Sieni A.M. has just released her second novel, ‘Scar of the Bamboo Leaf’. Here you can read what inspired her to write this book, and how it may teach every single one of us to be a better person.
Pasifika Tales: ‘Scar of the Bamboo Leaf’ is your second novel. I must say it is absolutely amazing. What inspired you to write it?
Sieni A.M.: Thank you! I wanted to write about imperfect, flawed characters, the challenges they face, and the ways in which they overcome their adversities. Out of the tests and difficulties they experience emerges nobility.
PT: Are any of the characters based on people you know in real life?
S. A.M.: The character of Kiva was inspired by a girl from my home community. She is the most radiant, beautiful person you will ever meet. She was born with a leg length deficiency, has been walking with a pronounced limp all her life, and is now attending university.
For the character of Ryler, I interviewed a graduate from the Coral Reef Academy in Samoa (American school for troubled boys). I was curious to learn about his life prior to and during Samoa. I wanted to see what impact the change in environment and culture did for him. And it did a lot. Samoa changed him for the better, but the change came firstly from within him. He made the initial steps and had the support around him to carry him forward.
PT: As you’ve mentioned, Kiva – the female protagonist in the book – is a teenage girl with a physical disability. Do you think it’s important to introduce such characters?
S. A.M.: I believe so, yes. Absolutely. Kiva has aspirations and dreams just like any other young woman and she doesn’t allow her disability to come in the way of that. Of course it isn’t easy, and she gets hurt over and over, but she also arises from those experiences. There’s much to learn from exemplars like her.
PT: What can such amazing people teach us? What message did you want to convey to your readers?
S. A.M.: Self-sacrifice. Humility. Beauty. Honesty. Purpose. However, once a story is out there it no longer belongs to the writer. A reader will interpret and connect to it in vastly different ways.
PT: The novel also emphasizes the importance of family and home. Samoa seems to be a kind of shelter for all the characters in the book…
S. A.M.: Yes, Samoa is the main setting for ‘Scar of the Bamboo Leaf’. It’s what I’m most intimately connected with – the culture, the landscape, the people. I also love to travel so the novel is also set in three other countries.
PT: Ok, what’s next for you? Can we expect another wonderful story?
S. A.M.: Something new is definitely brewing… So far there’s a woman florist, a beach cottage, a graveyard, and of course a guy. The first time she meets him, she saves his life then punches him in the face. It’ll be released in 2015.