Linthoi Chanu is the author of two well-received books “The Tales of Kanglei Throne” and “Wari”. The former is a mythological fiction inspired from ancient Manipuri literature and the latter, a short story collection written to portray the social realism of Manipur today.
FPSJ Review interviewed the budding young Manipuri author. Excerpt from the interview:
FPSJ: Your first ever novel is The Tales of Kanglei Throne. Take us on your journey from the beginning.
Linthoi Chanu: “ My pupu (foster grandpa) always narrated many Manipuri folk tales, ancient ones at that when I was growing up. Unfortunately, people tell me my father’s father also used to write but I never met him because he had passed away before I was born. I grew up reading English literature books written by Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Jules Verne, J. K Rowling and Indian folk tales and comics.
During my time in college, my classmates and I would discuss many, many stories and I started to write some write ups for the college magazine and during my time at the University in Pondicherry, during my research for literature in Mythological fiction…I started collecting archaic books, I found them… I studied them and I started digging in more… By the end of my master studies in Pondicherry, I finished writing my first manuscript, my first draft of The Tales of Kanglei Throne.”
FPSJ: What are the challenges that you faced as a first time writer?
Linthoi Chanu: “When I came back to Manipur from Pondicherry, I came back with the completed manuscript. I met Pabung Nimai (R. K Nimai) by chance during an event I attended in Manipur and when we got into conversing about Manipuri archaic literature, I blurted out to him that I had written a book based on ancient Manipuri myth… (haha…). Pabung Nimai was so encouraging and because of him, I had the courage to materialize my manuscript into a full-fledged readable book but earlier other people whom I went to, discouraged me because of my young age, questioned my intellectual capacity and did not believe in me. So… I didn’t have much hope.”
FPSJ: Tell us about the publishing journey.
Linthoi Chanu: “I had an edited manuscript of The Tales of Kanglei Throne and I was without any agents. I was completely lost. I was aware that a young -debut author like me from the North-East was not going to be taken that seriously by main stream publishing houses and we don’t have any good publishing houses here and also I was a first timer so I did not know exactly how to go about it…So, I went for the self publishing option. I did not have much money either. I went for Blue Rose publications. I decided to go for 500 copies to be printed at the first go. Initially, they sent a good quality book as a sample and when I gave in the actual order, they delivered much worse than they promised me because when the copies arrived to me… there were some very bad copies and I could not give sell them. I had to pick out the best copies out of the 500 and then I tried to sell them but I failed. We released the book in December 2017. I gave away some copies as review copies. After three months, I was acquainted with Books & Coffee and in March, they agreed to keep few of my books. I gave them 10 copies to keep. I was so surprised and happy when they called me up and said that the books have sold and people were asking for more. I gave some more copies to the Reader’s Book store too. Slowly, the book gained popularity, especially amongst the youth of Manipur. By August 2018, the sale of the book grew. I started to interact with my readers via social media and am very happy to learn that they really appreciate my work and enjoy reading the stories that I have written. I am still looking for a good publishing house.”
FPSJ: There is much a timeline gap between the first three chapters of The Tales of Kanglei Throne and the last. Why is that?
Linthoi Chanu: “ I excluded the parts where I found that were not that eventful and where I realized that I could not create or link an interesting plot.”
FPSJ: Which is your favorite character in The Tales of Kanglei Throne and why?
Linthoi Chanu: “ Mateyambi is my favorite character from the book because she is the only character that I could fully develop only from a name and a single dialogue. I wanted to make a grand character out of her because of a single dialogue spoken by her on one of the archaic texts intrigued me. The rest of the characters were also all inspired from archaic texts and I have kept them true to how they have been written for in those texts.”
FPSJ: Is there going to be a sequel to The Tales of Kanglei Throne ?
Linthoi Chanu: “I don’t know if we can call it a sequel but I have just finished writing a manuscript, a novel based on another mythological fiction like The Tales of Kanglei Throne.”
FPSJ: Your second book is called Wari. Why did you decide to write a short story collection after writing a novel?
Linthoi Chanu: “The Tales of Kanglei Throne gave me some confidence …so…I wanted to publish Wari which I had already written before The Tales of Kanglei Throne and Wari was inspired by real life stories.”
FPSJ: What all genres are you planning to explore as a writer?
Linthoi Chanu: “Mythological fiction…Social Realism…Folklore…both in novels and short stories…”
FPSJ: What would you advice young, aspiring writers of Manipur today?
Linthoi Chanu: “Many aspiring young writers here might feel discouraged because I feel that here too, writing is not seen as a ‘real job’ but I believe that if we are sincere and honest with our works and are able to inspire people then please don’t ever give up! Please continue to write!”
FPSJ: What are your favorite works of literature?
Linthoi Chanu: “I don’t have a particular favorite because I have many to choose from! For example… last year I was reading a lot of non-fiction and was obsessed with Yuval Harari’s works, Stephen Hawking’s books and also Elon Musk’s book. But during this lockdown, I am enjoying reading Baril Thanga’s ‘Mamal’ and ‘Ningthem Nubi’ by B.S Meisnamba, both Meiteilon literatures.”
Writer at IRAP