- What inspired you to write your first book?
- Are the characters in the novel based on real people?
- Are the experiences of the book’s main protagonist autobiographical in nature? Why did you choose first-person narration for this novel?
- What did you learn about yourself during the writing of this novel?
- How did your training to become a chiropractic physician impact or inform your creative process as a novelist?
- Who are your greatest writing influences? In what ways did their work impact you?
- What kind of response do you hope readers have to Jaya Nepal!? What do you hope people will take away from this novel?
- Where does the title of the book come from? Why did you choose this title?
- Were you ever a Peace Corps volunteer? What is your relationship with the Peace Corps, and why did this organization figure so prominently in the novel?
- What was the most challenging aspect of writing Jaya Nepal!? What was the most rewarding?
I was in Nepal for a (non-Peace Corps) volunteer placement, and I found myself fascinated with and absorbed by Nepali culture. To help me process and interpret my experience, I started writing short stories that incorporated many of the things I witnessed or participated in during my time in Nepal. What began as a small collection of unrelated short stories eventually morphed into Jaya Nepal!—a novel-length fictional work that attempts to capture the incredible spirit of the Nepali people. I’ve always enjoyed writing, but creative writing in particular captured my imagination and heart in a way that no other art form previously had. This discovery was a complete (and happy!) surprise. Once I started writing, countless ideas for the story simply rose to the surface. I loved the feeling of freedom that creative writing stirred inside of me. I also loved that the possibility of creating something both entertaining and meaningful seemed within reach, if only I dedicated myself to the project with enthusiasm and persistence.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of writing, at least for me, is bringing into a story the diverse personalities and the mannerisms of people I’ve met. I’ve been fortunate to meet many incredible people during my travels, both domestic and abroad. I wanted to incorporate aspects of these individuals into my novel as a way of honoring them and thanking them for their presence in my life. I will say, though, that none of the characters in Jaya Nepal!, including the main protagonist, are based on just one person. In fact, many of the characters are composites of three, four, or even five unique individuals I have met at some point in my life, and they carry with them the stories, traits, and aspirations of their real-life counterparts.
Elements of the story and the plot, while embellished, are largely based upon my own experiences of traveling throughout Nepal and other parts of the subcontinent during my twenties. Many of the events that characters in the novel experience were events that I experienced as a traveler (or heard about from other travelers). I think it’s only natural for authors to bring this kind of perspective into their writing. It’s a way of preserving all the unique travel and cultural experiences that could be forgotten over time and crystallizing the emotions that accompany those experiences.
I chose first-person narration for Jaya Nepal! because it felt like the most honest and authentic way to tell the story. It’s a narrative style that I’m comfortable with, and I think it works well for the story that’s being told in the novel. I also thought it would be interesting to share Nepali culture and society through the eyes of a Westerner.
The process of writing Jaya Nepal! was profoundly illuminating for me. It was a completely unexpected journey of self-discovery, both as a writer and a person. I learned that writing a novel is an endurance event that requires equal amounts of stamina and conviction. I learned that, though obsession is an important aspect of this kind of project, it’s important to strike a balance in life, nurturing all aspects of health and creativity. I also learned that patience truly is a virtue—that if you step away from your work for a prolonged period, you can eventually return to it with a fresh perspective, and the writing will be better. It took a long time for me to cultivate that kind of patience, but in the end, I think I’m a happier and more effective writer for doing so.
If I see anything of myself reflected in this work, it would be the joy I felt about discovering creative writing (as a great passion in my life). I hope that this love of the process shines through in Jaya Nepal! and that readers get a sense of what’s truly important to me in life. My great hope, of course, is that the messages that exist at the core of this novel will resonate with readers and contribute, in some small way, to a happier, healthier, and more harmonious human family.
I think that an intimate understanding of the functions, illnesses, and needs of the human body is a huge advantage for a writer. I believe that the intense, focused study of the medical sciences and the subsequent practice of manual medicine helped me better grasp not only the inner workings of the body but also the state of the human condition—an essential piece of insight for any would-be novelist. My health care education also exposed me to information and experiences that I wouldn’t have had access to otherwise, and it taught me much about the widely differing personalities and the fundamental nature of human beings. Just as writing is equal parts planning and execution, being a doctor is as much about navigating the nuances of patients’ personalities as it is about performing a healing act. As a practicing physician (and aspiring novelist), I had the great fortune of interacting with a large cross section of people whose personalities, quirks, and mannerisms I studied, assimilated, and (in some cases) incorporated into my writing.
As a writer, I tend to absorb aspects of or elements from every book (fiction and nonfiction) that I read. The influences on Jaya Nepal! include several contemporary writers, namely Gregory David Roberts, Rohinton Mistry, and Khaled Hosseini. Of all the books I read while writing Jaya Nepal!, it was Roberts’s Shantaram that inspired me most. I love how he poetically describes the nuances of Indian culture and the way he uses the medium of fiction to share what seems to be an intensely personal tale. I really appreciate the effort it takes to weave a story from the actual events of one’s life, to tell a profoundly intimate story while still making the novel universal enough to be relevant to the reader. Like Roberts, all the novelists I mentioned above have this amazing gift of describing eminently human struggles and achievements, of telling captivating stories to which almost everybody—regardless of cultural background—can relate.
I would like readers to find an engaging story, complex characters with whom they can relate (or at least understand), and a captivating world that begs further exploration. If they can empathize (or at least sympathize) with the experiences of the main protagonist, then they can transport themselves into that time and place, with all the hopes, dreams, and fears that new adults possess.
Beyond that, there are several things I hope people will take away from this novel. First, I’d like people to get a sense of how exhilarating and important it is to engage people from other cultures. Befriending people from other cultures is not only fun, it also helps us better understand where we come from and why we do things the way we do. Second, I strive to pass along my own insatiable curiosity to know how others live their lives, to understand what similarities and differences exist between our experiences of life, and to discover how life in different cultures shapes a person’s identity and contributes to their worldview. And finally, I hope that this novel stimulates a sense of urgency in readers to get out and experience the larger world. Travel and interaction with diverse peoples have the ability to enrich lives in ways that are indescribable; I believe that the things you choose to do in your life—such as summoning the courage to step out into the world and do something that’s new, something that’s perhaps even a little outside your comfort zone—has the capacity to favorably alter the direction of your life, grant you gifts that last for a lifetime, and move humanity further down its intended path.
During my time in Nepal, I quickly discovered that Nepalis are a deeply patriotic people. Although they’re faced with some significant challenges, and although there’s a complex array of ethnicities coexisting within the country’s borders, the Nepali people are quick to show their pride and voice their sense of unity. Jaya Nepal!—which means, “Long live Nepal!”—is a rallying cry I heard often during my stay in the country, a poignant mantra I believe captures the Nepalis’ incredible spirit of camaraderie and pride in their achievements as a people and a nation. I think it also stems from the need to assert a sense of individuality and autonomy in a region that’s heavily influenced by the two powerhouses: India and China.
I chose this title because I feel it supports and honors Nepal and Nepalis in a very positive way, that it celebrates their fighting spirit in the face of great challenges. I also chose this title because, perhaps selfishly, I wanted my memories of the country, the people, and the experiences I had there to remain alive for a long time to come. The title reminds me that there’s still more of this incredible country and culture to be explored and experienced, that there are still many more friends to meet and adventures to be had.
While I hold the organization in great esteem, and while I have nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for the work of Peace Corps volunteers around the world, I’ve never personally been a PCV. In fact, my relationship with the Peace Corps is purely tangential. While researching and writing Jaya Nepal!, I benefited considerably from the insight of returned volunteers who described for me, in great detail, the highs and lows of life in the service. Through their stories—and through my own experience as a volunteer in Nepal with a different organization—I gained a sense of the common happenings and emotions that are so intimately a part of the volunteer experience.
I knew right from the start that one of the main themes I wanted to explore in this novel was that of the volunteer experience, and so I needed a reputable and easily recognizable organization to serve as a platform for this aspect of the novel. Perhaps the most widely recognized volunteer organization in the world, the Peace Corps fit the bill to perfection. Aiding this choice was the fact that the Peace Corps had a very rich and distinguished history in Nepal, a compelling story and time-honored tradition all its own that begged exploration.
The most challenging aspect of writing Jaya Nepal! was figuring out what messages I wanted the book to house at its core. I knew that it was essential to incorporate all aspects of the human experience into the story, but I also knew that I wanted the novel to reach people on a deeper level, to challenge peoples’ sense of what “the good life” really means, and to encourage a spirit of engagement with social causes and the people with whom such causes seek to assist. Choosing which messages are most important to me as a human being and as a writer, and then figuring out how to let those messages drive the story, was far more challenging than I’d initially imagined.
The most rewarding aspect of writing the novel was the effect it had on my growth as a human being. I think that the whole process of researching and constructing the novel helped me become a more compassionate and understanding person, and that’s a gift that I cherish. Also, writing has given me a platform from which to reach out to others and share my thoughts and experience of the world, and that fills me with a deep sense of satisfaction.