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Friday, July 17, 2015

Author Interview : Chhimi Tenduf-La, author of ‘Panther' (Part 1)

Chhimi Tenduf-La
Read up, ‘I had said in my Book Review for ‘Panther’, about what I see in this author, Chhimi Tenduf-La.’ There are some authors, who I just read, and believe in. There are still others, who I believe in and then I start to read. This particular author is a bit of both. 

The first book, ‘The Amazing Racist’,  I just read and began to believe in him, I thought that he would write and teach too with his words. I must say, that this book has proved me right.

I guess that says it all, but here is Part 1 of the Interview for ‘Panther’, where he tells us how the book began, details about the book and its characters and what is different about this book. There is more in Part 2, Folks…

How did ‘Panther’ happen? Could you describe the journey?

In May, last year after my agent, Kanishka Gupta sold my first book, 'The Amazing Racist'. Then he asked me if I had anything else, I had written. I had a book called 'The Papadum King', which was a 40,000 word high school story of friendship and betrayal set in Colombo. 

Kanishka and his team liked this story, but just wanted me to expand on it, so I gave the lead character, Prabu, a backstory in which he was a child soldier for a fictional terrorist group. Thus, Panther was born.

What kind of research did you put into ‘Panther’?

I work at a school so I was able to draw upon real life for the setting and for the behaviour of students and teachers (although the students in my school are much more innocent than in 'Panther'). Since I have never been a child soldier, I had to research that. 

Yet, more than researching them in any particular war, I wanted to read about the psychological impact on child soldiers in the aftermath of war. This formed the basis of my story, because it explains Prabu’s difficulties with fitting in and his reactions to being taunted.

How did the two main characters, Prabu and Indika come about?

I wrote a book, a few years ago where the overall story was a little bit ridiculous but out of it came these two characters. I liked their friendship, their swagger and their innocence, so I used them as the starting point for a new story. Their relationship is similar to one, I had when I was 16 with a friend who came to my school, having never been to Colombo before. 

Hence, everything was new to him and he was always optimistic even if he seemed a little out of place at times.  

How would you relate the lives of Prabu and Indika to the lives today? Any similarities?

Yes, indeed. Indika is your standard school hunk whereas Prabu reminds me of any number of students, I have seen who have come from out of town to take up scholarships at international schools in Colombo. They are so grateful for the opportunity that their enthusiasm becomes infectious. 

In 'Panther', some take advantage of Prabu’s enthusiasm and that can happen in bigger schools, but where I work the children are too kind for that kind of thing.

How would you relate the book and its characters, besides the two mentioned earlier, to the lives today?

There are sinister people in this book, who take advantage of children because they hold positions of responsibility. This is the case in this book. 

I took inspiration for such characters from real life stories I read, be it of warlords or sports coaches.

What according to you is different about your book?

I have used a different narrative style in some threads of the book, where I write in the second person. The reason for this was to create some mystery about who the narrator is.  This book is very different to my first, in that I try to create more suspense, yet I have also tried to release tension through humour at times, because I am dealing with tough themes.

It is also a book that I think could appeal to teenagers and adults of all ages. That was my intention at least.

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