International journalist Srianthia Perera debuts with a nostalgic novel about Sri Lanka in the 1970s.
What was the inspiration for your most recent book?
The inspiration for A Maiden’s Prayer was growing up in Sri Lanka in the 1970s and 80s. Living in the US, I realized that my upbringing was markedly different from the one experienced by kids here.
Foreign travel was almost non-existent in our lives, so there weren’t any external influences on our society besides listening to Western pop music, going to the cinema and emulating the singers/actors on screen. We were Sri Lankan to the core and followed various traditions and rituals. It’s no longer the same there. I wanted to harken to the past and dredge up those forgotten memories.
What’s the difference (at least for you!) between being a writer and an author? How do you shift gears between the two?
Creativity is the main difference between the two. Fictional writing comes naturally to me. Nearly all of my previous work at magazines and newspapers pertained to factual news or feature writing, but I find it easy to switch back and forth between the two.
I find my newspaper training, where I had to strive to be one hundred percent accurate, a boon to writing fiction. Hence, the 1970s life depicted in the novel—social, cultural, political and otherwise—is not imagined, but a true, nostalgic re-creation.
Do you speak a second language? Do you think differently in that language? Does it influence your writing?
Sinhalese, spoken only in Sri Lanka, is my mother tongue. English is my second language. My mother was an English teacher. I grew up speaking and learning both languages at home and school. My mother encouraged me to read and I became a voracious reader from a young age. I also attended a private school in Colombo, which adhered to a high standard of English.
As a result of all this, I think in English, especially when I’m writing fiction.
What’s the best compliment a reader has ever given you?
One of my readers said my writing has the quality of P.G. Wodehouse’s style and another compared the book to a novel by Charles Dickens. I am honored because both of those famous English authors are my favorites.
Wodehouse has a particular brand of endearing wit, condescending sarcasm and brilliant turn of phrase on just about everything that I so appreciated.
Dickens, who takes pains to describe and dwell at length on the atmosphere, history and a character’s thought process, has contributed his fair share of idiosyncratic characters to the annals of English literature.
I have pored over their work for many hours in my early adulthood. I guess it shows!
What do you worry about in your work?
Unlike in the case of established authors, whose books sell anyway, new authors always worry about their books getting into enough hands.
As the reviews show, A Maiden’s Prayer finds immense favor with those who read it. They find it immersive, delightful reading. But it needs to get discovered. Without a powerful marketing machine, self-publishing doesn’t reach readers. My worry is that it won’t be visible enough to sustain itself in the long run.
Srianthi Perera is a journalist who has lived and worked in Sri Lanka, the Sultanate of Oman, Canada and the United States.
She lives in Chandler, Arizona, with her husband. International travel is an integral part of their lives.
Srianthi worked 11 years as a reporter for The Arizona Republic covering an arts and entertainment beat and later, local government for the Town of Gilbert. She now freelances for community newspapers.
Her debut literary novel, “A Maiden’s Prayer: A Family Story Set in 1970s Sri Lanka,” examines Sri Lankan beliefs in the power of astrology and the role an individual’s character plays in precipitating his destiny.
The story’s many themes include astrology, coming-of-age traditions, Buddhism and the turbulent political climate of 1970s Sri Lanka.
The novel is immensely nostalgic to Sri Lankans who grew up in that era and also opens a window to a culture that is foreign to the Western world.
LinkedIn: Srianthi Perera
To buy A Maiden’s Prayer on Amazon:
Edie Cay writes award-winning feminist Regency Romance about women’s boxing and relatable misfits. She is a member of the Regency Fiction Writers, the Historical Novel Society, ALLi, and a founding member of Paper Lantern Writers. You can drop her a line on Facebook and Instagram @authorediecay.