Today on ‘On Writing’, we have the pretty German-Sri Lankan author Devika Fernando speaking to us about her writing and how different it is being a self published author.
Having always loved to read and write, Devika Fernando made her dream come true in 2014 when she became a self-published novelist. The Amazon bestselling author has published several eBooks in the genres contemporary romance, paranormal romance and romantic suspense.
What she loves most about being an author is the chance to create new worlds and send her protagonists on a journey full of ups and downs that will leave them changed. She draws inspiration from everyone and everything in life. Besides being a romance novelist, she works as a self-employed German web content writer, as a translator, and as a faithful servant to all the cats, dogs, fish and birds in her home. When she’s not writing, she’s reading or thinking about writing.
Welcome to ‘On Writing’, Devika.
Do people treat you differently when they know that you are an author, that too, a bestselling author?
A simple question that’s already difficult to answer… The thing is that hardly anyone really ‘knows’. My husband’s family and my family don’t have a proper idea about what I’m doing, and even some of my school friends from Germany are clueless. My best friends have always considered me a writer, so being a published author hasn’t changed much for them. But there is one noticeable change: My inbox nowadays is always flooded with other (aspiring) authors asking for advice, reviews, comments etc. As for new acquaintances I make, their reaction is kind of stereotypical: Oh…erm…really? Wow. So, is that your real job? Do you make a lot of money? Are your books available in the local bookstores? ;-)
Your latest novel ‘Saved in Sri Lanka’ has the tag line ‘Some people are destined to meet’, do you believe in destiny?
To some extent, yes. I believe if something is really meant to happen, then it will. But I also believe that we are the masters of our own lives. I’m a Buddhist and I believe in karma. Everything happens for a reason, everything we do or say or think (or don’t) will have a consequence.
You have co-authored a series with Mike Wells which is an all time bestseller on Amazon. Tell us about the experience of co-authoring the book. Was the sailing smooth?
I got very lucky because not every co-authoring experience is smooth sailing. Mike handled it all very professionally yet personally and was and is absolutely fair and clear about everything. That made writing the romantic thriller ‘Forbidden’ with him a treat. I have to admit I was a bit nervous about this challenging adventure, but it turned out to be a valuable and enjoyable experience from which I learned a lot and which I’d like to repeat. I think it’s very important to communicate and set standards to go by.
Your roots are half German and half Sri Lankan. Does that reflect in the kind of stories you write? Do your stories emerge from random experiences in your own life?
Yes, I firmly believe my half European, half Asian background influences my writing. It’s one of the reasons why I write sensual but not explicitly steamy romance, and why my characters always fall in love and not just in lust. I think I tend to focus on family or the lack thereof too, which could be categorized as a more ‘Asian’ thing; on the other hand, I prefer international settings and characters, which is probably more ‘Western’. And especially with ‘Saved in Sri Lanka’, some of my own experiences and views have crawled into the story. But I never make the books too personal or explicitly Asian or European.
You are a prolific writer. But do you get affected by writer’s block? If yes, how do you deal with it?
No, never. I have moments where I’m a bit stuck with a scene or unsure how to tackle the next chapter, but I have the perfect cure for that: I just write. It might not even make a lot of sense, it might be a different scene, it might be a poem or short story instead of for a novel, it might be for a different work-in-progress, but just the process of writing helps.
What is your favorite time for writing? Do you have any particular habits or needs when you sit down to write? Coffee, chocolates, wine?
My main job is being a German content writer / technical writer, and I always get work out of the way first. So fiction writing is reserved to evenings and weekends. I don’t have any writing rituals, but I always keep a glass of water near, and I hate it when loud television or music is intruding.
Share a quote or snippet from ‘Saved in Sri Lanka’?
“Follow me over there for a second.”
They walked to a corner of the garden, and Sepalika could see Daniel react the way she had expected it. He lifted his head and took a deep breath. She smiled to herself and felt a thrill rush through her.
“Can you smell that?”
He nodded with wide eyes. “It’s such an intoxicating scent, so…I don’t know, intense and sweet, mysterious and confident.”
Now her eyes widened, and a shiver of pleasure ran down her spine.
“This is my namesake,” she said, and her voice was hardly more than a whisper.”
He turned to stare at her then back at the flower-laden tree exuding such potent magic.
“May I introduce you to the redolent sepalika flower, commonly called night jasmine or coral jasmine, and sometimes confused with Queen of the Night. This tree’s flowers bloom only after dark, enchanting throughout the night. Shortly after dawn they’ll start wilting, and by morning you’ll have a patch of earth decked out in fallen, faded flowers.”
Daniel walked over to the tree as if in trance. He plucked one of the small white flowers and inhaled its powerful but not overpowering scent.
“They’re not just beautiful,” she continued. “People believe they’ll help you sleep soundly and dream sweetly. They are dried and stuffed into pillows for that purpose. Experts in native medicine claim it can help children with constipation.”
“Fascinating,” he murmured and walked back to her, stopping right in front of her so she had to crane her neck to peer into his deep, now surprisingly dark eyes.
“You know, this flower isn’t always praised for its beauty. Some people aren’t too fond of it because it looks bare and barren, common and even sort of forlorn during daytime. They dub it the ‘tree of sorrow’, but every night the fragrant flowers cause even the most sorrowful people to smile and appreciate.”
“There’s a whole story and lesson lingering there,” Daniel said, whispering too. “Looks like they’re much more than fragrant…just like you’re much more than what meets the eye.”
He leaned in and lifted his hand as if he wanted to stick the flower into her hair or even kiss her.
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You opted to self-publish on Kindle and you are a very popular indie author. What advice do you have for those who are planning to go the self-publishing route?
Do the research before you start. You’ll need to focus on more than the writing, and there’s a huge competition, so you have to be dedicated. Know the trends, know the rules, know your tools.
If ‘Saved in Sri Lanka’ is made into a Hollywood movie, who according to you should play Sepalika and Daniel?
Oh, nice question, let me just dream about this for a bit more. ;-) I actually modeled Daniel after two of my favourite actors, Tom Hiddleston (English) and Michael Fassbender (Irish), so either of the two would be perfect. As for Sepalika, I’m not sure. I think any of the gorgeous Bollywood actresses would be a great choice. Maybe Sonam Kapoor? Sri Lankan actresses haven’t really made it to the top yet, but Jacqueline Fernandez or Pooja Umashankar would be awesome choices. To be honest, I think some unknown exotic beauty would be best. A girl that isn’t too fair, has some spunk and sensuality but also a certain shyness to her.
What are the three tips you have for readers of this interview who are aspiring writers?
1) Write, write, write. Because practice makes perfect.
2) Read, read, read. Because reading is inspiring and a learning experience.
3) Keep going, don’t give up.
Thank you Devika for the interesting and informative answers. It was wonderful to have you here. Wishing you the very best in all your creative endeavors.