight from Delhi to Nepal.

JC: I have had little time to read the chronicle, but what I have read is substantially true. I was rather flattered by some aspects of his portrayal of me. I came over as quite the adventurous heroine, when in fact on many occasions I was quite frankly terrified.

LG: When captured and tortured by the Russian spies?

JC: Quite. They were pure evil – I could tell that the second I set eyes on the pair – and I knew that I would be lucky to escape with my skin. If it were not for my faithful friend Anand Doshi, then it is quite likely they would have tortured me to death.

LG: You were also helped later by Lieutenant Alfred Littlebody.

JC: Anand and Alfred have been stalwart in their assistance, yes.

LG: Mr Brown makes much of their loyalty… and, dare I say, romantic devotion to you.

JC: They are loyal, yes; more than that I would not care to dwell upon…

LG: You have become, in some circles – notably the suffragette movement – something of a role model. You must admit that in some quarters, though, a dim view is taken of the fact that a young lady of your position should become embroiled in such… exploits, might I say?

JC: And yet not an eyelid would be batted, or head turned, if a young man were to find himself in my situation? Do you not find that attitude a little… hypocritical, shall we say?

LG: Ah, quite.

JC: Good!

LG: Now… Is it true that you do carry about your person the tithra-kunji, or the key to the portal that links this world to the next…?

JC: I think it would be politic not to answer that question, sir. There are various interested parties – Russians, Chinese, Indian and British – who would stop at nothing to get their hands on the key.

LG: Though there are rumours that the Indians who were perusing you – the priest Durga Das and his henchman Mr Knives – lie dead in northern Greece. Can you corroborate this?

JC: That is true, yes, and while I rejoice in no man’s death, the fact that this unscrupulous pair can no longer hound my progress is reason for relief.

LG: Is it true, might I ask, that in London you seek the alien being Mahran, who is in possession of the second tithra-kunji – and is also true that three of these ‘keys’ must be possessed in order to open the portal between the worlds?

JC: Again, it would not be wise to divulge further information. What I can say, however, is that an alien horde is massed in the realm next to ours, and they will stop at nothing to break the seal and invade our world. I fear that a member of their race, the Zhell, is on my trail as we speak.

LG: I hope you don’t mind my saying that… how to phrase this?… Well, I assumed that the more outré aspects of Mr Brown’s account – the claim of other realms, of alien hordes – might have been a fictive fabrication inserted into the narrative in order to sell more copies.

JC: I can assure you, sir, that everything he wrote concerning the Zhell and their aims is quite true.

LG: Moving on… Now, Mr Brown goes into some detail about your relationship with Sebastian Consett. Would you care to add anything on that matter?

JC: Only that Sebastian and I are very close, and that I hope to see more of him once this beastly affair is over and done with and I can settle down.

LG: And on that subject, Mr Brown speculates that you desire to finish your medical studies at Cambridge, and upon graduation perhaps seek a post back in your homeland of India.

JC: That is one option, yes. I think I owe it to my people to… to give something back, as it were, to my homeland. India is a great nation, thought it is true that it does suffer certain hardships. It has many poor, and healthcare might be improved… In this I might be able to do a little to help.

LG: Reading between the lines of Jani and the Greater Game, it would not be imprudent to state that on the point of Indian Nationalism you are somewhat conflicted, Miss Chatterjee.

JC: Straddling as I do both British and Indian cultures, with dual heritage and affiliations, I can see the good in aspects of both the nationalist agenda and the continuance of British Rule in the subcontinent. I am of the opinion – not universally shared by my fellow Indians – that the Raj has brought many advantages to Indian society: the rule of law, the infrastructure of industry and transport, not to mention democracy. That said, however, not all aspects of the Raj have been beneficial. Likewise, while I see certain benefits of Nationalism, and the call for independence, there would be disadvantages also. So, yes… as you say, I am conflicted on the matter. Though I must add that it is inevitable in my opinion that independence will come about one day. It will be for the people of India, then, to make the most of the situation, to build on the foundations laid down by the British, and show the world how great our nation can be.

LG: I hope you will not be offended when I state that many readers of London Gossip might be surprised at the eloquence and obvious intelligence of a girl of your young years; you are just eighteen, is that true?

JC: It is, though what my age matters I cannot see. You’ll be saying next that your readers are surprised that someone of Indian heritage can string a sentence together!

LG: Well, I wouldn’t go quite that far…

Jani-Brown-ElephantOur fascinating conversation was interrupted at this point by the harassed arrival of a short, plump young man who I took to be none other than Lieutenant Alfred Littlebody. He crossed to our table, excused the interruption, and spoke hurriedly to Miss Chatterjee. Her reaction was shocked; wide-eyed, she replied in lowered tones, then turned to me and said, “There have been developments, sir. I understand that certain antagonistic parties are at this very minute scouring the area for me. I must dash. And thank you for the tea and cake!” Whereupon the feisty Miss Chatterjee, accompanied by the ever loyal Lt. Littlebody, exited the building and boarded a taxi on the next leg of their breathless adventure.

* * *

Janisha’s adventures continue in Jani and the Great Pursuit by Eric Brown. You can visit for more information on the author and his array of SFF series.


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