Shelley Schanfield’s passion for Buddhism and yoga arose sixteen years ago, when she and her son earned black belts in Tae Kwon Do. The links between the martial arts and Buddhist techniques to calm and focus the mind fascinated her. By profession a librarian, Shelley plunged into research about the time, place, and spiritual traditions that 2500 years ago produced Prince Siddhartha, who became the Buddha. Yoga, in some form, has a role in all of these traditions. Its transformational teachings soon prompted Shelley to hang up her black belt and begin a yoga practice that she follows to this day.
Because she loves historical fiction, Shelley looked for a good novel about the Buddha. When she didn’t find one that satisfied her, she decided to write her own novels based on the spiritual struggles of women in the Buddha’s time. She published the first book in the Sadhana Trilogy, The Tigress and the Yogi, in 2016 and will publish the second, The Mountain Goddess in early 2017.
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About the Book:
A beautiful warrior princess. A tormented prince. A terrible choice between love, duty, and spiritual freedom.
In ancient India, rebellious Dhara runs away to a sacred mountain to study with the powerful yogi Mala, a mysterious woman with a violent past. Flung by war onto an adventure-filled journey, Dhara meets and captures the heart of Siddhartha, whose skill in the martial arts and extraordinary mental powers equal her own.
Worldly power and pleasure seduce Dhara, creating a chasm between her and her husband, who longs to follow a sage’s solitary path. She takes on the warrior’s role Siddhartha does not want, and when she returns wounded from battle court intrigue drives them further apart. As Siddhartha’s discontent with royal life intensifies, Dhara’s guru Mala, who has returned to her life as a ruthless outlaw, seeks her former pupil for her own evil purposes.
Dhara’s and Siddhartha’s love keeps evil at bay, but their son’s birth brings on a spiritual crisis for the prince. If he leaves his kingdom to seek enlightenment, he turns his back on love and duty and risks destroying his people. Only Dhara can convince him to stay.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Would you call yourself a born writer?
I’ve always loved books (I’m a librarian by profession) and I’ve always loved writing—not only the joy of putting words together to form ideas and stories, but also the physical act of making beautiful, inky dark, cursive letters on a pure white, lined sheet of paper. But I didn’t discover my true calling as a novelist until after I’d married, raised two kids, and had a successful career. What inspired me to write fiction? On to your next question.
What was your inspiration for THE MOUNTAIN GODDESS?
I’m a Midwestern girl born and raised, but the world’s mythologies and religions have always fascinated me. Growing up, a legend about how the Buddha healed a young woman whose grief over her son’s death had driven her mad resonated deeply, as my oldest sister suffered a devastating illness and my parents’ anguish was plain. Over the years, I learned more about the Buddha’s teachings, and they gave me strength in dark times. I’m an avid reader of historical fiction, and I looked for a good novel about Siddhartha, the handsome Indian prince who gave up wife and son and wealth and power to seek an end to humanity’s suffering and became the Buddha. When I couldn’t find one that satisfied me, I decided to write my own. While doing my research into his time and place (2500 years ago in northeastern India), I was drawn to the story of his wife, who stayed behind with their newborn son when he left on his quest for enlightenment. The Mountain Goddess, Book II in a trilogy about the women of the Buddha’s time, tells her story. (Click here for information on Book I.)
What themes do you like to explore in your writing?
I write about the choices women face when they pursue their own goals, whether they seek power or passion or spiritual freedom.
How long did it take you to complete the novel?
It took sixteen years to write the first two books in my trilogy about women of the Buddha’s time. Yup, 16, one-six. Most of that spent learning the writer’s craft, at the same time as researching ancient India, all while caring for children and parents and working and pursuing a black belt in Tae Kwon Do as well as my own yoga and meditation practices. All time well spent, IMHO when reviews say readers find the books engrossing, mesmerizing, and moving.
Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.
When I’m in full fiction-writing mode, I will get up at 2 or 3 a.m. and write until 5 or 6 in the morning. This is the best time to write new scenes. My day job and family responsibilities keep me busy during normal working hours, but still I can find time for editing. And anytime an idea strikes, I jot down notes in Evernote or in a spiral notebook that is my constant companion.
What did you find most challenging about writing this book?
My books fall in the genre of historical fantasy, which like historical fiction requires a great deal of research, and any writer will tell you it’s an incredible challenge to keep facts about time and place and character back-story from clogging up the narrative.
What do you love most about being an author?
I love sitting with pen in hand or with my laptop (using Scrivener for my manuscripts) in the early morning when no one else is awake, and feeling story pour through me onto the page. In its own way, writing is a powerful meditation practice.
Did you go with a traditional publisher, small press, or did you self publish? What was the process like and are you happy with your decision?
I had an agent for about a year but when we parted ways I decided to self publish. I’m president, CFO, senior editor, and best-selling author at Lake House Books! Which means I did it all: filing for an LCCN, copyright, getting Cataloging in Publication (PCIP) information, bought my own ISBNs. I found a great book designer at Streetlight Graphics. Along with my local book manufacturer, Thomson Shore, they gave me a gorgeous print-on-demand paperback for both Book I and Book II of my trilogy. Streetlight did the beautiful formatting for e-books, too. For Book I, I used Draft-2-Digital for e-book distributors and uploaded directly to Amazon’s Kindle. For my second, I’m exploring a new e-book service, Pronoun.
Where can we find you on the web?