Jayatissa’s Latest Novel Introduces Sri Lankan Culture – With A Corpse Thrown Into It

By Samantha Pak
Northwest Asia Weekly

Amanda Jayatissa (Credit: Sandun Seneviratne)

On her ninth birthday, Amanda Jayatissa locked herself in the bathroom. She was reading a book and wanted to finish one more chapter.

“I was a big reader growing up,” Jayatissa said.

It all started when older cousins ​​visited her family, showing up with boxes of books for her. She was too young to read them at the time, but Jayatissa remembers touching the books, looking at the pictures and dying to read them.

And once she was old enough to do that, that’s all she would do — much to everyone’s chagrin — she admitted with a laugh.

After reading so many stories, the next logical step for her was to write her own stories, so around age 8 or 9, Jayatissa picked up her pink gel pen and started writing.

The first thing she wrote was a mystery story – admittedly a rip off of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and Secret Seven series, some of her favorite stories, which followed groups of children who embarked on adventures that included often solving mysteries.

“It was so bad,” she said of that first foray.

But Jayatissa was undeterred. Whether it’s more mysteries or the angsty poetry of her teenage years (during which she once described her life to her brother as a “black abyss”), she never stopped writing.

And it’s come full circle as Jayatissa – who previously worked as a corporate trainer – now has a few detective stories under her belt. Her second book, “You’re Invited,” is due out August 9 and tells the story of a wedding gone wrong when the bride disappeared on the morning of the big day.

“And if we threw a corpse? »

The idea to create a mystery at a wedding came after Jayatissa attended a wedding where she spotted the mother of the bride giving in to her exhaustion for a second before smiling again for the cameras. This got Jayatissa thinking about weddings and how behind the glitz and glamor there are cracks – the perfect opening for someone who’s always thinking, “What if we dumped a corpse?”

Although she enjoys light reading which transports her to a “happier place”, Jayatissa is drawn to the idea that something needs to be resolved in a story.

She likes surprises, a good “ah-ha” moment, and the kinds of big reveals and twists — like when the villain’s mask comes off in “The Scooby-Doo Show” — that lend themselves more to mysteries than other genres. .

“You’re Invited” is set in Sri Lanka, where Jayatissa was born and raised, and still lives. The story has provided an opportunity to shed light on different aspects of its culture, such as the large multi-day affairs involved in Sri Lankan weddings. Sri Lanka is not a country that many people hear about in the mainstream media and as readers learn about the culture, Jayatissa hopes it will pique their interest to find out more or become intrigued to explore books. taking place in different contexts outside of the United States.

One aspect that Jayatissa was particularly fond of writing about in “You’re Invited” was a group of gossipy aunts.

“It was really fun for me,” she said, adding that it reflected her own social circles living in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo. It’s not so much six degrees of separation as two degrees – everyone knows everyone else and there are some people who just know everyone’s business.

The benefits of being a writer

For Jayatissa, ideas for new books usually come to her when she is halfway through writing a book. This is what happened with “You’re Invited”, as well as with his third novel. But only when she has turned in her current project for edits will she allow herself to start a new project. This is so that the voice of a new character will not seep into the previous story.

When she is finally free to start a new story, Jayatissa does some pre-writing work, including creating an outline for the story and journaling with a character’s voice. Then she will start writing. And once that happens, she says, no one will see her for a long time. Any sort of routine she has – exercising, meditating – falls by the wayside until her “zero project” is complete. After that, she becomes more disciplined in revising the draft into a form good enough to send to her agent and editor. It takes about a year.

And while Jayatissa may have had the idea for “You’re Invited” before she even finished writing her first book, “My Sweet Girl” (2021), it didn’t come without difficulties. . Jayatissa has dealt with what she and some of her writer friends describe as “book two syndrome”. Although there were no deadlines or real expectations when writing her first book, except for those she created for herself, the second book introduced deadlines. specifics, the expectations of others – from his team to readers – and comparisons with his previous work.

“You’re very observant,” Jayatissa said of that added pressure. But despite that, she said, “I love to write.”

Besides the act of writing itself, another plus is that she can read as much as she wants and no one can get mad at her.

The other day, she admits to having stayed in her room with a book which she was impatiently awaiting the release. Her dogs were barking loudly and Jayatissa was able to get her husband to handle them because her reading – another mystery thriller – was in the name of “research”.

“That 9-year-old girl who locked herself in the bathroom would be very, very proud,” she said.

Samantha can be contacted at [email protected]

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