Amanda Jayatissa

In the literary world, from the author’s imagination to paper, and paper to the reader’s interpretation, the procedure is much like a dance – beautifully choreographed but difficult to perfect. Amanda Jayatissa, author of steampunk novel, ‘The Other One’, successfully finds the greener grass despite the many bumps in her journey and in conversation we find what the future holds for the emerging industry of writers and authors. Whether it’s self-publishing or beginning to write your own novel, Amanda shares her thoughts on how to navigate the industry, what to expect and the challenges one might face.

Amanda Jayatissa was celebrated as ARTRA's Emerging Artist 2018, E39 for her imaginative and steampunk novel ‘The Other One’ in delving deep into contemporaneous themes in stylistic fashion. Taking on the roles of both author and publisher, Amanda was applauded for her courageous attempt at self-publishing this riveting novel, withstanding the challenges they posed for a first time novelist. Amanda was also Daily ARTRA’s first feature artist for the year, and ‘The Other One’ was the recipient of the prestigious Fairway National Literary Award 2018 presented at the Galle Literary Festival in February 2018.

Q | As a self-published writer, what would you say is the biggest challenge in self-publishing?

A | For me, the self-publishing road was very bumpy, and riddled with potholes. I chose this route because I was very impatient to get my work out into the world (and the traditional publishing industry is notoriously slow), but I definitely underestimated the amount of work that was required to actually market my book. I was naive enough to think that simply putting all my effort into writing, formatting, and eventually, putting it up on Amazon was the bulk of the work, and I couldn’t have been more wrong. My biggest challenge was trying to learn about marketing, and I don’t think I’ve still gotten a proper handle on it.

This is not to discourage writers from self-publishing. There are a few Sri Lankan writers who have done phenomenally well self-publishing their work. I just rushed the process without being fully aware of the marketing element.

Q | How would you describe the current Sri Lankan literary industry and what would you assume the future is?

I’m always amazed when I hear from emerging writers in Sri Lanka! It feels like local writers are really starting to come onto their own, especially with the options in available now with selfpublishing, but also the opportunities to reach out to the International writing community. In the past, I think Sri Lankan writers wrote mostly for a local audience, but I think this is rapidly evolving in encompass foreign readers. Even our subject matter is evolving. We are writing more genre-fiction now, perhaps, than ever before. I speak with young writers often who tell me of the science fiction, mystery, and even romance novels they are working on, and it’s extremely exciting.

Q | What were your biggest Sri Lankan/International inspirations that influenced your writing?

A | Nayomi Munaweera and Shyam Selvadurai for their beautiful prose (which I have made my peace with never being able to emulate), Ashok Ferry for his wit, Oyinkan Braithwaite for weaving cultural context into genre fiction, Gillian Flynn for setting a mood and tone in writing, and Agatha Christie, because plot is everything (at least for the kind of writing I prefer to do). I’m sure I’m missing someone here. I read widely and am awed and inspired by countless writers, whether they are world famous or aspiring to write the next best-seller.

Q | In writing fiction, especially sci-fi, what did you find were the challenges in relating to the Sri Lankan audience, and how did you hope it would be received?

A | I didn’t even think about the genre until I realised I had to have one in order to market it (I told you I was terrible at all things marketing). So, in a way, I don’t think it had too much of an impact on my hopes of how it would be received. I had no hope for this, in a way. It was my first novel and I had clearly done next to no research on how it should be best presented. I just wanted to release it and see whether anyone would be remotely interested in reading my writing. To my never-ending surprise, the audience in Sri Lanka didn’t seem to care about whether it was Science Fiction or not. I get the occasional comment, asking me whether it’s about UFOs or something, but I’m mostly too excited to talk about my book to care.

Q | Are you working on anything now?

A | Yes. I’ve finished my next novel, which is Suspense, rather than Science Fiction. This time around, I was determined to be more patient and take the traditional publishing route. After a nervewracking querying process, I met my agent— the super talented Melissa Danaczko from Stuart Krichevsky Literary Agency in New York and we will be announcing some exciting news about the book in mid-September.

Writing is a romantic’s great love, the storytelling of a simple being expressing their greatest emotions. Artists, in literature and the intelligent assembling of words to create a feeling that resonates and reflects with those around them. We find, in conversation with Amanda and her experience, her triumphant future, the nuances of publishing, writing and even imagining is a process of great adventure. A literary journey is one that might be arduous but prosperous. As the industry flourishes with new and emerging writers, we anticipate the growth and upcoming of much intriguing literary pieces and their insightful writers.

20th August, 2020 Written Art | Personalities