What did you first read? How did you begin to write? Who were the first to read what you wrote?
I can’t remember the first book I read, but I do remember the first book I read which made a lasting impression on me and it was John Grisham’s A Time to Kill. I was thirteen, I think. I started writing poetry at the age of thirteen, and then I dabbled a little on scripts, which is basically a series of dialogue and scenes and actions. Then I started writing short stories. And before I finished high school, I had started writing a 700-page novel (which I’ve lost since) titled NIBOR. It’s a love story cum courtroom drama cum thriller (I don’t think I knew what it was I wanted to convey apart from the fact that I enjoyed the process immensely). My first reader were good friends of mine, Dewi Yuliana and Novi Suryadi.
What is your favorite genre? Can you provide a link to a site where we can read some of your work or learn something about it?
I love literary books/stories. There’s something about transporting reality onto a blank page and picking apart its elements and putting them together to create something that resembles life, but better. It’s fiction! :) You can visit my site atwww.maggietiojakin.com — and you can click on the “Short Story” tab. You’ll find links to my published short stories there.
What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
I like to rev up the “engine” by watching music videos online, or if that’s not an option I like to write aimlessly just to get the juices flowing. I also like to see illustrations and photos before I write, to sort of tap on the creative resources inside my head :) And then I would start to write a story. However, when a story doesn’t speak to me, in that I feel like I want to tell it (as a writer) but I am incredibly bored by it (as a reader) — my body tends to respond to it by falling asleep. So I know that when a story doesn’t work, I’d feel incredibly sleepy right in the middle of the writing process.
What type of reading inspires you to write?
Short stories, particularly by Ernest Hemingway, Alice Munro, Jhumpa Lahiri, Anton Chekhov and Raymond Carver. Also, anything by the late Andre Dubus.
What do you think are the basic ingredients of a story?
I understand that plot is a very exciting element for a lot of people, but for me, plot is a device that makes writing a lot less organic. Plot is the basic ingredient, or perhaps the ultimate one, for stories that are fun, thrilling and touching by nature. For me, the basic ingredients are: characters, setting, dialogue and soul. I don’t care for plots. If a story is fun and exciting and extremely touching, but lacks strong characters, striking details in the setting, engaging dialogue, and soul (the writer’s true passion) — I’d consider it a B story. It doesn’t matter if it wins accolades.
What voice do you find most to your liking: first person or third person?
I prefer first person, because it gives me the rare advantage of stepping inside the character’s shoes and seeing the world as he/she sees them. I also like to write in third person, but while it has its advantages, I feel it limits my knowledge/understanding of the character.
What well known writers do you admire most?
Ernest Hemingway, for obvious reasons. And Ben Loory, for his imagination.
What is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours?
For me, a character is believable if he or she struggles on two fronts: external and internal. Once a character has that struggle, everything else will fall into place. I usually “meditate” on the character I want to portray. I don’t think of him/her as an extension of myself, but rather as a close kin. By meditating on the character, I’d be able to get to know his/her struggles better. I always start with the struggles, before the personal details. All of that will be “discovered” in the writing process.
Are you equally good at telling stories orally?
I can’t be the judge of that. You’d have to ask the listeners :)
Deep down inside, who do you write for?
Is writing a form of personal therapy? Are internal conflicts a creative force?
It can be. I think internal conflicts are internal conflicts. Creative force can come from anything, be it internal or external. The key to fostering a creative force is by constantly observing one’s surroundings.
Read the complete interview here.