by Meridith McKinnon
I’ve spent a month in Thailand and returned inspired for the next chapter in Lek Jaipong’s life!
Writing book number two was always going to be a challenge. Everywhere I read, and I read a LOT about new authors, indie authors, published authors …. It screams at me the fact that the second novel can be the hardest. I’m beginning to realise this is true.
But … back to my time in Thailand first!
What prompted this trip?
So you all know now that The Thai Wife was released in June this year. This was a story that had rumbled around in my head for a long time – maybe ten years – so when it came out (some writers call this the vomit draft!) it purged onto my laptop at lightning speed! That first draft is a bit of blur, as it rushed from my head to my fingers onto the key board and BANG! it was there! That first draft was so easy.
I didn’t overthink it, it wasn’t overcomplicated, it was just done. In my head I could see it like a movie and that’s how I wrote. I could smell the scenes, hear the noise, feel the heat and sweat of my characters. Having been to Thailand so many times this was easy to do. And the streets I knew so well where I could see Lek standing at that window looking down on her father, I knew the road she went up the night she killed him and I felt that exhaustive lather of sweat on David. I had seen the concrete cells of a Thai Prison, and although the prison I had been to housed predominantly children in shackles, more horrific than you can imagine, I could see the basket making room and Lek there.
The thought of writing a sequel to The Thai Wife had begun to form in my mind well before I had finished the final draft. But there were many unanswered questions about her future and what was going to be exposed as part of my ‘cause’. Those that have read TTW know the underlying theme of displacement and although Lek is a woman who causes much violence in her revenge, she saved people and her story exposes the complex lives of the forgotten Burmese. To continue her and to move to her next story I had to revisit these places. And as always I wasn’t disappointed.
Where did I go?
This visit we were met in Bangkok by my Thai brother and whisked away to the North Eastern part of Thailand. We drove maybe 4-6 hours each day, some a bit more, some days a bit less, and explored many out of the way tourist places. Prasat Phnom Rung National Park was one highlight amoungst many!
This temple is situated at an extinct volcano which has been dormant for 900,000 years. The sanctuary is dedicated to the Pasupata sect of Sivaite Hinduism, which believed in the God Siva. Hence the many stone carvings featured Siva, (Siva is easily recognized with the many arms) and many of these carvings were in perfect condition. The most ancient part of this construction was built in 10th century A.D. which I think aligns to a similar time of the Anchor Wat in Cambodia. We were amazed that the Anchor Wat was only about one and a half hours drive from here but we had this entire park and this incredible build all to ourselves! The enormity of it and its still imposing condition was captivating.
This National Park is in the province Buri Ram, so we still had a bit further to reach the very far east and border of Laos. Again, we were captivated by the huge Mekong and surrounding lush agriculture. From Ratchathani we headed back across the entire breadth of Thailand to Kamphaengphet. The home of Lek.
dThe home of Lek but also my Thai family – my brother and his wife, who we had spent the week travelling with and again thrilled to see Khun Pa and the family. Kamphaengphet is growing with exciting new businesses like the Tree Room Cafe. We are pleased the family is well and thriving. We make a quick visit to Maesot (for those who remember this is where Lek also spent some time living) . I wasn’t prepared for the progress in Maesot! This melting pot border town, gateway to Myanmar has exploded with development! Building everywhere and signs of wealth I wouldn’t have predicted but thinking about it I shouldn’t have been so surprised. The wealth of Myanmar’s natural resources is mind blowing. With new avenues of export open to china for gas and oil – it makes the lucrative Jade market seem even more ludicrous. I say this because I can understand the need for gas and oil – even though it will be mined unethically and expletively – but I cannot come to terms with the need for Jade. Click on these titles and watch a brief documentary Jade and the Generals or a longer Aljazeera one, Counting The Cost and you will understand more about this horrific industry and what it’s doing to the people of Myanmar. It is described as one of the biggest mining heists in global history. It has also fed into the drug trade with shocking implications.
What am I writing...
Now, back to my laptop and writing for Nanowrimo – this month writers across the world join National Novel Writers Month – I hope to have my manuscript done in this month! There you go I’ve said it, I have to do it!! I’ve come back enormously inspired and as you can read, the human rights issues of Myanmar still occupy a big place in my mind. It is horrendous to think the civil wars of this country have gone on for so long and the exploitation of natural resources continue to destroy the people, its landscape and only benefit the economy of its neighbour, China. There are many injustices in the world but I remain focused on the three that have had the biggest impact on my writing. They are the three countries who still actively use land minds in their control of humans – Myanmar, Syria and North Korea.
So while this recent journey to Thailand has fueled my writing, you will find in my next book, Lek Jaipong is far from Thailand, in another place extremely foreign to her.
Writing this sequel could take me some time …. thanks for reading.