The journey of a new young fantasy fiction author | Sunday Observer

The journey of a new young fantasy fiction author

18 April, 2021

Hailing from the village of Galagama in Beliatta in the deep South of Sri Lanka, is a young new fantasy fiction writer who has entered the folds of fiction writers in Sri Lanka. Dilshani Yasodhya the author of the fantasy fiction novel The Demon Within, was initially on the path of studying for a degree in the agriculture sciences. But having left that path she began work as a trainee data analyst and for some time worked in similar jobs in the BPO sector, before setting out to realise her passion as a writer. A keen fan of the fantasy fiction genre she set out to begin her career as a writer with her first novel The Demon Within and has also started work on her next book. In this Q and A feature Dilshani discusses her debut novel and also what can be expected in the future.

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: I have been an avid reader since I was able to read. And I was drawn to fantasy fiction more than any other genre for the beautiful worlds they brought to life. Growing up, I never thought I would be an author. But after a suffocating year spent as a science student in a state university, I realised that I wasn’t where I wanted to be. I dropped out of university, became a normal office worker while studying graphic design. While studying, I realised that, even if I had some talent in drawing, I wasn’t good at using it for commercial purposes successfully, like creating logos. Only thing I was good at was creative writing. And in even that, I couldn’t meet the expectations of the commercial application of my talent. So, I decided to become an author, working on my own terms.

It took me sometime to realise what I wanted to do in life. But I do not regret the time I spent wandering around in life. The experiences of those times feed my writing.

Q: Your novel The Demon Within is a fantasy novel with a somewhat western motif. How did you, as a Sri Lankan approach this subject?

A: Almost all of the fantasy novels I read and cherished were western. Even the movies and animated series’s I enjoyed as a child were western. And my target audience is not limited to Sri Lankans alone. So, I thought it would be better for me to start my career as an author with a western touch.

Sri Lanka has some culture rich with folklore and characters that can be moulded into wonderful fantasy stories. I have included a few allusions to these in my book. In my personal belief, most Sri Lankan people are still not ready to hear their folktales told in a different perspective and the world is not ready to hear stories about characters that are barely known to them. Unlike Norse, Greek, Egyptian or Chinese gods and legends, Sri Lankan lore has still not found their way beyond the Indian Ocean. I intend to increase the Sri Lankan aspect of the upcoming novels gradually.

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: When I began writing, I realised that I have been gathering material for this novel my whole life. Every book I read, every movie or animated series I watched, every game I played have their presence in this book one way or the other.

In my book there are two main races involved in the plot. Demons and humans. The demons are described as battle loving and strong creatures much like the Yaksha caste in Sri Lankan lore. Humans are depicted as they are - simply humans.

As for the places described in the book, I’m mostly inspired by great cities and fortresses described in novels and movies like The Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. When it comes to describing the internal dimension created by Maya and the parts of the human world, anime series’s I have watched were very useful.

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

A: The characters Maya and Darius have been in my mind for over five years. There was no plot for them or even names. All I knew was the girl was a human who befriends a demon. I developed the plot of this story as the final assignment of my Graphic Design diploma and printed it as a graphic novel. However, due to the length of the story, I decided to only print a half of the story. After receiving positive feedback for the assignment I decided to develop it into a proper novel with only several illustrations.

Since I was aware of the plot, I just kept on writing for two years. There wasn’t much planning behind the novel. After the first draft, I tried to get my friends to read it and only one of them complied and he provided me with invaluable feedback that helped to increase the quality of the novel and the illustrations. From then onwards, I kept on rewriting, adding or taking off various parts even after I submitted the book for editing. I have to thank Jeremy Muller for being so patient with me for submitting changes constantly to the manuscript even after he made a perfect layout for the book.

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

A: I connect with all of them. Each of them are a part of me in a way. The female protagonist Maya is everything I wished I’d be. I also gave her an amplified version of my past as a bullied student. Darius is a representation of my protective nature towards the people I care about and my short temper, Auden is a representation of a childhood wish I had. I always wanted a big brother who would look after me. And finally Vance is my chaotic nature that can be either good or bad.

I usually refer to them as my children, which confuses my husband because I call my cats my children too.

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

A: Well, I received many congratulations and much encouragement. I am waiting impatiently for unbiased, professional and constructive criticism and feedback. The book has captured attention among the younger generation thanks to the genre of the book. Dark fantasy is a rare genre to come across in Sri Lankan literature. And the anime influenced art style of my illustrations has garnered the attention of Sri Lankan anime lovers as well. I simply hope rather than congratulating me, people would take a little time to read the book and tell me what they think of it.

The next novel is in progress as of now. I’m picking up from where the first novel left off. I have given it the code name The Demon Within: Tainted Bloodline, which may be subjected to change. Even if it serves as a sequel to the first book, it can be read as a stand-alone novel.