A revelatory journey of discovery and expression | Sunday Observer

A revelatory journey of discovery and expression

23 May, 2021

Dianne Fernando is a young fiction writer from Moratuwa whose hobbies include singing, playing piano and guitar, as well as writing stories and poetry, gardening and spending time with nature. A god-fearing Roman Catholic who is a past pupil of Convent of Our Lady of Victories, Moratuwa, Dianne has been selected to the University of Moratuwa and awaiting to begin her B. Sc in Facilities Management. In this interview, 21-year-old Dianne reveals about how she began her journey as a writer and provides a glimpse into her debut novel ‘The Book of Epochs’, as well as what her next upcoming works are.

Q : At what point in your life did you decide to embark on the path to become a fiction writer, and what was your main inspiration?

A: To be honest, I never thought to become a writer. I did some poetry and I did participate in creative writing competitions, representing my school, that’s all. Even though, I could remember since childhood my mind was too busy, with building stories that entertained only myself. I never thought to write them because I dreamt that my stories will be movies one day, not books. That attitude was changed by Josephine March, the main character of Little Women, a novel written by Louisa May Alcott.

During the 1st quarantine period at the beginning of 2020, I was working as an intern at an NGO. Unfortunately, I lost it because of Covid-19, and the diploma which I was reading at that time was also stopped and I didn’t have anything to do. So, I watched films and I came across ‘Little Women’, the movie (2019). The character of Joe March perfectly acted by Saoirse Ronan inspired me to take a pen, sit down on a cozy chair and write the stories floating around my mind. Therefore, last year when I was 20, I thought to try this out. I am grateful for the motivation given to me by my Mum, my aunt Dr. Anne Doloras Perera, and one of my friends called Ahinsa, when I first said that I have an idea to write a book. That’s how I embarked on this incredible path.

Q: Your novel ‘The Book of Epochs’ is a novel has a western setting placed in a time and era that is unusual for a Sri Lankan writer. How did you, as a Sri Lankan approach this subject?

A: As per my inspiration, which I mentioned, I was attracted to the setting of the Little Women, movie. And also, I was learning about ‘Black Lives Matter’, which was on earth ever since bygone. I thought to combine both these two subjects and write the story based in America, during their civil war (1861-1865), which was a crucial fight between proponents of slavery and abolitionists.

My main character Carol is a black-American, who faces many hardships, bearing many responsibilities and taking care of her good heart. That’s why my debut, ‘The Book of Epochs’ has a western setting. The reason to select the English language rather than using my mother tongue is because, I fell in love with the English language ever since I was a child, and I wanted to create a story that will not be framed for the Sri Lankan community.

Q: How did you gather material for this story, such as details and information to build up the plot and characters and also the landscape in which the story unfolds?

A: I collected many details, on the internet, therefore that is my main source. I had to do a lot of research to get a clear base of the story timeline, about their lives, places, etc., the internet became the best companion for my researches. And also, my younger brother had a huge map book, which I used to discover American cities, villages according to the story set. Therefore, it also became very useful to me. I also must thank my aunt, Dr. Ann Doluras Perera, and my publisher, Mr. Jeremy Muller for their commitment.

Q: How long did it take you to build up the story line and narrative structure? How much planning went into this story before you began writing it?

A: It took approximately three months to write the novel. Within two or three days after the ‘aha moment’ I had by seeing strong Joe March, I began to pen the story from whatever the chapter that I had a clear view, then little by little I built it up.

Q: Do you personally feel that you can connect with any of the main characters that you created in this novel?

A: I think I could personally connect myself to Kyle and Hannah. Kyle was the best friend of Carol and later, even after she had the child of another man, he accepted and married her. So, Kyle was a good man. Hannah was the guardian who was with Carol when she had no one. Therefore, I assume that at the end of the day I want to be a good person that others can lean on me when needed. I may be not perfectly connected to both characters, but I try to adapt myself to those values that have been engraved in their characters.

Q: How has the response been to the book so far after publication? And have you begun work on your next novel?

A: Praise be to my Lord God, I got great responses, especially the readers loved the way that I have written it and the western setting of the story has amazed them. Those responses, comments, and also criticism motivated me more and made me enthusiastic. That credit definitely must ,go to my God, my awesome parents, my teachers who taught me this universal language, my closest relations and friends who helped me, and to my publisher Jeremy Muller. In the holy Bible Jesus said: “For unto every person who has something, even more than enough; but the person who has nothing, even the little that he has will be taken away from him, as for this useless servant - throw him outside in the darkness; there he will cry and grind his teeth.” - (Matthew 25: 29-30). It is a parable Jesus used to teach us about using our talents.

As an English fiction writer in Sri Lanka, truly we have a very narrow opportunity to take our creations to the community. But I do not like to dispirit and to throw away the hidden talent that I found in me and to regret about myself throughout my life. Therefore, I have begun my next series of novels, which has three parts. At present I am using social media platforms to tell the story. As a new generation writer, we should not be like a frog in the well, there are many ways to take ourselves and our good attitudes to this world.

The story is ‘The Forbidden Legend of Pearl Garland’ it’s a secret legend that will take you on an adventurous, thrilling, dangerous voyage where you will also meet fantasy and romance. We all are almost on that voyage. So, anyone can visit any of those two pages on Facebook and Instagram to read and follow the story. We are posting the daily episode every day at 9.00 pm. I hope to publish a book one day of that story.