1. Loyal Stalkers is a book that’s a little different from other collections I’ve read. Why did you decide to go with interconnected short stories? Or was that accidental?
With short story collections readers connect with some stories more than others. I felt by having links, even if there are one or two stories a reader may not relate to as much, because they add to the overall story arch, their attention will not be lost. That is my hope at least. Also, I love movies such as Pulp Fiction and Short Cuts where characters pop in and out of each other’s stories.
2. Do you have a favourite character from these interconnected stories? Mine is Manjula. I adored how absolutely cool he was!
I like some, I hate some, but I would agree with you about Manjula – on the surface he is all coolness and bravado, but he shows great empathy. I also like Jinesena the security guard, because he is a bit of a lovable rascal whose love for his son defines who he is. Again, he may appear to be a bit of a liar and cheat, but he has a very big heart.
3. Speaking of favourites, do you have any favourite authors. Especially from Sri Lanka?
Most of my favourite authors are Sri Lankan, people such as Nayomi Munaweera, Shehan Karunatilika, and Ashok Ferrey – I say this not on the basis of just liking their work, but knowing that they are very nice, supportive people. Similarly people I have met in India such as Sandip Roy and Prajwal Parajuly. All these writers I have mentioned have had great success, but above all else they are nice, humble people I have learnt from. I don’t think writing books is a very big deal in the grand scheme of life, so I am turned off authors who think what they do makes them very important.
4. The title story, Loyal Stalkers, gave me the creeps. It feels like you’d write amazing thrillers as well. Any plans for the same?
My dream would be to write a complete thriller – I have so many ideas that I really like, but I have not come up with an idea for a killer ending – one that does not seem contrived. I love reading thrillers but the ending is often a let-down.
5. The writing and editing process for short stories must be different from a novel. Could you tell us any significant experiences you had during this?
With short stories, finding areas that needed fixing was easier. We could say, right stories 3,4,5 and 6 are good to go, but for now we really need to work on 7. With a complete novel I have found that if I edited certain parts it made them stand out from the rest of the book. Also, because the stories in this book are linked, sometimes changes in one story inspired improvements and plot twists in others.
6. You are a family man. How did you find time to work on this and to spend time with family?
Yes, I am first and foremost about family. This really helps my writing because I don’t take it too seriously. I don’t take myself too seriously as a writer, because against the love of family, it really means very little. Also, because I rarely leave my family, even to go out at night, I have extra time when I am at home and the kids are asleep. Pre-kids I may have been out painting the town red and then recovering the next day.
7. I hear you have a no technology rule during the weekends. I personally went through a few no technology months a while back, just to get a break from it. Why do you do that? Do you think it helps with your writing?
To be honest, it is not working so well since my book came out as often I have to be available on the weekend. Also, with lots of cricket on I am always checking the scores. I came off all social media a few years ago and absolutely loved that – I found it so relaxing, but I need Facebook to publicize my books now so I am back. The reason for saying no technology at weekends – when I am home – was purely so I did not set bad examples for my kids. I want them to be running around, enjoying active parts of life so I try to focus on that without being distracted by my phone. It is not really an issue for my writing as when I write nothing can distract me.
8. Short stories are being called a forgotten or under appreciated form of literature. Do you agree or disagree?
A publisher in the UK told me the issue for them with short stories is that it is very hard to get the big lit critics to review them unless you are already a big name. Without these reviews it is hard to get shelf space. Thus, they are less commercially viable and so it follows there are fewer collections than there could be. I think that is a shame. I don’t compare short stories to novels; sometimes I am in the mood to read one, sometimes the other. I guess the issue is it is very hard for a reader to like every story in a collection so in reading them they can lose momentum. It is easier to put the book down, as it were. At the same time, short stories have far less fluff. As an author, it is much easier to sell a collection after you have sold a couple of novels first, but it is easier to write a collection before you attempt a novel in my opinion – so it is the chicken and egg situation really.
When I am writing, which I am not at the moment, I am pretty excited about it and so don’t need any egging on. I don’t really need a routine or a process; I just write when I want to, which tends to be quite often. If I don’t feel like writing, I don’t. Normally I write early in the morning then read back what I have written that night. Then I know where I want to go next before I sit down to write again. For me the key word is fun; I only do what I think is enjoyable and relaxing. If writing ever became a chore for me I would do something more important or profitable with my time.
10. Could you share with us a picture of our working space if it isn’t too much trouble.
This is a little tricky as I write all over the place (I do most of my writing at work but probably should not admit that publicly)
I write mainly at work early in the morning, when no one else is there. I work at a school so it has to be done before the students arrive. It is with editing I have a little fun. Since I do it on my kindle first, I am quite flexible – it could be by a pool, on the beach, overlooking the paddy fields – but usually it is in the car while my kids are asleep in the back.
LOYAL STALKERS : In a private room sheltered from the Colombo riots, a seventeen-year-old girl gives birth to a hatechild. At a city gym, an introverted fitness instructor obsesses over his unattainable client. Inside an untended guest-house room, an adolescent cricket champ is caught unawares by his coach’s violent fury. By a rain-drenched gravesite, a special-needs teacher confides in a stranger.
Edgy yet tender, racy yet warm, these interlinked stories take us into the unfamiliar everyday of Sri Lankan living, where smugglers, waiters, single moms and cheaters cross paths as they attempt to negotiate a web of shock, subterfuge and irony.
A collection of infinite brio and charm, this is Chhimi Tenduf-La at his inventive best.
My review of Loyal Stalkers is here and you can grab a copy if you’re intrigued. The author has also very generously offered to give away a copy to one of my followers to to get your hands on a copy head to my twitter and RT this tweet, follow my blog. Follow the author on twitter.
For bonus points follow me on twitter as well. Ends 12/07. India only.
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