Monday, 15 August 2011

Film vs. Book meets Kerem Mermutlu

Kerem Mermutlu is the author of My Last Summer and has worked as a bookseller and English teacher abroad. Here he tells me why he loves writing so much and where his favourite places in the world are.

How did you first get into travelling and living and working abroad? What motivated you?

I had graduated from doing a masters degree in art history and theory and was working part time in a bookstore and I basically just wanted to be a writer. I'd been writing all throughout art school with short stories and a couple of novels that didn't work, and at the time I thought I could do a PHD while trying to write in my spare time. But I realized that I had to kind of choose one or the other. I guess doing a PHD and becoming a professor is more sensible than an uncertain future of being a writer. 

At around the same time I read Number9dream by David Mitchell, which was set in Japan. I read that book and loved it and found out that he was actually teaching English in Japan while he wrote the novel.  This got me thinking. I hadn't really traveled anywhere before and I certainly hadn't worked or lived abroad, let alone been to Asia. I figured I could do a PHD whenever. Going on a new adventure to some new place while trying to write seemed far more appealing. So that's how it started.

At what point did you decide to write about a Taiwanese girl? What inspired the story?

The idea of a Taiwanese girl came about when I was actually at Taiwan's international airport and I was having something to eat while waiting for a flight and I noticed the girl who served me. I started to ask myself what her daily life was like, and if she had she ever been abroad even though she was working somewhere where everyone was leaving or going places. 

I liked that idea of someone working so close to somewhere that might help you escape, but never having enough money or bravery to do so. I was in the middle of writing something else at the time so I didn't really think about it again, but that image of the girl and the feeling of wanting to escape, that stayed in the back of my head. About a year later I started to write about her and couldn't stop.

Where is your favourite place in the world?

Well, I’ve lived and worked in London, Japan and Taiwan, but I still want to explore new places, so I don't think I've discovered a favourite place yet. I've visited New York and loved it, so I'd definitely love to go back to America and explore other cities there.

You clearly love writing (I've seen your website!) What is it you love about the process?

I guess I just need to write. Writing for five minutes or twenty minutes a day makes me feel good. I have to do it. If I don't write for a few days then I get very nervous and agitated or just pissed off. I started writing a short story a day on my blog to just experiment with different ideas and see what I could come up with. Now I do it because I need to. It's like writing a diary entry every day. It's my way of writing a diary, you could say.

What sort of books do you love to read. Who are your favourite authors?

I'm really into a lot of new YA fiction at the moment. After I read books like 'It's kind of a funny story' by Ned Vizzini and 'Looking for Alaska' by John Green, I realised that these kinds of books were very easy to read, addictive, and (most importantly) they were fun. They dealt with issues like depression or suicide or just feeling lonely, in a very fresh, interesting way. I used to read a lot of 'serious' books that had big grand themes, but now I just want a good voice that just wants to tell a good story.

What can we expect from you in the future?

There will be a new book coming out in November, which is another YA novel. It's set in England and is about a fifteen year old boy who’s trying to make a movie with one camera and no budget. It also involves stickers, Hello Kitty, a strange girl, and trying to survive school. Thank you so much.

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