Friday, 19 April 2019

Viewpoint: Mona Dash

Viewpoint invites authors to write about anything they want, as long as it's of interest to readers of Asian Books Blog.

Here, Mona Dash talks about leaving her native India, to save her child's life. Her son was born with a rare, genetically inheritable disease, SCID (severe combined immuno-deficiency). After his diagnosis, she set out for London so he could be given specialist treatment. She has written about her experiences in the memoir, A Roll of the Dice: a story of loss, love and genetics. This publishes next Monday, April 22.

Mona still lives in London, where she combines motherhood, and work in the technology sector with writing fiction and poetry. Her work includes the novel Untamed Heart, and two collections of poetry, Dawn-drops and A certain way.  In 2016, Mona was awarded a poet of excellence award in the upper chamber of the British parliament, the House of Lords.  Her work has been widely praised and anthologized. In 2018, she won a competition established to encourage and promote British Asian writers, the Asian writer short story competition, for her short story Formations.

A Roll of the Dice describes the ups-and-downs, the shocks and support, the false starts and real hopes of a mother with a sick child. Mona humanizes the complexities of genetic medicine, and writes her story of genetic roulette without self-pity. Her memoir contains valuable information for couples facing infertility and complicated pregnancies, for parents of premature babies and of children with SCID.

So, over to Mona…

Monday, 15 April 2019

Writing with Heart, Humour, and Honesty: An Interview with M SHANmughalingam

Award-winning author Dato’ Dr M SHANmughalingam—or Dato' Shan, as he is affably known—had his first solo collection of short stories launched by no less than HRH Sultan Nazrin Shah, the Sultan of Perak and Deputy King of Malaysia, just last October. His book cover carries HRH's endorsement and the book a Royal Foreword, for good reason: Shan is a national treasure of storytelling. The vibrant volume, evocatively titled Marriage and Mutton Curry, hit number two on the MPH bestseller list in Malaysia.

When I started reading Marriage and Mutton Curry, what struck me most was how warm it was, even as it delves into stories of the Jaffna Tamil community with incisive truth. Always honest, but always just as kind, Shan deftly navigates topics as broad as the Japanese occupation, red tape and diplomacy, colonial legacies and cultural intricacies of his Malay(si)a. He weaves references to Dickens’s Oliver Twist and Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner into the context of Malayan schoolboys and bureaucrats with equal parts unflinching irony, pointed humour, and joy. To quote Gillian Dooley’s review in Asiatic (Vol. 2, Dec 2018): “There is no sentimentality here at all: compassion, yes, but clear-eyed candour”.

Dato' Dr M SHANmughalingam (Picture courtesy of Epigram Books)


Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Tsundoku #3 - April 2019


Welcome to issue 3 of Tsundoku – a column by me, Paul French, aiming to make that pile of ‘must read’ books by your bed a little more teetering - fiction, non-fiction, photography and kids...and so...let’s start building your tsundoku pile for April….let’s start with new fiction...

Hideo Yokoyama’s fat detective novel Six Four was a massive sensation both in Japan and internationally a couple of years ago. Now Yokoyama is back with Precinct D (riverrun), a collection of four short stories all set in 1998 Tokyo and each one following one police officer faced with a difficult choice to make.



Introducing Ryu Murakami

Ryu Murakami is a Japanese novelist, short story writer, essayist and filmmaker. He explores human nature through dark themes of disillusion, drug use, murder and war, giving his work a surrealist, sinister air.  He is perhaps less well-known internationally than he deserves to be.  Singapore-based Piers Butel, who writes on culture and travel, here urges you to read him.

Scenes of staggering violence, a cast of misfits and outsiders, a twisted world that seems familiar but also deeply disturbing and a feeling that things probably won’t end up all right. The novels of Ryu Murakami are not always easy to read, but with drumming heartbeat-fast plots, cinematic sheen and a unique style, you won’t have time to be bored.

500 words from Sylvia Vetta

British freelance writer, author and speaker, Sylvia Vetta, is on her fourth career after teaching, running a business, and having a high-profile role in the antiques trade in England. In 1998 she began freelancing writing on art, antiques and history. She then took a diploma in creative writing, which led to the publication of her first novel Brushstrokes in Time.

Sylvia's husband, Dr Atam Vetta, is Indian, so she knows that chance encounters can change lives, and she is interested in cultural exchange. Her own experienced influenced Sculpting the Elephant, which concerns the relationship between British artist, Harry King, and Indian historian Ramma Gupta.  When Harry trips over Ramma their lives change forever, but can their love stand the strain of crossing cultures? Their story becomes entwined with the life of a maverick Victorian who mysteriously disappeared in the Himalayas while in search of the emperor who gave the world Buddhism, but was then forgotten for the next 2000 years.

So, over to Sylvia...

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Indie Spotlight: The Imperial Alchemist - AH Wang





As the new contributor to the Indie Spotlight, I'm thrilled to introduce my first guest, AH Wang who has been inspired by ancient Taiwanese history and mythology to write The Imperial Alchemist - a gripping archeological thriller with a difference, to delight fans of Indiana Jones and anyone interested in the history of this fascinating land. 

In this post she gives us some background to the book and the inspirations around it....

Friday, 29 March 2019

Circumstance out now in the UK

Rosie Milne's novel Circumstance, which published in Asia last November, is now available in the UK

Rosie is the editor of Asian Books Blog.  Her previous novels are How to Change Your Life, Holding the Baby and Olivia & Sophia - a re-telling of the life of Tom Raffles, the founder of Singapore, through the fictional diaries of his first wife, Olivia, who died young, and his second wife, Sophia, who outlived him.

Circumstance is set in the jungles of colonial Malaya in the 1920s.  It explores what happens when an adoring young bride is met on the doorstep of her  new home by her husband's former mistress.

It is 1924 and the British rule Malaya. Frank is a colonial administrator in a remote district deep in the jungle. Rose is the innocent young bride he’s just brought out from England. Nony is the native mistress he’d previously abandoned, along with their four children.

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

A New Kid on the Block for Literary Nonprofits






Paper Republic is proud to announce that it is now a UK-registered charity no. 1182259. Paper Republic was set up by Eric Abrahamsen in 2008 as a blog site where we translators of Chinese literature could share our thoughts, our joys and our frustrations. Since then we have developed a variety of other activities and gained a gratifying degree of recognition: "If you need to know something about Chinese literature you start here," said one of the judges at the 2016 London Book Fair Literary Excellence Award, where we were runners-up. "Paper Republic demonstrates superb collaborative working across a number of platforms including their growing networks, their redesigned website and innovative live activities.

Friday, 22 March 2019

Viewpoint: Soniah Kamal

Viewpoint invites authors to write about anything they want, as long as it's of interest to readers of Asian Books Blog. Soniah Kamal here talks about how she conquered her fear of cooking, and why food plays such a big role in her latest novel, Unmarriageable.

Soniah is a Pakistani-American writer. She is the author of two novels, An Isolated Incident (2014) and Unmarriageable (2019). Her work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, in the USA, and The Guardian, in the UK. Her short stories and essays have appeared in critically acclaimed anthologies.

Unmarriageable is a retelling of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice set in Pakistan in 2000 and 2001. It highlights issues of colonialism, race, and Pakistani identity. Balli Jaswal Kaur, the Singaporean author of Erotic Widows for Punjabi Widows, said: "Soniah Kamal has gifted us a refreshing update of a timeless classic. Unmarriageable raises an eyebrow at a society which views marriage as the ultimate prize for women. This atmospheric novel does more than simply retell Pride and Prejudice though. Crackling with dialogue, family tensions, humour and rich details of life in contemporary Pakistan, Unmarriageable tells an entirely new story about love, luck and literature."

Unmarriageable simmers with accounts of delicious Pakistani food, to set readers' mouths watering. Of course, cooking is a big part of Pakistani culture, but Soniah wasn't always such a fan, and her path to making a perfect aloo gosht was a rocky one.

So, over to Soniah...

Monday, 18 March 2019

Lion City Lit: The Art of Connection in “Three Writers, Numerous Countries”, a reading at LASALLE College of the Arts

Why do we go to readings? To hear an author’s words in their own voice. To discover new contexts, new stories, and new ways of reading stories we already love. Perhaps most of all, to experience that delightful alchemy when several authors who’ve never met before come together, and the chemistry is palpable. The best readings, I find, are those where the whole becomes more than the sum of their parts, and the joyous reading “Three Writers, Numerous Countries” at LASALLE College of the Arts on 13 March was one such occasion.

L-R: Seema Punwani, Dr Angie Abdou, Grace Chia
Photo: Angie Abdou
Seema Punwani kicked things off with a warm, funny reading of two chapters from her debut novel Cross Connection. We were treated to a recount of the main characters’ first meeting from female protagonist Sama’s point of view, and then from male protagonist’s Zehn’s, where in a slyly done sleight-of-hand we discover that what Sama remembers as their first meeting was in fact their second—as Zehn recalls.

Dr Angie Abdou, visiting Artist in Residence for the week at LASALLE, took the stage to share with us her creative nonfiction as well as fiction, reading from her memoir Home Ice and latest novel In Case I Go. It’s a testament to the universality of good writing that these two very different and very Canadian stories—the true story of a year in Angie’s life as an ice hockey mom, and the story of a young boy and the Ktunaxa girl next door who are haunted by the misdeeds of their ancestors—captured the attention of this room of Singaporean listeners, half a world away from Canada. Themes of family, of parenthood, of how one makes sense of the world we live in in the present when we can’t quite shake off the past, proved to resonate beyond geographical boundaries.

Grace Chia, aided gamely by LASALLE MA Creative Writing Programme Leader Dr Darryl Whetter with the dialogue, then read her searing short story “Berries and Weeds” from the collection Every Moving Thing That Lives Shall Be Food. There was a serendipitous connection with Canada in this story, about a Singaporean girl who travels to Canada to meet a long-distance penpal turned lover, only to find that she grows up on this trip in ways she hadn’t expected.

Friday, 15 March 2019

Viewpoint: Susan Blumberg-Kason

Viewpoint is a new occasional column inviting authors to write about anything they want, as long as it's of interest to readers of Asian Books Blog. Susan Blumberg-Kason kicks-off the new series, with a discussion of cultural sensitivity and the making of Hong Kong Noir.

Chicago-based Susan Blumberg-Kason is the author of Good Chinese Wife: A Love Affair with China Gone Wrong (Sourcebooks, 2014) and co-editor of Hong Kong Noir (Akashic Books, 2018). She is a regular contributor to the Los Angeles Review of Books and the Asian Review of Books. Her work has also appeared in The Frisky, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, and the South China Morning Post.

The Noir anthologies are an award-winning series of collections of new stories, each one set in a distinct neighbourhood or location within  a chosen city. Hong Kong makes a fantastic location, and, in Hong Kong Noir, fourteen of the city’s finest authors explore the dark heart of the Pearl of the Orient in haunting tales of depravity and despair. Contributors include Jason Y. Ng, Xu Xi, Marshall Moore, Brittani Sonnenberg, Tiffany Hawk, James Tam, Rhiannon Jenkins Tsang, Christina Liang, Feng Chi-shun, Charles Philipp Martin, Shannon Young, Shen Jian, Carmen Suen, and Ysabelle Cheung.

So, over to Susan...

Asian titles on the Man Booker International Prize longlist

The Man Booker International Prize celebrates the finest works of fiction from around the world, if they have been translated into English. It is awarded every year for a single book which is translated into English and published in the UK. This week, the 13 novels in contention for the 2019 prize were announced.  They include Can Xue's Love In The New Millennium, translated from Chinese by Annelise Finegan Wasmoen, and Hwang Sok-yong's At Dusk, translated from Korean by Sora Kim-Russell.

China Dispatches: the best creative non-fiction available now

Paper Republic promotes Chinese literature in English translation. It highlights new writing from contemporary Chinese writers.

Along with One-Way Street Magazine(单读) and the LA Review of Books’ China Channel, Paper Republic is about to launch the second series of China Dispatches. This unique three-way collaboration focuses on translating the best non-fiction coming from China right now, and making it available online, completely free to read. Essays are first published in Chinese in One-Way Street Magazine (单读) then and presented in English by Paper Republic in collaboration with the Los Angeles Review of Books’ China Channel.

Friday, 8 March 2019

Indonesia as London Book Fair Market Focus 2019

The London Book Fair is one of the global marketplaces for publishers. This year's fair takes place next week. Each year, the fair chooses one country to be the market focus; this year, that country is Indonesia.

UK-based Monsoon Books publishes books about Asia, and has strong links with publishers in Indonesia. Phillip Tatham, publisher of Monsoon Books, here looks ahead to the Indonesian focus at LBF.

500 words from Juliet Conlin

500 words from…is an occasional series in which novelists talk about their latest novels.

Juliet Conlin’s third novel, The Lives Before Us, is published on March 28. Juliet was born in London and now lives in Berlin. Her earlier novels were The Fractured Man and The Uncommon Life of Alfred Warner in Six Days. 

The Lives Before Us is set in 1940’s Shanghai. It explores a little-known aspect of the Holocaust and the Jewish diaspora in one of Asia’s most legendary cities, and addresses the struggles surrounding forced emigration, displacement and identity, through the story of two Jewish women, Esther and Kitty.

Esther and Kitty flee Nazi Europe for the relative safety of Shanghai. But instead of finding the safe haven they had hoped for, they encounter desperate living conditions, an almost unbearable climate, shocking crime, and a fierce battle for limited resources. Then, when Japan enters the fray of the Second World War, and violence mounts, Kitty and Esther – along with thousands of other Jewish refugees – are forced into a Japanese-controlled ghetto.

So, over to Juliet...

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

My chance to talk for an hour about Chinese literature -- with an excellent interviewer



I had slightly mixed feelings when Georgia de Chamberet and I began our podcast for Bookblast. On the one hand, it was a great opportunity to talk both about the literary translation website I work on, Paper Republic, and the range of novels that feature on our 2018 roll call of Chinese translations into English. On the other hand, Georgia’s questions required some serious thought and I felt I was in danger of making wild generalizations (perhaps inevitable when you’re talking about a country and a literature as big as China). What follows is an excerpt from our Q+A. I hope you’ll find it thought-provoking enough to listen to the full podcast.

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Tsundoku #2 – March 2019



Welcome to issue 2 of Tsundoku – a column by me, Paul French, aiming to make that pile of ‘must read’ books by your bed a little more teetering - fiction, non-fiction, photography and kids...and so...This is what has come across my desk so far that should be in the shops in March...

March looks like being a good month for non-fiction…

Julia Lovell’s long-awaited study of Maoism is out in March from Bodley Head – Maoism: A Global History. The book covers not just the legacy and remaining centrality of Maoism to China but it’s offshoots in Vietnam and Cambodia, Africa, terrorist cells in Germany and Italy, the continuing “Maoist” uprising in India, Nepal, Peru and elsewhere. Maoism as symbol of resistance, along with those that like the badges and the iconography and hopefully answering the question as to why Hitler and Stalin memorabilia is banned or hidden but Mao remains on display in homes globally?

Friday, 22 February 2019

Indie Spotlight, introducing Ann Bennett

Ann Bennett has just taken over our monthly column, Indie Spotlight, which focusses on indie authors and self-publishing.

Ann published her best-selling Bamboo trilogy, Bamboo Heart, Bamboo Island, and Bamboo Road, conventionally, through Monsoon Books. All three novels are set during and after World War Two, in Burma, Malaya and Thailand.  Bamboo Heart won the inaugural Asian Books Blog Book of The Lunar Year, for the Year of the Horse.

Ann chose to self-publish her most recent novel, The Foundling’s Daughter. It concerns a mystery with its roots in British India, during the Raj.

To kick-off as our new columnist, Ann here introduces herself, and her work.

Sunday, 17 February 2019

And the winner is...

If you voted in the poll to find the Asian Books Blog Book of the Lunar Year in the Year of the Dog, thank you. The poll was this year well supported, with several titles in strong contention. 

The results in reverse order are:

3rd place: Shanghai Story, by Alexa Kang 

2nd place: Lord of Formosa, by Joyce Bergvelt

1st place: There's No Poetry in a Typhoon, by Agnes Bun.



Friday, 15 February 2019

Voting now closed

Voting has now CLOSED in the poll to find the Asian Books Blog Book of the Lunar Year in the Year of the Dog, which has just turned to the Year of the Pig. 

Voting closes 5pm Singapore time TODAY

Asian Books Blog runs an annual poll to find the Asian Books Blog Book of the Lunar Year. We are about to close the poll to find the book of the Year of the Dog, which has just turned to the Year of the Pig. 

VOTING CLOSES AT 5PM SINGAPORE TIME TODAY.

More details here, but for quick reference, this is the shortlist...

Friday, 8 February 2019

May We Borrow Your Country guest post by Catherine Menon

The Whole Kahani (The Complete Story), is a collective of British fiction writers of South Asian origin. The group was formed in 2011 to provide a creative perspective that straddles cultures and boundaries. Its aim is to give a new voice to British Asian fiction and increase the visibility of South Asian writers in Britain. Their first anthology Love Across A Broken Map was published by Dahlia Publishing in 2016

May We Borrow Your Country is their second anthology. It is published by the Linen Press, which focuses on women’s writing. The anthology is a mix of short stories, poetry and essays. The pieces are set in the UK and India, but defy stereotypical stances on immigration, race and identity.

UK-based, prize-winning short story writer Catherine Menon is member of The Whole Kahani. Her debut anthology, Subjunctive Moods, was published last year by Dahlia Publishing.

Catherine here talks about some of the stories collected in May We Borrow Your Country.

米兔. 米兔 / rice rabbit Chinese word of the year

Following on from last week's post about the Oxford Dictionaries Hindi word of 2018, Paper Republic have nominated their Chinese word of the year for the Year of the Dog, just closed.

The Paper Republic translators collective promotes Chinese literature in English translation. It  concentrates on new writing from contemporary Chinese writers.

Paper Republic's word of the  Year of the Dog,  is (#)米兔. 米兔.

米兔. 米兔 means "rice rabbit", but it's pronounced mi-tu, so it represents the hashtag #MeToo.

Don't forget to vote!

Asian Books Blog is currently running poll to find its book of the lunar year in the Year of the Dog which has just closed.  Details here. Don't forget to vote!!!!

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Elaine Chiew Converses with Indonesian Feminist Gothic Writer Intan Paramaditha


Intan Paramaditha. Courtesy of the Author.


If you haven't yet heard of Indonesian writer Intan Paramaditha, I am convinced you soon will. 

Intan Paramaditha is an Indonesian fiction writer and academic based in Sydney. Her short story collection Apple and Knife, translated into English by Stephen J. Epstein was published by Brow Books (Australia) and Harvill Secker (UK) in 2018. Gentayangan (The Wandering), her debut novel on travel and displacement where readers choose their own narrative path, was selected as Tempo Best Literary Work for Prose Fiction in 2017. The novel received the PEN Translates Award from English PEN and the PEN/ Heim Translation Fund Grant from PEN America, and it will be also be published by Harvill Secker in 2020. She holds a Ph.D. from New York University and teaches Media and Film Studies at Macquarie University.


EC:   Welcome to AsianBooksBlog, Intan. A real pleasure to have you.

IP:     My pleasure! Thank you for having me, Elaine.

EC:   First, congratulations on the publication of your wonderful short story collection, Apple and Knife, full of fable-like and allegoric energy, a celebration of the transgressive and mysterious darkness of womanhood.

I’d like to start with your background. What were your favourite reads in childhood? Did you always know you’d be a writer?

IP:   As a child, I loved reading fairy tales of H.C. Andersen and Grimm. Growing up in a Muslim family, I was also familiar with stories of the prophets and I enjoyed reading them.

The story Apple and Knife which became the title of the collection, was inspired by the story of Yusuf (Joseph) in the Quran. I have always been fascinated with these tales because the moral messages tend to co-exist with violence, often in weird, uncomfortable ways. The “what if” question has always triggered me. What if we told the stories, maintaining all the elements including fantasy, darkness, and violence, but from a different perspective?

I starting writing when I was nine, and I knew that I wanted to be a writer. I sent my stories to a children’s magazine when I was in elementary school. So being a writer is quite predictable. But I did not expect that I would become an academic, which made things more complicated!


Friday, 1 February 2019

Paper Republic 2018 roll call of translations

Paper Republic promotes Chinese literature in English translation. It focusses on new writing from contemporary Chinese writers.

Balanced between the Western new year and the Chinese New Year of the Pig, Paper Republic has just launched its 2018 roll call of published English translations from Chinese. With 33 novels, six poetry collections and three young adult or children’s titles, it’s a unique resource you won’t find anywhere else on the web.

The roll call includes titles from established authors such as:

Girl power for grown-ups: nari shakti 2018 Hindi Word of the Year

The Oxford Dictionaries Hindi Word of the Year is a word or expression that has attracted a great deal of attention and reflects the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the past year.  Oxford Dictionaries has just announced the 2018 Hindi Word of the Year. It is: nari shakti.

Nari shakti expresses the increasing activism of women in various fields.

Derived from Sanskrit, nari means women and shakti means power.  Today the term is used to  mean  women taking charge of their own lives - so girl power, for grown-ups.

Indie Spotlight: Dr. Salman Waqar

Indie spotlight is a regular column focussing on indie authors and self-publishing.

The Surgeon is a work of science fiction recently self-published through Createspace by U.K based, Pakistani-born eye surgeon Dr Salman Waqar. It imagines the shape healthcare might take in the years ahead and explores the profound ethical questions that advances in medicine will provoke worldwide.

The Surgeon is set in London in 2030. By this time, advanced robotic systems are commonly used for surgery. Mortality and complication rates are non-existent, even in operations that were once considered perilous.

But now a prominent politician, and close friend of the UK Prime Minister, dies during routine heart surgery. Why? It seems a killer doctor is on the loose. Join Professor Daniyaal Ashraf, a prominent surgeon originally from Pakistan, as he teams up with the medical authorities, Scotland Yard and even the UK intelligence services, to stop the culprit before more innocent lives are compromised.

Here, Dr Salman Waqar talks about his motivation and inspiration for writing The Surgeon.

Don't forget to vote!

Asian Books Blog is currently running poll to find its book of the lunar year in the Year of the Dog just closing.  Details here. Don't forget to vote!!!!

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Broken Wings, Jia Pingwa's novel about a trafficked woman, in translation



             
Nicky Harman writes: I have just finished translating Broken Wings, a novel by Jia Pingwa about human trafficking. Kidnapping is not a popular theme in literary fiction; a Goodreads list consists exclusively of man-rescues-beautiful-girl, “romantic suspense” genre novels. (Though of course, there is also a lot of quality non-fiction, in the form of memoirs by trafficked women.) So some of Jia Pingwa’s biggest fans in China were surprised when this work (called in the original Chinese, 《极花, literally, extreme- or pole-flower) came out in 2016. Butterfly is a young woman who is kidnapped and taken to a remote country village where Bright Black, the wifeless farmer who has bought her, imprisons her in his cave home. He rapes her and she gives birth to a baby son. The rape, the birth and Butterfly’s fading hopes are described in her own voice, and the effect is bleak. Jia writes in his Afterword that he was inspired to write this story by the experience of a friend whose daughter suffered a similar fate. The real-life young woman was eventually rescued but could not cope either with her sudden notoriety or the loss of her baby, whom she had had to leave behind, and actually returned to the village.

Broken Wings is a disturbing read for other reasons too: Jia Pingwa hints at Butterfly's impending mental breakdown, and presents us with an eventual rescue which may, or may not, be a dream sequence. Will Broken Wings appeal to English-language readers and if so, why? Having been alone with my translation for many months, I was keen to ask my editor, David Lammie, for his views on the book.

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Tsundoku #1 – February 2019 - New Year; New Column…



I’ve opted to call this monthly missive on forthcoming books, tsundoku, the Japanese word for all those books that pile up by your bedside just begging you to get on and read them. It seemed fitting for a column that aims squarely at encouraging you to build that pile a little higher each month…


Tsundoku will assemble a random assortment of Asia-related books – novels, non-fiction, photography, graphic art – that comes across my own desk. Being a writer on various matters Asian, as well as a regular reviewer, I often get an early peek at forthcoming books. So tsundoku is essentially me passing on a few recommendations…


So here goes…fiction first….


Monday, 28 January 2019

Lion City Lit: Interview with Seema Punwani, Author of Cross Connection

Seema Punwani is a writer, single mum, and marketing professional who learns negotiation skills from her teenage son. She launched her debut novel Cross Connection at the Pune International Literary Festival in September 2018. Hailing from India, Seema was born in Spain, grew up in Mumbai and now lives and works in Singapore, pursuing her Masters in Creative Writing part-time at LASALLE College of the Arts.

Cross Connection is a modern-day romance about the eternal quest for true love—the second time over. I had the pleasure of listening to Seema read several excerpts from this very funny novel at the Singapore Writers Festival (SWF) as well as the Australasian Association of Writing Programs Annual Conference 2018 in Perth, and spoke with her to find out more about what makes her tick, her favourite SWF experience, and how Singapore has shaped her writing.

Seema Punwani
To start with, we’ve read the official synopsis of Cross Connection, but I’d love to hear from you directly. In your own words—elevator pitch the novel to someone who doesn’t know anything about it. You have two sentences tops… go!
Cross Connection is about second chances, at love and in life. The same story is told from two different points of view—the female protagonist Sama and the male protagonist Zehn.

Imagine you had the chance for the novel to be placed in between the works of any two authors in a bookstore. Which two would you pick, and why?
I love this question! I would like for Cross Connection to be placed between Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell and The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain.

Both books appear to be a boy-meets-girl kind of romance, but the story runs a lot deeper. The narrative covers various social issues and it’s not your average love story. Cross Connection has its share of sweet emotions and funny dating stories, but it also deals with real-life issues like divorce and depression, and is not the fairytale romance one may imagine.


Friday, 25 January 2019

500 words from Tony Reid

500 words from is an occasional series in which novelists talk about their new novels. Tony Reid has recently brought out Mataram: a novel of love, faith and power in early Java.

Tony Reid is better known as Anthony Reid, author of ten non-fiction historical works on Southeast Asia, including the much-read and translated Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce, c.1450-1680.  He has taught Southeast Asian history at universities in the US (Yale, UCLA, Hawaii) and Australia (ANU), as well as Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.   He now lives in Canberra, Australia. Mataram is his first work of fiction.

Mataram follows the story of Englishman Thomas Hodges, after he seizes a chance at glory by being the first to venture ashore from his East India Company ship when it arrives in Java. Will he find success, or die forgotten with some Javanese kris or Portuguese poignard between his ribs?  The key seems to lie with his captivating female interpreter Sri, but he can only keep both her and his Englishness by inventing a mission from King James to the mysterious great ruler of the interior, in the region known as Mataram.

In Mataram, Thomas and Sri find a kingdom poised to decide its destiny.  A rich Hindu-Buddhist past of gods and spirits now confronts a sterner Islam, and pushy Europeans offering both science and God. For Hodges and Sri, survival alone will be a challenge, reconciling survival and desire with conscience in this mysterious spiritual landscape, impossible.

So, over to Tony…

Book of the Year of the Dog

Asian Books Blog runs its own literary award: the Asian Books Blog Book of the Lunar Year. We are about to confer the award for the Year of the Dog, now drawing to a close.

Asian Books Blog highlights books of particular interest in, or especially relevant to, Asia, excluding the Near West / the Middle East.  The award thus highlights such books. Authors can be of any nationality, and can be published anywhere, either conventionally, or through self-publication – an important route for new voices in Asia, especially in the many countries within the region with limited publishing industries. Self-published titles are eligible in eBook format. Traditionally published titles must be available in a physical format, either hardback, or paperback.

Books are eligible if they were published in either in the Year of the Rooster (2017) or the Year of the Dog, and if they featured in Asian Books Blog during the Year of the Dog. Anthologies are eligible, as are collections of short stories by a single author. Reissues are not eligible.