the good book corner

Manuscript help, book reviews and author interviews

Interview with Ameena Hussein

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Ameena Hussein, one of the well known names in the Sri Lankan Literary Sphere, is  publisher at the Perera Hussein Publishing House, and a writer. Influenced by her work in sociology, Ameena began writing short stories and eventually published her first book Fifteen in 1999. It was short listed for the Sri Lankan based Gratiaen Prize but was labeled ‘man-hating’ by the judges. Her second book of short stories Zillij appeared in 2003 and won the State Literary Prize. Her first novel, The Moon in the Water,published in 2009, was long listed for the Man Asian Literary Prize. She is currently at work on her second novel.

TGBC:-You are an established writer in the adult and children’s genre in Sri Lanka. Which one has been easier to work on?
AH:-For me writing for adults is easier. When adults write for children, they need to be aware of making the story interesting and accessible for children. You need to in a way become a child yourself.
TGBC:- You are credited with bringing out Blue- Sri Lanka’s first collection of erotic stories. How well was Blue received at home and abroad? 
AH:-Blue was received very well both here and abroad. We sold out the first print run in six months in Sri Lanka. We sold the rights to Tranquebar in India. I would hesitate to call them erotic stories, as eroticism is a well defined genre, and some of the stories contained in Blue would not fall into that category. So I like to define it as Stories for Adults, because of the adult content.
TGBC:- What inspired the 2009 novel, The Moon in the Water? 
AH:-When I was in my early twenties, there was a landmark case in Sri Lankan Muslim inheritance law where an adopted son had to go to court to fight for his inheritance as Muslim law does not recognize adoption. It was that case that inspired the novel because I wanted to show case that in a country that has both civil and personal laws, you have to be really careful and responsible when you have access to both.
TGBC:-After The Moon in the Water, you seem to have gone back to books in the children’s genre. Anything new in the adult genre coming out soon? 
AH:-I am in the editing stage of my next novel and  researching for a travel book that should come out in a couple of years. I take my time to produce my creative work and don’t like to work to agendas and time tables.
TGBC:-Who would you rate as the most promising newcomer in the Sri Lankan literary sphere? 
AH:-As a publisher I feel that I am very lucky to be in Sri Lanka at this time. Each year brings us promising new writers. We are broadening our genres as well, going into fantasy, illustrated books, coffee table books etc. In our list we have writers like Nayomi Munaweera, Prashani Rambukwella, who have gone onto make a mark by winning prizes. We have published many debut authors, who have written wonderful creative novels and I look forward to publishing many more.
TGBC:-A quote you swear by? 
AH:-In publishing my quote is to be open to everything that comes my way, the diamond is buried in the mountain of coal; in life my quote is: Life should be lived.

TGBC:-The best compliment and the worst criticism that has come your way?

AH:-Best compliment when readers who were adopted thought that I had written The Moon in the Water in a very authentic manner; worst criticism is that I am more a Sociologist than a writer when I write.

TGBC:-Any advice to upcoming writers? 
AH:-When you think your work is done, go back and have another look at it and edit it cruelly.
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