“I think book covers can do wonders for a book. I can say the cover of ‘Loyal Stalkers’ is brilliant. It really captures the imagination, I feel, and gives a very good insight into what the story is about” Chhimi Tenduf-La
Chhimi Tenduf-La is a fresh and successful voice from Sri Lank and Bookaholicanonymous is extremely privileged to present this exclusive interview with him.
Half-Tibetan, half-English, Chhimi Tenduf-La manages an international school in Sri Lanka, where he has lived, on and off, for thirty years. As father to two energetic children and husband to an implacable wife, Tenduf-La uses his only time to himself to write. His first two books, the ‘Amazing Racist’ and ‘Panther’, were published in 2015 to wide acclaim. In 2017 third book ‘Loyal Stalkers’ was released and has been received well.
The cover of your book 'Loyal Stalkers' immediately attracts one's attention, how important do you think book covers are?
I think they can do wonders for a book. I can say the cover of ‘Loyal Stalkers’ is brilliant since I had very little to do with it myself, It was conceived by my editor, Teesta Guha Sarkar, who commissioned the brilliant Sukanya Ghosh to bring it to life. It really captures the imagination, I feel, and gives a very good insight into what the story is about.
The blurbs from other authors are also important, I feel.
What is the one underlying theme that can be found in all the 15 stories in 'Loyal Stalkers'?
It is almost in the title; I feel like each of these stories could have been written by a South Asian aunty, prying into someone else’s life. To me, they reflect South Asian communities; loyal, caring and generous, but a little too nosy! The other theme is how everyone, in some ways, is connected and the actions in one story can have knock on effects on another.
Yours stories tell the tale of Sri Lanka, an island nation, was that a constraint or was it useful in making your characters interact with each other more often than not?
Extremely useful, as it allowed me to link the stories and give the collection an overall narrative. The fact that it is an island brings with it the closeness of communities and in some ways the inability to escape from prying eyes.
Does your second book 'Panther' deal with only terrorism?
Not at all. It is more a high school drama and about the friendship between two people; Indika, the school hunk and Prabu, a former child soldier who is seeing the big city for the first time. My first draft had no war scenes at all, but because of Prabu’s background my editors asked me to add in a bit about his past. Overall, it deals with very dark themes, but for the most part it is a comedy about friendship and loyalty.
How are you able to weave in humour even in a story line with unexpected twists and turns like in your second book 'Panther'? Is it an extension of your personality?
Yes it is.
It is the way I have been brought up. In my family nothing is taken too
seriously and if any situation becomes a little tense, we diffuse it with
humour. I do not particularly try to make my books funny. More often I have to
cut jokes out. In Panther I used a lot of broken English which some readers
assumed was to be humorous, but really I was just trying to be accurate. The
words used I have heard people say, and one of the big things I was trying to
get at was that in Sri Lanka, people are quick to make fun of people’s English,
but often those who do cannot speak their mother tongue.
Your first novel the ‘Amazing Racist' tells about Eddie Trusted and the ways and means that he undertakes to impress the father of the girl he wants to marry. As you have lived most of your life in Colombo, have you borrowed from personal experience?
Absolutely. This is certainly not what it was like with my own marriage, but all the characters I have written about are based on people I know. This is the appeal of the book. It is my bestseller in Colombo because people can identify with the characters. I have just put together different people I know into one situation and that are how I came up with the story arch.
Thilak Rupasinghe, the father of the girl in the 'Amazing Racist’ is a very strong character, how did you build his character?
Part of him is based on a stern father of a friend of mind, who used to give him 30 minute lectures before he went out. Often these were done in front of me when I went to pick him up. I then amalgamated him with your average, slightly drunk Sri Lankan alpha male uncle holding fort at a party, where no one else gets a word in. Finally, there are parts of my father in there. He died of cancer 17 years ago, but throughout his long battle with the diseased he kept cracking jokes.
Which of your books have been well received so far?
Critically, and perhaps because it is my third book, ‘Loyal Stalkers’ has been reviewed the most in the mainstream media and has had brilliant feedback. The reviews have blown me away. ‘Panther’ also got fantastic reviews in the papers. The ‘Amazing Racist’, because it was my first book, did not get as many media reviews but gets far more reader reviews on sites such as Goodreads because it is my bestseller in Sri Lanka. ‘Loyal Stalkers’ has sold most in India, though, and I think it is my best work.
What next, what can we look forward to form you in the New Year?
I have been busy at work so the idea is to start writing properly in January. I am pretty excited about my next project as it is slightly more philosophical and draws on something my father, a Tibetan, wrote many years ago.
Bookaholicanonymous wishes the author many more successes in the coming years!
Latest Author's Interview