A Malaysian Storyteller – interview with Amir Muhammad (15 September 2009)

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Credit for this photo goes to Irman Noor & Clementino Kulup

Credit for this photo goes to Irman Noor & Clementino Kulup

Introduction

For a long time now, I’ve wanted to interview Amir. However, if truth be known, I never had guts to ask him. So, when Tan May Lee offered to refer this matter to him, I jumped at the chance. I’ve enjoyed reading his answers and am sure you will too. Therefore, without further ado, I have great pleasure in introducing to you, Amir Muhammad …


Aneeta: Amir, thank you for agreeing to this interview.

Amir: Wassup, bitch?

Aneeta: Let’s start with a little information about you. Where were you born, where did you grow up, what do you do for a living and where do you live now?

Amir: 1972. I am exactly two weeks older than Alyssa Milano. I was born in Kuala Lumpur, grew up in KL, and now live in Petaling Jaya, which is right next to KL. I have my own publishing company, Matahari Books, which has produced about a dozen books in its first 2 years.

Aneeta: I am aware that you’ve written/published several books. Please share with us your three favourite books. Please describe them and give an idea of where my readers will be able to obtain a copy if they so choose.


Amir: Well, I do have a soft spot for Malaysian Politicians Say the Darndest Things (Vol 1) because it was the first thing I published, and remained the highest-selling! It’s a simple idea that worked, because our politicians have a knack for saying the oddest things. I also spent a lot of time on New Malaysian Essays 2 as this is a non-fiction platform I want to encourage; I don’t actually mind that it doesn’t really make money! And I am happy to have encouraged Charlene Rajendran to write Taxi Tales on a Crooked Bridge, as this is the sort of original non-fiction writing that I set up Matahari Books to tackle. All three books are on Amazon.com and in Malaysian bookshops.

Aneeta: Let’s discuss your newest publication, Body2Body. What is this book about?


Amir: It’s Malaysia’s first queer anthology, and is a compilation of original creative writing on the gays, lesbians, transsexuals and transgendered folks of Malaysia. We even include bisexuals, who might normally just be considered slutty rather than worthy. I’m happy that it came out so well, so kudos to the hard-working editors Pang Khee Teik and Jerome Kugan! It includes some of the best writers in Malaysia, such as Shih-Li Kow and Brian Gomez. But due to its subject-matter, it is only in limited release in Malaysia.

Aneeta: From what I can gather, you’ve got 2 blogs: one called Matahari Books (http://mataharibooks.blogspot.com) and another called Writing by Amir (http://amirmu.blogspot.com). Can you please tell me what the purpose of both these blogs is?

Amir: The first is just a catalogue because I haven’t yet had the time to do an official website. The second is for fun. I don’t really ‘promote’ every single thing I do — that would be vulgar — but I blog whenever it amuses me.

Aneeta: I understand that you’re also a filmmaker. What films have you been involved in so far?

susukAmir: I have made several documentaries (including one in Indonesia), an experimental movie in Japan, and two fiction films. I also co-directed a lesbian vampire movie called Susuk. Two of my documentaries, The Last Communist and Village People Radio Show, are banned in Malaysia, but the DVDs can be obtained if you are resourceful enough.

Aneeta: When you choose to write or even publish a story, what are the criteria you’re looking for? What elements of storytelling do you focus on when looking at a tale?

Amir: I publish mainly non-fiction (although most entries for Body 2 Body ended up being fiction). I look to be hooked! It’s as simple as that. If a writer has the confidence and style to reel me in, I can read a book even if it’s about a subject that I had hitherto never been curious about.

Aneeta: As you know, this website caters for storytellers. What advice would you give those who would like to venture into storytelling?

Amir: Keep on truckin’.

Aneeta: Amir, this is all I have to ask. Is there anything you’d like to add?

Amir: Did I mention that I am two weeks older than Alyssa Milano?

Aneeta: Amir, thank you.

Amir: As the Malay kids now say: “No hal.


This piece may NOT be freely reprinted. Please contact editor @ howtotellagreatstory.com for reprint rights.

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