Interview with Afdhel Aziz

Who are your favorite authors?
Probably the books which influenced me the most when creating 'Strange Fruit' were Arundhati Roy's 'The God of Small Things' for its lush, beautiful language; Alex Garland's 'The Beach' for its depiction of modern day Asia and gripping story; the sheer, unabashed romanticism of Nicholas Spark's 'The Notebook'; Douglas Copeland's 'Girlfriend in a Coma' and Donna Tartt's 'The Secret History' for its depiction of close friendships and dark adventures.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I wanted to avoid the tired cliches of many Asian novels ; arranged marriages and class conflicts. All that stuff is so boring; there are a million stories out there which are much more interesting.

I wanted to show readers other sides of Sri Lanka that steered away from both the glossy tourist images as well as the images of the conflict: the more bohemian, magical parts of the country that I experienced when I was living there. I wanted to show the magic and the mystery of the island, but without sugar coating the brutal realities which lurk under the surface.

Finding those moments of magic and mystery; those moments for where there are no words which can adequately describe them- that's really what I think life is about.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I like travelling, cooking, photography and taking naps.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
There's nothing better than browsing a good bookstore.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes, it was quite bizarre. It was about an alien with a flyswatter.
What is your writing process?
People have referred to the book as cinematic , which I really like: I want people to feel like this is a movie in their mind. I love movies, and I wanted to capture the epic beauty of the country, as well as those moments of drama and tension.

Music is my other passion and a great inspiration for this work: it is woven throughout the book, providing a soundtrack . I wanted the book to have the rhythms of be-bop jazz, the lyricism of great rock music, the epic swell of orchestras.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born in Sri Lanka in 1973 and lived there til my early twenties.This book is set in the Nineties; I wanted to tell a story of a generation that grew up in the strange environment of a civil war; struggling to lead a normal life while dealing with the ever-present violence and criminalization of the country.

It didn't matter whether you were Tamil or Singhalese, Burgher or Muslim: sooner or later, the war affected everyone. And as current events are showing, that undercurrent of violence can flare up unexpectedly even when peace has been the norm for a while.
What's the story behind your latest book?
I tried to write a love story crossed with a thriller; something you can lie by the pool on vacation and devour in three days.

At one point, when I was writing the book, I had a post-it note stuck in the wall which said 'it's a love story stupid'. It was there to remind me that at it’s heart, this is a story of two people who are in love; and their struggles to stay together when the world conspires against them.

I feel very comfortable writing about love; my first book of poetry 'China Bay Blues' traced the arc of a relationship in very intimate, honest terms. I think everybody is looking for love in their life; that's why there is a never ending thirst for stories, movies, music that address it.
How do you approach cover design?
I'm a marketeer in my day job, so I think a lot about the power of imagery. The cover design for 'Strange Fruit' is supposed to be very intriguing and eye-catching ; hopefully it makes you want to pick up the book.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I like the Kindle for when I am travelling.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I think Squarespace has a great, intuitive web design - you can see what I did for my book by going to www.strangefruit.mobi
Published 2014-07-18.
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