Today I’m interviewing Tim Gurung. A former Gurkha, Tim Gurung is the author of eight books. His latest is The Atonement: A Celebration of Women. I recently had the privilege to chat with Tim about his life, writing and his charity, ISSLCARE.
Tell me a bit about where you’re from, how you came to Hong Kong.
I am originally from Nepal, I came to Hong Kong as a 17 years old Gurkha soldier in 1980 and I have been living here since then.
What made you want to stay in Hong Kong?
After voluntarily retiring from the British Gurkhas in 1993, I got a job at an international firm in Hong Kong that required me to travel all over China and my future was firmly set for Hong Kong.
I personally think that Hong Kong is one of such places in this world where if you really want to work hard, enough opportunities will be given, and I happened to be one of the luckiest ones as a testament of that saying. My entire adult life has been spent in Hong Kong, it is my home and I have no plan to leave it anytime soon.
Do you visit Nepal often? Have you seen major changes since you were little, and if so, what?
Sorry, I haven’t been to Nepal for the last twenty years and I am sure that a lot has changed since then. But from what I have heard or read, especially in the actual development of people, society and the nation itself, sadly it said to be much more worsened and not much improvement. And that is quite predictable too.
You write to support your charity ISSLCARE. What benefits for Nepal have you seen firsthand, as a result of ISSLCARE?
ISSLCARE is still in a very early stage, it has ambitious goal but it still has a long way to go. It helps provide scholarship to poor families so more children can go to school, we support the children until he/she reaches on grade ten, and we are currently supporting 27 children through 8 schools.
My ultimate goal at ISSLCARE is to help spread the campaign in such an extent that one day it will be able to cover the whole nation and we will be able to help many children. Writing is my passion, helping others is my compassion and I do both from the bottom of my heart.
You publish your books yourself. Have you considered the traditional publishing route?
I am a very simple, honest and independent type of guy, I want to do things on my own way and I am really passionate about my works. I decided to go with self-publishing for that reason alone and I am to talk straight from my heart, I really hate dealing with people, especially to those condescending ones. I am also only writing for my charity, I don’t write for money or fame and I don’t have to sell millions.
I don’t write for money or fame and I don’t have to sell millions.
Most importantly, I can afford it, I don’t have to beg anyone and do whatever I want to do with my writing. I have no plans whatsoever of finding agents or approaching big publishers, I am happy with what I am doing and I will keep doing it until I like it. It is the process not the final result that fascinates me and I am extremely happy with my current situation.
What advantages does self-publishing give you that traditional publishing doesn’t?
As a self-published author, we have full control along the whole process of publishing from manuscript, cover, what to put inside, printing, and distribution and to the launch date. We also have full control on marketing and do make necessary planning as we like. Of course, self-published writers have our own problems as well as limitations and we cannot move the market as the big boys do. But if your goal is simple and reasonable like mine, I think, it is the best way to move forward and that is precisely what I am doing and enjoying it.
Out of the books you’ve published, are any of them more personal to you than the others?
As the old saying goes, books are like our babies and I have no reason to see them differently. However, I am not sure why but I admit, I can hardly read my own books after they are published and I don’t have a favorite. Having said that, if I really have to point out, I would say a few – OLD MEN DON’T CRY is a book I wrote for Hong Kong, THE CURSED NATION was written for Nepal, and A TREE CALLED TENALPA was based on migration and discrimination that had been an integral part of my own life.
Which book was the most difficult to write?
Definitely OLD MEN DON’T CRY – it was not only a historical book which required a lot of researching works but it was also a very sad story to write and I wanted to pour all the pains and sorrows of my own life as well into it. It was also a very long book and it covers the entire life journey of the protagonist from his childhood to old age. I also had to memorize many events that had affected Hong Kong and I tried to present Hong Kong as one of the main characters of the book. Since it was also written for one main purpose, my humble gift to Hong Kong, it had a lot of emotions attached to it and I had to express them in the proper way as well.
Do you feel that writing a difficult book ultimately proves more worthwhile on an artistic level?
Yes, definitely. The harder you try for a book, the more satisfying it will be at the end and I think it applies to each and every aspect of our life. I read somewhere on the paper people were lamenting about lack of epic novels about Hong Kong and I decided to write one. My book OLD MEN DON’T CRY is for Hong Kong. Unlike other books written about Hong Kong, which are mostly either about tycoon, money and high life, and mostly written from a western point of view from top to bottom of the society, my book is about ordinary people like you and me and deal with our daily problems of the society. This book gives a completely different perspective of life in Hong Kong, it deals with our traditions and I have used real places and streets to give more authenticity to the story. I sincerely do hope that one day it will become one of the important books of Hong Kong and many people will be able to read and associate themselves with it. If I can achieve that, that will be greatest moment of my life.
Why did you start writing?
As I have been working really hard since 17, I never wanted to work for money after I turned fifty and instead I wanted to do something meaningful in the latter half of my life. Although I have spent my entire adult life in Hong Kong, I have never forgotten about my root back in Nepal and I always wanted to do something for my homeland. As I have already said above, writing was my passion and helping others was my compassion, why not I combine them together and uses them as a solution of my ongoing dilemma. Therefore, I decided to establish a charity and use my writing to help finance it. So, here I am and doing my utmost best to fulfill both all at the same time.
Which books/authors do you admire? Any in particular that have inspired you?
I am mostly inspired and fascinated by Nobel laureates, I have even tried to read at least a book from them and the pursuit is still going on. But to be honest with you, some of the books I read were just terrible. Maybe I chose the wrong book, I don’t know. The most books I read from one author was three and it was from Salman Rushdie. In other cases, I can only read one book from any authors and I wasn’t impressed by many authors either.
What are you working on at the moment?
Since I was fully preoccupied with book promotion for the entire 2015, I didn’t even write a single page for the entire year and I have to write 5 books all at once this year to clear it all out of my head. I am extremely busy writing for this year and hardly have time to do other things including book promotion. Hopefully I can finish them by end of the year and I have a big project for 2017. I am writing a true Gurkhas book, visiting Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, Burma, India, Nepal, UK and Europe for research works and the book should be ready to be published in 2018. Then, I think, I will take a rest.
If I were going to write my first book tomorrow, what advice would you give me?
Start promoting your book at least a year before you start writing it, know your subject and readers well, hire professional editor and cover designer, and write it as a side job until you have become a well-known author. And if you don’t love or have passion for it, don’t write it.
In closing, is there anything else you’d like to say?
Writing is a very long, slow and assiduous journey, static shows only 10% authors make a decent living out of writing and the other 90% write for vanity. Books are not like other commodities like food, cloth and furniture, people don’t have to buy it as a daily necessity, and they mostly read books from famous authors. It is a novelty that people can live without and it needs a lot of hard work, perseverance and marketing to become a famous author. Self-publishing phenomenon also made dogs and cats authors and it is not that easy to stand out of that big crowd too. One must have a passion, heart and patience.
Thank you very much, Tim, for giving me some of your time. You can find more about Tim Gurung and his books on the following sites.
Thank you so much and all the best!
TIM I GURUNG/AUTHOR AT ISSLCARE – http://www.timigurung.com