5Q Interview: Wipas 'Gahn' Srithong, 2017 IWP resident

The Writing University conducts the "5Q Interviews" (same five questions for all participants) with writers while they are in Iowa City participating in the International Writing Program's fall residency. We sit down with authors to ask about their work, their process and their descriptions of home.

Today we are talking with Wipas 'Gahn' Srithong, a fiction writer from Thailand.

1. Do you have a plan or project in mind for your time at the residency?

I am about to finish the first draft of a novella called ‘The Monument’ and hope to finish the second draft or more during the residency. It relates to my general frustration with what's happening in my country. I hope that being distant from the situation will give me a better vantage point and new perspective on the shape of the novel.

2. What does your daily practice look like for your writing? Do you have a certain time when you write? Any specific routine?

When I am working on a project I think about it and am working on it all the time. Everything that I sense is about my novel. But in practice I start work after breakfast and a morning tirade to my wife, so I’m not sure how that will work out when she isn’t around. I avoid internet until after lunch and after recovering from the hang over from it, work again until early evening when it’s time to go running. But after all of these long hours, the actual writing I produce is never more than a hand written half page. Mostly I am drifting and flipping through books. I use classic works such as Tolstoy to warm up and put me in the right frame of mind.

3. What are you currently reading right now? Are you reading for research or pleasure?

I have just finished Knaussgaard’s ‘A Death in the Family’ and Denton Welch's ‘A Voice Through a Cloud’, which were both great reads and new discoveries for me. I am about to begin Bellow’s ‘The Adventures of Augie March’ which will be difficult for my level of English, but I enjoyed two of his other books, as well as some of his great short stories. I have had to read all of these in English as they haven’t been translated into Thai. Like my meals, I vary my intake during the day and read many books at the same time. On my table I have over a half dozen memoirs of Thai political prisoners as research for my current book and am crawling through ‘War and Peace’. I read books in both Thai and English, but prefer Thai if it’s available. There is a lack of great foreign work translated here.

4. What is one thing that the readers and writers of Iowa City should know about you and your work?

It’s a daunting question to define oneself as one thing. I am a normal guy; quite shy, but welcome people to approach me. I mainly write novels that are shaped by the uprooting political situation in Thailand, but after years of immersion my catharsis is done and I’m trying to break free from the subject and move more to the human condition.

5. Tell us a bit about where you are from -- what are some favorite details you would like to share about your home?

I am from Bangkok and live in a great, but inexpensive area that has an excellent fresh market, nearby park and is surrounded by palaces and historical sites. It’s close to the zoo and a hidden gem running route. There are a lot of army barracks around. At the same time, living literally in the center of Bangkok, I see regression in my country from the increased activity in the barracks and changes being made to the historical sites.

***

Thank you so much, Wipas!

Check the IWP website for events that will include Wipas 'Gahn' Srithong throughout the residency.

If you cannot see the featured event, a browser extension may be blocking content.