Chhimi Tenduf-la is a debutante author who got published with Hachette. His first book is named "The Amazing Racist" and it's getting a superb response from everywhere. While talking with the author, it was evident how much grateful he is to all the readers and supporters. He is also nervous about his future as an author. Do read what he has to say about India, Bloggers, Fame and his next work.
1. How has life changed after writing the first book?
It’s much the same, except now my wife reads quite a lot, which she didn’t before. Not my book though. Also I have much more contact with India which is superb; I almost feel like I am there, and will be soon for a lit fest.
It is also a little scary. Every morning when I wake up, I check if there are new reviews, and then read them with one eye closed in case they are bad. Thankfully, the feedback has been very positive so far.
2. What was the first moment when it came into your mind of writing The Amazing Racist?
I know some very amusing characters in real life and, I guess, it came to a point where I thought I have to get some of these people down in one book before I forget. Two months, later I had the first draft of the Amazing Racist. It’s a bit of a blur really, as I don’t think too much about what I write. I just moulded a story around the characters.
3. Did you always have passion for writing or you just wanted to tell this story to the world?
Yes I always liked writing, particularly if I could make people laugh. I had a column in a magazine and have written a couple of plays. Maybe I am getting to the age that I should drop the attempts at humour, but I think it was fitting for this story as the real-life characters I based this story on all love a laugh. However, I guess like you as a blogger, I love writing as a way to relax, switch off, maybe even to keep my thoughts in order.
4. How did the character of Uncle Thilak develop in your creative mind?
He is an amalgamation of many people and since the book has come out, most Sri Lankans who have read it tell me that they can identify with him because they have an uncle like him. In fiction, I love a bad guy with redeeming features which is what I was trying to get at.
The bits about his humour during his fight with cancer came from my father. He suffered from cancer for 13 years before losing his life to it, but he never stopped cracking jokes or living his life as normal.
5. Weren’t you doubtful initially that starting the book on a lighter note and then changing it into a tensed and stressed story would disappoint the readers who picked it up considering only the synopsis?
This is a great question; the synopsis caused some debate. We did not want to give the story away, so we could not refer to the second part of the plot, but at the same time, in hindsight I guess by just blurbing the first half of the book the story sounds quite generic. Yet, I wanted the story to be everyday life everyone could relate to, so it had to be quite a simple story.
In general, readers have liked the switch in story in the second half to something which is a little different. To me, that was the crux of the story, and the first half was more about getting into the heads of the characters.
6. How well do you think will your book pick up in India for Indian readers?
The response has been excellent. I am not there to get the everyday feedback I get in Sri Lanka, when I bump into people – at least in person people have to say nice things. The press and blog reviews I have been getting in India have been fantastic and this suggests to me that the story is as applicable to there as it is to here. My Tibetan father was actually an Indian national who was born and grew up there, so I guess part of my way of life is Indian anyway.
7. Are you loving the interaction you are having with Bloggers and Reviewers online these days?
I am absolutely loving it. This is really my first introduction to blogging. When I get a blog review, like from you, I then go through the full blog and find what you guys write about is fascinating; a wealth of information and a good way to get a finger on the Indian pulse as it were. I’ve learnt so much. I also think it amazing that you all find the time in your busy schedules to be so diligent about blogging. I have since considered starting a blog myself but don’t know, if like you, I can keep making interesting posts. Hats off to you.
I have also been contacted by some newspaper reviewers who liked the book and that has been utterly brilliant too. I am not so confident about my writing so to get good reviews in the papers and on blogs really encourages me.
8. What is the next work we would be getting to read from you?
My next novel, Panther, comes out in July of this year. It’s about a former child soldier getting a cricketing scholarship to an elite Colombo school. So it’s about fitting in to an alien environment, while hiding a dark past, and having to contend with physical and mental abuse, sinister school masters, war, first love, and rivalry. Most of all it is about friendship, loyalty and betrayal.
9. Any words for your readers who picked The Amazing Racist and liked it?
I am unbelievably grateful. I think it is brave to pick up a debut novel, written by an unknown author from another country. I hope the risk was worth it and cannot thank them enough for the kind words, support and encouragement.
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