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Interview with San Lin Tun

San Lin Tun

An English Writer

He (b.1974) was born in Yangon. His flash fiction Parallel Lines was anthologized in 2011 New Asian Writing Anthology, and his short story An Overheated Heart was anthologized in Hidden Words/Hidden Worlds Ethnic Short Story Anthology. He was a short story instructor and a literary translator of the H2 project. He was a first prize winner of poetry for 2015 Wales National Day. He is currently a freelance contributor for Myanmar Times. His latest novel An English Writer came out in 2019. His writings can be read in Asia Literary Review, Borderless, Countercurrent, Kitaab, Mad in the Asia Pacific, Mekong Review, NAW, PIX, South East of Now, and several others. 

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself not many people know?

A. Most of the people know me as a writer, but I am also a cartoonist for fun and a photographer. As a hobby, I also play classical guitar for amusement.


Q.2 When should we expect your next book? What will it be about?

A. For my second novel, it will take a few years to come up with it. And it is a story based on the question of integrity in a society that assumes it fragile, and it is hard to rebuild when it’s broken. During this time, I am almost ready to launch my second poetry collection titled Waves and Other Poems.


Q.3 When did you decide to write An English Writer?

A. As soon as I found a thin poetry book named Rainbow Land and Other Burma Verses by the British author named C.J Richards who lived in Burma in colonial times from 1920 to 1947 in Burma, and he also served as an I.C.S and ranked as a D.C (District Commissioner). Normally, I have seen several foreign authors like Rudyard Kipling, Somerset Maugham, Rabindranath Tagore, Pablo Neruda, H.G. Wells, Paul Theroux, Pico Iyer, etc. coming to Yangon (Rangoon) for their sojourns and later they published books on Burma (Myanmar).


Q.4 Where do you hope to take your writing in the future?

A. I will continue to venture into literary novels and fiction. And I also think that the literature I have written belongs to the South-East Asian region although I primarily write in English which is not my mother tongue, I use it as a universal language. But I found that other Myanmar authors write in English before me, and this genre has already formed, but not many people out of my country have noticed this.


Q.5 What were your feelings when you first saw the cover of the finished product?

A. I felt really excited. In fact, I felt ecstasy when I first saw the cover of the finished product.


Q.6 What do you want readers to take away from your books?

A. They can get something to reconsider about life, history, and culture and they will also get known to Myanmar culture and customs through my books.


Q.7 What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing this book?

A. I learned that writing this book is a kind of self-exploring and awareness of one’s life, and I felt that it is composing bits of stories which were scattered into a personal character which was forgotten with time. But literary merits are still alive although the author himself was disappeared from public sight.


Q.8 What was the hardest part of writing this book?

A. Chapter divisions are really hard because it is quite difficult to collect facts on an unknown author’s life.


Q.9 Do you believe in writer’s block? If yes, how do you deal with it?

A. Yes, I do, especially for a writer. But luckily, I have a good writer friend who readily asks me a lot of questions to carry on with the story and who sits to drink tea with me at a local teashop for generating ideas.


Q.10 What is the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you?

A. Read and write.


Q.11 How many books have written? Which one is your favorite?

A. I have already written thirteen books so far including two novellas, three essay collections, two non-fiction, two short story collections, one poetry, etc. My favorite is An English Writer.


Q.12 When was your last memorable learning curve?

A. I think it is an exponential growth because I notice that my writing craft has increased with my experience in writing.


Q.13 Tell us about your writing process while you’re working?

A. I use the Freytag pyramid as a guide to divide chapters and to create settings. I study people for character development and dialogues.


Q.14 Do you have any unique and quirky writing habits?

A. No. But sometimes I prefer writing my stories in a teashop if you say so it is a quirky habit.


Q.15 How does your family/friends feel about your book or writing venture in general?

A. At first, my family did not agree with me being a writer. But now I have overcome that. My parents have recognized my writing efforts, and my old schoolmates praise me and envy my writing career.


Q.16 What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?

A. Cheating and plagiarism.


Q.17 What would you share with folks who are skeptical of reading Non-Fiction?

A. As long as a non-fiction book keeps true to facts, it is believable.


Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?

A. I like to meet Vikram Seth again because I first met him at the first Irrawaddy Literary Festival in Yangon in 2013, and I really enjoyed his literary talks back then. I would like to listen again to his literary talk and experience in literature. He is really inspirational.


Q.19 What books have most influenced your life?

A. I have several books to name for that.


Q.20 Share the experience of your journey so far?

A. There are ups and downs, frustrations, and happiness during this writing journey because I met some fake publishers, bossy editors, etc. But, self-confidence and persistence in writing conquer them finally. And I manage to live as a writer.

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