Debut Author Spotlight: Clarissa Goenawan

Clarissa GoenawanWe love discovering new author to love, so we are very excited to introduce to you Clarissa Goenawan! Her debut, Rainbirds, is out March 6. We wanted to hear all about the mystery, partly set in Tokyo, and Clarissa — read on to find out more!

Name: Clarissa Goenawan

Book: Rainbirds

Genre: Literary mystery with elements of magical realism

Series: Rainbirds is a stand-alone novel, but it is also the first in a series of interrelated novels. Each of the novels will have different stories and different main characters, but all of them are set in the same universe. The characters from one novel will make appearances in the others.

Current Home: Singapore

Author Idol: Haruki Murakami

Favorite Word: lol (Technically, this is an abbreviation, but let’s just count it as one word for argument’s sake. I use ‘lol’ a lot in text messages, especially on Twitter. But never in novels lol)

Was this the first full-length novel you ever wrote? Yes.

Tell us about your day job. I’m a full-time writer.

In your opinion, what is the most interesting recent scientific discovery? Last year when I was in Tokyo, I saw robots working in some shops. The technology is getting more and more advanced. It’s no surprise some people are worried that one day their professions will be taken over by robots. As a writer, I’d never thought that my job might be affected, so I was very surprised when I read the news about a Japanese AI program which wrote a novel and nearly won a national literary award. 

How did you start writing? Ever since I was still a child, I’d always enjoyed writing. However, as I grew up, I got more and more preoccupied with the mounting academic work. I also became more ‘realistic’ and kind of abandoned the idea of becoming a writer. I spent several years working in marketing, sales and banking. When I got pregnant with my second child, I decided to take a sabbatical. And since I was going to stay at home, I thought I should give myself one last chance to pursue my childhood dream.

What was it like when you got "The Call"? For me, it wasn’t “The Call”. It was “The Email”. I live in Singapore and the first offer came from the UK. It was also pretty straight-forward. Something along the lines of, “I love your book and I’d like to represent you.” I thought the agent would ask some questions first, and then we would have some discussion before they decided whether to give an offer of representation. Subsequently, I received a few more offers, including one from Barcelona-based Pontas Agency, who now represents me.

How did you come up with the setting from your book? Does it draw from any real places you've been to/lived in? Though a portion Rainbirds takes place in Tokyo, the story is set mainly in Akakawa, a fictional Japanese suburb. Akakawa is loosely based on Malang, a lovely city in East Java famed for its mild highland climate. I was born and raised in Surabaya, the second largest city in Indonesia. Malang is about a two to three-hour drive from Surabaya, so my family often travelled there for the weekend to enjoy the good weather.

Rainbirds will be available in digital and print on March 6. Digital copies start at $14.99, grab yours here: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo. You can also get to know more debut authors here.

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