Interview / Novels

Creating The Twin Stars: an Interview with Bridgette Dutta Portman

Bridgette Dutta Portman is an author, playwright, and teaching artist. Dozens of her plays have been produced across the United States and overseas. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Spalding University, as well as a PhD in political science from the University of California, Irvine. She is past president of the Playwrights’ Center of San Francisco and is currently a member of Same Boat Theater Collective, the Pear Playwrights’ Guild, and the Dramatists’ Guild. She recently joined the board of the Pear Theatre in Mountain View, CA. The Twin Stars is her debut novel, and the first of a planned trilogy. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband Deepanshu and their two young children.

A magical journal. A world savaged by its own suns. An evil prince. A princess in hiding. And a teenage girl who learns to be the hero of her own story.

Sixteen-year-old Olive Joshi has obsessive-compulsive disorder, and can’t stop worrying about hurting the people she loves. She finds refuge in writing about Coseema, a magical princess on a distant planet. Coseema is fearless, confident, and perfect – everything Olive thinks she’ll never be. When she falls through a portal into her own unfinished story, Olive finds herself in a world in peril: double suns scorch the land, the brutal Prince Burnash seeks supreme power, and Coseema is nowhere to be found. Together with her friends – a bold poet, a cursed musician, a renegade soldier, and an adventurous girl from the desert – Olive will have to face her deepest fears to find the hero in herself.

The Twin Stars is an engrossing new portal fantasy in the spirit of the Wizard of Oz, the Neverending Story, and the Chronicles of Narnia.

Urban Fantasy Magazine: Thanks for chatting with us. First off–your website mentions you’re a classical mythology fan. (Me too!) What’s your favorite myth and why?

BRIDGETTE DUTTA PORTMAN: I have so many! One of my very favorites is the myth of Sisyphus, the trickster. Many people know him as the guy condemned to forever push a boulder up a hill in the Underworld, but fewer know why he’s there. It turns out that he offended Zeus (never a good idea), but the real kicker was that he tried to cheat death, twice. The first time, he trapped the god of death in his own handcuffs and threw him in a dungeon. The second time, he tricked Persephone into letting him return to life. I guess I’ve always liked characters who try to defy the gods/fate/the universe, even if they suffer for it.

Urban Fantasy Magazine: I understand you’re a playwright as well. How does your approach differ when you’re writing a play versus a novel?

BRIDGETTE DUTTA PORTMAN: I almost feel like I have to use different parts of my brain. With a play, the focus is dialogue, and I can be very sparse with how I describe action. In a novel, the dialogue isn’t quite as important, but I have to describe in detail all the action, as well as the setting and the internal thoughts of the central character. “Olive enters,” doesn’t cut it. Both genres are challenging in their own ways. On the other hand, fundamental elements like character development and plot remain the same.

Urban Fantasy Magazine: Sixteen-year-old Olive is a writer herself—is it trickier or easier to work with a character who is also an author?

BRIDGETTE DUTTA PORTMAN: I’d say it’s easier, as I relate to her so strongly. When she struggles with her writing, that frustration is my own.

Urban Fantasy Magazine: What drew you to create Olive? Was she a character you’ve had in your head for a while or is she a newer creation?

BRIDGETTE DUTTA PORTMAN: Olive was in many ways inspired by myself as a teenager. Like Olive, I had (and still have) OCD, and have struggled with anxiety all my life. I knew I wanted to create a character who had a mental illness but was able to find the strength within herself to become a hero.

Urban Fantasy Magazine: I see. So are there any preconceptions about OCD that you hope to dispel through your work?

BRIDGETTE DUTTA PORTMAN: Sometimes people think of OCD as a funny personality quirk or even a desirable trait, one that makes a person extremely clean and organized. In truth, OCD is an anxiety disorder that can be debilitating. People with OCD have intrusive, unwanted, irrational fears and worries that interfere with their daily life. Olive’s OCD interferes with her writing and leads to constant self-doubt. I’d love it if readers came away with a more accurate understanding of this condition.

Urban Fantasy Magazine: That would be awesome. I hope they do, too! Shifting gears a bit–what’s the trickiest part about creating an original fantasy setting?

BRIDGETTE DUTTA PORTMAN: Probably knowing where to start. Worldbuilding in fantasy settings is challenging because it’s so wide open. This was a fictional, fantastic world that I could make into absolutely anything—which was both exciting and overwhelming. I began with the concept of a planet scorched by conjoined stars that kept erupting into giant stellar flares. I then thought about what people’s lives would be like on such an inhospitable world (presuming they could even live on one; I took some creative liberties there), and invented a few civilizations and kingdoms. I next tried to come up with a magic system that was inspired by art and creativity. It’s such a big world, and I’m constantly inventing more elements of it.

Urban Fantasy Magazine: Did you ever create a wish-fulfillment character like Coseema when you were a kid? If so, what were they like?

BRIDGETTE DUTTA PORTMAN: Oh, yes. My character was a young man named Hiero Antares. I’d say he was half wish-fulfillment and half the boyfriend I wanted. He was incredibly powerful, with a tragic past, and was the subject of a prophecy. He was also Darth Vader-level evil, but he had goodness deep down inside, and he was redeemed by the love of a woman. So I was not only hitting all the Mary Sue tropes, but all the bad-boy romance tropes as well. I was oblivious, but I sure enjoyed writing about him. Maybe a little glimmer of him survives in Coseema.

Urban Fantasy Magazine: Maybe so. I’m looking forward to reading the book soon. Thanks for the interview. Readers can find more info on Bridgette Dutta Portman and her book below.

Direct links to THE TWIN STARS:

Author links:

Finally, don’t forget there is a giveaway of The Twin Stars going on right now. One winner wins a signed paperback copy of The Twin Stars + a custom designed journal that ties into the book thematically. Open International.

For a chance to win, enter the rafflecopter below:
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