Thursday, January 6, 2022

Akshaya Raman Interview - The Ivory Key

Photo Credit: Emily Gillaspy

Akshaya Raman fell in love with writing when she wrote her first story at the age of ten. Though she graduated from UC Davis with a degree in biology, she gave up pursuing a career in science to write books. She is a co-founder and contributor to Writer’s Block Party, a group blog about writing and publishing, and has served on the planning teams of several book festivals. She lives in the Bay Area with an actual scaredy cat, and in her free time, she enjoys baking, traveling, and watching too much reality TV.


Greatest thing you learned in school.
The importance of finding your community.

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?
Susan Dennard is an author I admire and has been a constant source of inspiration for me.

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Stories give us ways to connect with and understand the world around us, and also provide an escape.

Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book?
Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen is an author I can always revisit!

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
I’m currently working on the second book in THE IVORY KEY duology, and I also have a short story in the upcoming paranormal romance anthology ETERNALLY YOURS.

In your newest book; THE IVORY KEY, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it.
THE IVORY KEY is a YA fantasy that I like to call a family drama treasure hunt. It’s set in a world inspired by ancient India where magic is a physical resource that’s running out, and in order to get more, four estranged royal siblings must go on a quest to find the mythical Ivory Key.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I wanted to write a story in which characters aren’t bound by fate and instead choose to pursue their dreams. Each character has their own reasons for wanting the Ivory Key, but the thing that drives them is their determination and resilience. I hope readers are able to connect with that and remember that we get to make our own destinies.

What part of Vira and Riya did you enjoy writing the most?
I really loved writing moments when the two of them had to put aside their differences and work together.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I’d love to introduce Vira to Emanuela from BEYOND THE RUBY VEIL, mainly because I’d be extremely curious to see who would win in a fight!

Where did you go on your first airplane ride?
I remember being quite young so I don’t fully remember but I think I flew from New Delhi to Chennai.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Try a new cuisine!

Best date you've ever had?
Exploring a new city and wandering down random streets without any real plan.

What event in your life would make a good movie?
Probably my childhood since I grew up moving around a lot!

What is your favorite restaurant in town and why?
I don’t know if I have a favorite restaurant, but I love trying new places and finding great vegetarian food.

Favorite things to do alone?
I love getting a warm blanket and a mug of tea and spending the day on the couch with a great book!

  • 1. There are four POVs in this book (Vira, Riya, Ronak, and Kaleb) and they’re all siblings.
  • 2. I typically name characters based on sound & gut feeling, but Vira was an exception. I chose her name for its meaning: valor.
  • 3. When I first had the idea for this book, it was a Robin Hood retelling where they would steal magic instead of money. This is no longer a retelling, but you can still see the vestiges of this initial idea in Riya’s storyline.
  • 4. Magic in this world is mined from a quarry, processed, and put into objects. Anyone can learn to create magical objects through hard work and training—not just because they were born into a specific bloodline.
  • 5. My biggest inspirations were the quest/adventure movies I loved as a child like Indiana Jones, National Treasure, and Tomb Raider.
  • 6. It was important to me to reflect the regional differences of India, so the country of Ashoka has different provinces inspired by various regions. I especially loved incorporating food from all over India.
  • 7. Some of the architecture in the book was inspired by real places. For example, the Dvar Fort was heavily influenced by the Golconda Fort.
  • 8. One of my favorite aspects of the book is the map which is actually the same one the characters use on their quest, annotated by their father.
  • 9. I read a book on the history of cryptography as a child which was the inspiration behind a lot of the puzzles the siblings have to solve.
  • 10. Despite the adventure elements, the book at its core is a family drama. It’s about their relationships with each other and how their shared history has shaped their lives in different ways.
Your journey to publication
I started writing seriously towards publication in 2014. I wrote three books that I ended up tabling before, during the summer of 2016, I started to work on what would be THE IVORY KEY. I’d had the idea for quite a while and when sat down to write it, I somehow ended up drafting the whole thing in a matter of weeks! I was so in love with the story, but I knew it needed a ton of work so I started revising.

In early 2017, I decided to pitch during #DVPit, a Twitter pitch event to boost marginalized voices. I got a lot of interest from agents as a result, but around the same time I received feedback that said the book wasn’t quite ready. I was so disheartened but I decided to do what I felt was best for the book and didn’t query it. Instead, I spent the next year rewriting the book from the ground up three more times before I finally queried in 2018. After I signed with my agent, we did several more rounds of revision together before the book sold in early 2020—mere days before the pandemic hit full force and shelter in place orders were issued.

I’ve been fortunate to have an immense amount of support from family and friends throughout the whole process, long before I ever sold the book. I’m also so lucky to have a community of incredible critique partners who read many drafts over the years and generously helped make this book as strong as it could be!

Magic, a prized resource, is the only thing between peace and war. When magic runs out, four estranged royal siblings must find a new source before their country is swallowed by invading forces. The first in an Indian-inspired duology.

Vira is desperate to get out of her mother’s shadow and establish her legacy as a revered queen of Ashoka. But with the country’s only quarry running out of magic–a precious resource that has kept Ashoka safe from conflict–she can barely protect her citizens from the looming threat of war. And if her enemies discover this, they’ll stop at nothing to seize the last of the magic.

Vira’s only hope is to find a mysterious object of legend: the Ivory Key, rumored to unlock a new source of magic. But in order to infiltrate enemy territory and retrieve it, she must reunite with her siblings, torn apart by the different paths their lives have taken. Each of them has something to gain from finding the Ivory Key–and even more to lose if they fail. Ronak plans to sell it to the highest bidder in exchange for escape from his impending political marriage. Kaleb, falsely accused of assassinating the former maharani needs it to clear his name. And Riya, a runaway who cut all family ties, wants the Key to prove her loyalty to the rebels who want to strip the nobility of its power.

They must work together to survive the treacherous journey. But with each sibling harboring secrets and their own agendas, the very thing that brought them together could tear apart their family–and their world–for good.

You can purchase The Ivory Key at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you AKSHAYA RAMAN for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of The Ivory Key by Akshaya Raman.


  1. Yes, I remember Mr. Ingall very well and think about him often.

  2. I'm super excited to read The Ivory Key. Great interview. I loved reading about Akshaya's road to publication. And yes, my favorite teacher was my first grade teacher, though I forgot her name.

  3. Yes, I was just thinking of Mr. Garchow today.

  4. Yes, from fourth grade. He's probably long since passed.

  5. I do, he was my high school algebra teacher!

  6. "Do you remember your favorite teacher?" There were teachers I admired back in the day, but I'm sure they were all deeply flawed, like all people.

  7. I had some wondereful teaches Mrs Lund comes to mine in science great teacher.

  8. Yes my fifth grade teacher was my most favorite!

  9. My third grade teacher! She always rewarded the good kids by buying them dinner and she was just the nicest.