RELEASE: MY NEW NOVEL
Das Tinikling Mädchen (The 'Tinikling' - Girl)
Can you reach your goal when the shadow of your responsibility is chasing you?
What is our main protagonist about?
Hiraya is the youngest daughter of a farming family living in the Visayas province. I set the plot near where my wife is from. The novel describes the relationships, rights and responsibilities among the siblings based on their birth rankings and it becomes clear why 'Hiraya's' older sister 'Kezia' seems so domineering, sometimes cold and pragmatic.
Why does the escalation that forms the core of Hiraya's story occur?
When Hiraya's mother dies, the family finds it difficult to cope with the dire situation. When the father starts drinking and enters into a sexual relationship with the new maid 'Dolores', a world collapses for that conservative girl. She reacts violently in two ways, which triggers her break with the father and her escape to Manila.
Why does Manila attract many people in the Philippines?
In reality, quite a few people try to gain financial security by getting a job in the capital. But reality shows how unattainable this is for many. In addition, 'Hiraya''s goal of wanting to become a folk dancer on a grand scale leads her fellow protagonists either to see her just dreamy, silly, or even admirable. I found this theme incredibly intriguing, especially the struggle of a lonesome individual in this metropolitan juggernaut of millions.
What character traits make 'Hiraya' so interesting?
Her childlike enthusiasm actually has a very serious core. She searches for spiritual truths, knows that the Bible (as is common in the Philippines) has something that could provide her with answers after lossing her beloved mother. However, her urge to want to help others is mixed ominously with her sometimes very blatant intransigence. The story vividly explains why her childhood development favored this trait. Readers will thoroughly love 'Hiraya' and find themselves in situations at the end of the story that will be particularly evocative.
QUESTION: Would you forgive your enemy, who minutes earlier tried to take revenge on you with a stabbing weapon and was only stopped by the intervention of a policewoman? What motives does 'Hiraya' have for doing this in the book? She has weighty reasons, I won't tell you more.
Who is 'Dolores'? Just the 'bad lady', needed in a story?
By the end of the novel, there is a lot of clarity about 'Dolores', who could be quickly judged at the beginning because of her addiction to intimacy, without including the involvement of Hiraya's father. But she is by no means stupid, which will become progressively apparent in the story. I make it a point in my books for protagonists to gradually reveal their hearts and for the reader to learn what pasts, motives, and states of heart lie behind their actual actions.
What roles do train driver 'Jason', his wife 'Hilaria' and his family play?
That 'Hiraya' only realizes after a terrible odyssey that her completely extraordinary encounter with this family beforehand can be the key to her goal, makes her realize that her life has to turn around. Two different characters collide: the hot-tempered young dreamy girl with a good heart behind, and a former 'Queen of Dance' who is dedicated to her spiritual task and her family, and with her perceptiveness and humility helps the little 'volcano' to realize, through her own conclusions, what must really matter to her.
Who has an immensely great part in winning Hiraya's heart?
The nine-year-old 'Letizia', the daughter of 'Jason' and 'Hilaria'. From the very beginning she has taken 'Hiraya' to her heart, happily and without prejudice. It becomes heartwarming... I just say, let's never underestimate the love and enthusiasm of a child.
Isn't the near-fatal outcome at the railroad track just nonsense making the story flowing and adding only dramatic details?
No! I saw in a report that there were such incidents on this line in Manila. The trains are actually allowed to run max. 35 km/h in this district and I did research by means of specialized pages about calculating braking distances etc. before I included this detail in the novel.
'Elaine' - 'Sol' - 'Pablo' - 'Paul' - 'Jenny' - 'Senora Remedios' - Officer Mariella' - 'Chief Pedro' - 'Gina' - 'Auntie Mary Ann' - 'Sir Freddy'...
These protagonists play important roles to clothe 'Hiraya's' tragedy at the beginning and the outcome at the end. This is the only way to understand this girl at all. Without encounters, no interaction of the main character, an indispensability in any novel. Are violence, prostitution, improprieties or 'Elaine's' desperation put in a good light just because they are described? I can't and won't say that. Excessive explicitness is not in my sense, yet there will be descriptions that trigger feeling when 'Hiraya' saves 'Elaine's' life at the last moment or witnesses the terrible events at her last job as maid in the household of 'Pablo' and 'Sol'. And in this, her best quality - I hope - is so wonderfully highlighted, moving 'Sol' to an adorable statement, "You're fighting a great battle, but you can't win it here because you're in a boiling pot."
So I would in my responsibility as an author note that people with suicidal thoughts or experiences due to domestic violence should be careful when reading, because 'Hiraya' will deal with such people.
The title? Isn't it about the Tinikling dance?
Sure. I love so much about the culture of the Philippines. A pretty girl in a hand-woven 'butterfly-sleeve Filipiniana' dress, the music, the Tagalog language I learned, the cheerfulness under the pressure of big problems, the delightful relaxedness in the province, and my great wife. Reasons enough to write about it. I cannot dance the Tinikling, but I like to watch it.
Wait a minute! You're writing about another culture from your point of view as a stranger? Is that legitimate? Not too daring?
This topic is always discussed in literary circles in Europe, and rightly so. In my opinion, without thorough familiarization with the other's emotional world and cultural identity, such writing is definitely problematic, because mere research on information from others might not be enough. Of course, I can write the descriptions about the railroad or the steps of the Tinikling in this way, but the emotional world, religiosity, the meaning of the principle of 'Hiya' in Philippine society or the decision-making of individual characters, which is sometimes strange to us Europeans, I could only experience through my intensive experience in the country and with my family. Moreover, I had to learn to 'think' in the language and I am glad to have started early. Because 'Hiraya' experiences things in an environment that a normal traveler with a one-sided wealth of experience and the not at all established position should better not address or write in such a way. I had to take selfcontrol myself, for example, when the girl in the book encounters sex workers in the nightlife milieu at night, who make fun of her because of her partly childish ignorance, or she gets into dangerous situations from which she can only extricate herself with decisive or violent action.
What? You expierenced sich things and wrote it down?
In the circle of friends such thoughts are actually expressed. Good that I and my wife know better after 27 years of loyal, happy marriage. "Novels are always autobiographical and so on..." This is wrong. Any author who practices his art in an imaginative way can hardly have experienced all the things he describes, he develops characters and figures into a composition that builds a bridge to reality. In which protagonist would I also want to find myself personally? What connects me to the stories are my views on life, my beliefs, and places I've actually seen, not explicit experiences with real people doing things from my stories.
Why are my stories so dialogue heavy?
I think dialogue is a highly effective stylistic device in the flow of writing. It just gets bad when there's too much and useless question-and-answer phrases. I admit to being influenced by cinema and music as well. Lively communication is important in this culture, and perhaps - admittedly - I have a tendency to see my stories as movies in my mind's eye.
Will there be an English edition of 'Tinikling Girl'?
Yes. I have already translated the text. Now it will be sent to the Philippines, to my lector and proofreader. But I won't be able to publish this e-book before the end of 2022.