When I was shut up in my studio writing the novel Teak Lord, I often thought "Wouldn't it be nice if, when this book is published, I could get some feedback from people who read it?" I'm not talking online ratings but actually meeting face-to-face to discuss ideas in the book.
This wish came true yesterday when I met the members of the Chiang Mai Women's Book Club, which apparently has been going for about 30 years, in which time they have read LOTS of books. Over a tasty lunch of khanom cheen, a local speciality, followed by pumpkin pie, I was privileged to hear their comments and try to answer their questions.
Not surprisingly, they were curious to know which parts of the novel were based on fact and which were imaginary, and we also discussed anachronisms (events or people belonging to another time) as I had introduced a few of these for fun, such as naming some monks in the book after famous Thai monks of the 20th century (the novel ends at the close of the 19th century).
One question I was unable to answer was whether local ladies wore underwear during the era (there is a scene in the book where such a garment is removed and later discovered in a compromising place). I had to admit I had found no reference to this during my research, and logic would suggest they probably didn't, so I suppose it was just a male fantasy as I described a romantic/sexual scene (chapter 14 for your reference).
Fortunately, the Book Sisters didn't beat me up for this weakness and I was able to return home in one piece, replete with pumpkin pie and the pleasure of a stimulating literary conversation. Thanks, sisters!
is a British writer and photographer based in Chiang Mai, Thailand.