I was born and raised in Sibu, Sarawak and I still live here. Following the advice of my elders, I took
up a matriculation course in Peninsular Malaysia which eventually led me to further my studies in
Japan. Seeing how well informed the Japanese people were of their own culture made me wonder
why my friends back home know so little about my Iban heritage. It took more than a decade for me
to decide to start writing Iban Dream, and it took almost as long as that to finally see it published.
You can read a synopsis of the book at http://www.gmowe.ws/IbanDream.html.
What inspired you to take up writing?
The Sarawak jungle and the Dayak culture inspire me. I love reading history books when I was
young, and the more I read about adventurers like James and Charles Brooke, as well as the work of
Benedict Sandin and Charles Hose, the more I started to believe that the gods and goddesses of Iban
folklore existed. It also didn’t hurt that I had a great-aunt who was a good storyteller and a dad who
loved to hunt.
What is the funniest thing you’ve encountered on your journey as a Storyteller?
My bad English. I’ve always been proud of my knowledge of the English language until the day I
sat down to type out a story. It took me close to two weeks to work on the short story, and when I
eventually had the courage to show it to someone, the only good thing the reader could think to say
was that there was no spelling mistake.
Which character from any book do you think you most resemble?
I would say JIM, from Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim. Why? Because I’ve been a coward most of my
life, yet at the same time have lots of vain-glorious ideas about what I am supposed to be. Having
read the book has helped me faced my demons, so that now whenever I fantasized about doing
something, I would challenge myself to actually do it. (In fact, one of the demons I had to face was
actually finishing the book because all of Jim’s regrets and failures felt too close for comfort.)
Please tell us a little about your book or latest release. What were the challenges you faced while
writing it and bringing it onto the market?
Iban Dream is about the adventure of a headhunter in 18th century Borneo. Christianity is only 3
generations old from my Iban mother’s side of the family, so superstition is still quite thick. The first
hurdle I had to cross was the spiritual barrier, as in should I or shouldn’t I write a story with Iban gods
as characters. Then the next challenge was to find someone willing to read beyond the synopsis.
Most seemed to have a fixed idea of what to expect from this kind of story, so nothing happened for
years until I come across a publisher who was looking for Asia based stories. The e-book version has
been out since May 2012, and I expect to launch the print copy in May 2013.
Your novel Iban Dream is about an orphan boy growing up in Borneo. Do you face issues with Asian slang or certain traits that only Asians have with which Western readers might not be able to identify? How do you address these issues?
One Iban trait that I had difficulty with was their habit of referring to a parent or a grandparent based
on the name of a first child. Ibans living in the longhouse don’t call someone by their first name
after they have had a child. Since I can’t actually explain this in a story, I made a point of introducing
a child first then named the mother by her own first name, Sika. After that I introduced the other
name she is addressed by via dialogue, Indai Menjat. It took a while to plan the scene, but I feel that
it was well worth it because it allows the reader to be eased into the idea. For more visual words, I
just repeat their equivalent in English, sometimes even treating them like adjectives, e.g. blue tarum
or red engkudu dye.
What do you want your readers to feel or think after reading your novel? What message do you
want them to hold onto long after they’ve put down your book?
The Ibans have one very interesting behavior, in that, if they wish to know whether the ancient gods
would bless an important endeavor or not, they would seek to divine it via objects such as the areca
nut or the movement and call of particular species of birds. If the divination indicates ‘no’, they
would repeat the process until they get a ‘yes’. Hence my message is; a strong-willed person is
master of his own destiny because he can persuade others to support him.
Any parting words of wisdom for our readers:
Don’t just dream about what you want to do. Plan for it. There are so many opportunities open to
this generation that it would be a waste to not at least try. Only after you’ve planned, and studied
your options should you decide whether your dream is plausible.
Awesome! Thanks, Golda for an insightful interview. Readers, you can get more of Golda by following these links:
Write to me at, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Read my free stories and novellas, Website: http://www.gmowe.ws/
Find writing tips, Blogsite: http://wordpress.gmowe.ws/