Your writing career as a published author spans over 20 years. Since you first started writing, how have you changed as a writer? Do you find the writing process easier or more difficult now?
V.S. Naipaul notoriously changed from a comical to a serious writer. Humour is a streak that's always been in my writing, though my two novels set in Thailand (Boat People and Running with the Sharks) deal with deadly serious violence. My first novel, about teenage Catholic seminarians working as civil rights volunteers, was about a serious time but is mostly funny. Writing novels is difficult, especially when you're first starting out. Writing stories is fun and I often found myself laughing out loud when I was writing them!
How did you make the transition from novelist to book reviewer? Which role do you enjoy doing more? Do you think reviewing books makes you a better storyteller? If so, how?
I think reading makes you a story-teller. It makes you want to write and tell your own stories. In 1997, the Asian Crisis brought to an end my 17 year career as a freelance humour writer at the Bangkok Post. Financial problems have recently ended my brief career as an opinion writer in The Nation, the Bangkok paper where I worked for eight years. I've taken advantage of small openings in the market since 1997 in the Phuket Gazette, the Phnom Penh Post, Bayon Pearnik, and The Nation. But many stories I wrote specifically for my later books. I read a lot so [I] enjoy writing reviews but wish I had a steady market for stories. We'll see what happens when I return to Songkhla.
You've spent the last year living in New York and plan on returning to Thailand shortly. What is the biggest difference between living in Asia and the United States? What advice do you have for writers seeking careers as ex-pat authors in Asia?
There are too many differences to count between Thailand and New York. In 30 years with a Thai family (wife, four kids, three grandkids) and many friends, I learned to become somewhat Thai. I learned the language, the food, the cultural icons, the history, and the general outlook on life. It's been a very nice vacation in New York, what with deli food, TV and movies, and the Yankees and the Giants. Since the other nine people in our extended family in the house are Thai, it hasn't been much of a stretch. My advice for writers seeking careers as ex-pat authors is to have been born in an earlier age. Collin Piprell, Colin Cotterhill, S. Tsow, and a half dozen others came to prominence in the 1980s. The publishing scene has changed now and the book and story markets that we had once are now closed. There is one publishing house that is essentially a vanity press for white guys writing about Thai hookers, but some good new books do otherwise emerge. I reviewed some of them in the last decade.