Behind the Pages: Interviews with Indonesian Writers

Behind the Pages collects the thoughts, creative process, and soul journeys behind those pages you are reading. Click on each episode to read the full interview.

behind the pages beradadisini
BERNARD BATUBARA: ON LOVE, STORIES, AND HEARTBREAKS. The first step to remember is by reminiscing the most important part of my experience. For example, if I am writing a love story based on my experience with my ex, I will remember the most impressive moment of our relationships. Usually, that part contains a conflict, and this becomes a conflict in the story as well. I will start writing them down. From here, I can move to many different directions. I can go forward, or backward to past experiences, until those memories turn into a full write-up.
theoresia rumthe - behind the pages
THEORESIA RUMTHE: ON EMBRACING WILDNESS. I like things that hit me first. Whether they are sentences that come first, or feelings that come for the first time. I do not like to edit them. Something ‘raw’ is usually way more honest. This is the reason why I never edited my poems, except when it comes to choice of words. Something that is more ‘raw’, more ‘matter-of-factly’, more ‘honest’ has its own wildness. And that resides inside of me.
GRATIAGUSTI CHANANYA ROMPAS: ON FIREWORKS, SUNFLOWERS, AND METAPHORS. I do believe, though, that if one aspires to make poetry his or her art, one should understand that poetry is a discipline with a long history. So it is imperative that one educates oneself at least about other poets and what they have done as well as why they did what they did. This will help one to find one’s voice and what one wants to say through one’s art.And if one wants to write, one better reads too. Reading is good not only to widen one’s knowledge, but also sharpen one’s analytical skill. Any writer should have this, I think, so he or she can give a better judgment about his or her own works before anyone else does. This, in turn, will make him or her more critical to any form of art he or she is consuming.
GRATIAGUSTI CHANANYA ROMPAS: ON FIREWORKS, SUNFLOWERS, AND METAPHORS. I do believe, though, that if one aspires to make poetry his or her art, one should understand that poetry is a discipline with a long history. So it is imperative that one educates oneself at least about other poets and what they have done as well as why they did what they did. This will help one to find one’s voice and what one wants to say through one’s art. And if one wants to write, one better reads too. Reading is good not only to widen one’s knowledge, but also sharpen one’s analytical skill. Any writer should have this, I think, so he or she can give a better judgment about his or her own works before anyone else does. This, in turn, will make him or her more critical to any form of art he or she is consuming.
WINDRY RAMADHINA: ON CHARACTERS, CHOICES, AND CHRONICLES. My readers could easily recognise me through my characters. Each one of them is a part of me. I’m like a tiny jar full of various kinds of candies. When I write, I take a candy to be thrown into the story. The candy is myself–who wants to be a photographer. Or myself–who believes that rain falls down carrying angels. Or myself–who is afraid to get hurt from loving someone. To me, writing is an expression. Either consciously or subconsciously, I guess I always show the real me to my readers. Through a story. Through the world I wrote. Through my characters. It’s very important for me to write honestly, by being who I really am. Because I am not writing to be ‘liked’. I write what I like so I can meet readers who like the same things as I do.
WINDRY RAMADHINA: ON CHARACTERS, CHOICES, AND CHRONICLES. My readers could easily recognise me through my characters. Each one of them is a part of me. I’m like a tiny jar full of various kinds of candies. When I write, I take a candy to be thrown into the story. The candy is myself–who wants to be a photographer. Or myself–who believes that rain falls down carrying angels. Or myself–who is afraid to get hurt from loving someone. To me, writing is an expression. Either consciously or subconsciously, I guess I always show the real me to my readers. Through a story. Through the world I wrote. Through my characters. It’s very important for me to write honestly, by being who I really am. Because I am not writing to be ‘liked’. I write what I like so I can meet readers who like the same things as I do.
MAESY ANG & TEDDY KUSUMA: ON JOURNEYS, DISTANCE, AND FRIENDSHIP. We find that characters matter the most in any story, so we love travel stories with strong characters. We care much less about a place, we keep on reading because we want to know the characters better and get to know a place through their eyes. Maesy grew up reading fantasy books, and in those books, traveling is how a character becomes aware of their personalities and grows as person. Lyra Belacqua in Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is bold and mischievous when the story started, but it was only when she traveled to the North Pole she understands that being brave also entails sacrifice and thinking of the consequences of her actions.
MAESY ANG & TEDDY KUSUMA: ON JOURNEYS, DISTANCE, AND FRIENDSHIP. We find that characters matter the most in any story, so we love travel stories with strong characters. We care much less about a place, we keep on reading because we want to know the characters better and get to know a place through their eyes. Maesy grew up reading fantasy books, and in those books, traveling is how a character becomes aware of their personalities and grows as person. Lyra Belacqua in Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is bold and mischievous when the story started, but it was only when she traveled to the North Pole she understands that being brave also entails sacrifice and thinking of the consequences of her actions.
ELIA BINTANG: ON BELIEFS, BEACH, AND BUTTERFLIES. You pray to the ‘higher’ being every night and day. Then things work out as you asked. You say, my prayer is answered. Then things don’t work out. You say, my prayer is not answered. How do you see that? I’d say, it’s just the nature of life. Even if you pray to a tree, the outcome would be the same: sometimes you get good things, other times you get bad things. Based on this argument alone, I see no point in being too spiritual. I believe the existence of spirits, but that’s it. I never discuss anything beyond that in my writing because my purpose is to emphasise the absurdity of life and the surrealistic things you can experience, not the spirituality itself. I’m a non-believer and I think life is absurd.
ELIA BINTANG: ON BELIEFS, BEACH, AND BUTTERFLIES. You pray to the ‘higher’ being every night and day. Then things work out as you asked. You say, my prayer is answered. Then things don’t work out. You say, my prayer is not answered. How do you see that? I’d say, it’s just the nature of life. Even if you pray to a tree, the outcome would be the same: sometimes you get good things, other times you get bad things. Based on this argument alone, I see no point in being too spiritual. I believe the existence of spirits, but that’s it. I never discuss anything beyond that in my writing because my purpose is to emphasise the absurdity of life and the surrealistic things you can experience, not the spirituality itself. I’m a non-believer and I think life is absurd.
DEWI KHARISMA MICHELLIA: ON DEATH, DREAM, AND MADNESS. Since I have always been interested in complex and rounded character, I tend to like transgressive fictions. Works that exhibits lives’ wounds. Characters that are complex and interesting usually comes from an unusual background. There are a lot of unpredictable things in their daily lives. Usually they are free-minded and witty, and probably because of that, they are gifted with more life’s challenges from their writers (to not blaming God) or probably it is because of those life’s challenges that they possess such witty characters. I like works that show how witty the writer is in executing his works.
DEWI KHARISMA MICHELLIA: ON DEATH, DREAM, AND MADNESS. Since I have always been interested in complex and rounded character, I tend to like transgressive fictions. Works that exhibits lives’ wounds. Characters that are complex and interesting usually comes from an unusual background. There are a lot of unpredictable things in their daily lives. Usually they are free-minded and witty, and probably because of that, they are gifted with more life’s challenges from their writers (to not blaming God) or probably it is because of those life’s challenges that they possess such witty characters. I like works that show how witty the writer is in executing his works.
RAHNE PUTRI: ON WORDS, SADNESS, AND PLACES. When I am sad or anxious, I tend to question a lot of things and it triggers me to keep daydreaming or think about all the possible answers. Question marks urgently reverberate from my heart, then crawl to my head and my fingers to be expressed through writings. When I’m happy, my heart does not question much. I even have the tendency for not wanting to write. Does sadness fuel me? Yes it does. I love my sadness, to be exact. It doesn’t mean that I want to be sad all the time, but I always capture beauty in sadness. Sadness allows me to be honest with what I feel and directs me to know better about what is it that I really want. Sadness is an opportunity to appreciate losses and longings. Sadness is the energy for me to keep moving… away from it.
RAHNE PUTRI: ON WORDS, SADNESS, AND PLACES. When I am sad or anxious, I tend to question a lot of things and it triggers me to keep daydreaming or think about all the possible answers. Question marks urgently reverberate from my heart, then crawl to my head and my fingers to be expressed through writings. When I’m happy, my heart does not question much. I even have the tendency for not wanting to write. Does sadness fuel me? Yes it does. I love my sadness, to be exact. It doesn’t mean that I want to be sad all the time, but I always capture beauty in sadness. Sadness allows me to be honest with what I feel and directs me to know better about what is it that I really want. Sadness is an opportunity to appreciate losses and longings. Sadness is the energy for me to keep moving… away from it.
WINNA EFENDI: ON WRITING PROCESS. Sometimes, there are several ideas that catch my attention and stimulate me to write them down, but I try to focus on one project before moving on to the next. I save and develop the ideas I have first, until they feel ‘ripe’ enough and ready to be written down. Only then, I start to write them down. I tend to choose one idea that excites me the most. The one that makes me want to start writing as soon as possible, and put other ideas on hold while I focus on that one. I usually create an outline for my plot, and most of the time, I use and follow it. But it doesn’t mean I don’t make rooms for deviations or other developments outside the scribbled outline. I tend to trust where my instincts and ideas take me, and enjoy the ride.
WINNA EFENDI: ON WRITING PROCESS. Sometimes, there are several ideas that catch my attention and stimulate me to write them down, but I try to focus on one project before moving on to the next. I save and develop the ideas I have first, until they feel ‘ripe’ enough and ready to be written down. Only then, I start to write them down. I tend to choose one idea that excites me the most. The one that makes me want to start writing as soon as possible, and put other ideas on hold while I focus on that one. I usually create an outline for my plot, and most of the time, I use and follow it. But it doesn’t mean I don’t make rooms for deviations or other developments outside the scribbled outline. I tend to trust where my instincts and ideas take me, and enjoy the ride.
WINDY ARIESTANTY: ON WRITER-EDITOR ‘RELATIONSHIP’. My knowledge as an editor helps me to see my script more clearly and objectively. To me, an editor should be able to become a writer. She knows what a good writing is like. So it’s only natural that she can produce good writing. Editor who doesn’t become a writer–well, to me they look like dead chicken in a rice barn. Although I have to admit it myself, that for an editor to be a writer, she needs to defeat the fear inside of herself: hey, as a writer who edits and an editor who writes, you’re gambling your reputation. If your writing is good, people will say, that’s natural, she’s an editor. If your writing is bad, generally people will say, how come an editor produce such a bad writing? What does it tell about her quality as an editor?
WINDY ARIESTANTY: ON WRITER-EDITOR ‘RELATIONSHIP’. My knowledge as an editor helps me to see my script more clearly and objectively. To me, an editor should be able to become a writer. She knows what a good writing is like. So it’s only natural that she can produce good writing. Editor who doesn’t become a writer–well, to me they look like dead chicken in a rice barn. Although I have to admit it myself, that for an editor to be a writer, she needs to defeat the fear inside of herself: hey, as a writer who edits and an editor who writes, you’re gambling your reputation. If your writing is good, people will say, that’s natural, she’s an editor. If your writing is bad, generally people will say, how come an editor produce such a bad writing? What does it tell about her quality as an editor?

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