Turning The Pages With Shankari Chandran

Jun 12 2024.

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Shankari Chandran is enjoying the success of her latest tome Safe Haven. The Australian author of Sri Lankan origin is known for her stories based on Sri Lankans which makes it all the more interesting.  Though initially pursuing a Bachelor of Commerce and Law (LLB) degree, it soon became clear that Shankari’s true inclinations lay in arts, literature, and law. Residing in Sydney, Australia, she always identified as a writer, believing that anyone who writes is a writer.

Her love for writing burgeoned into an obsession with her first novel, “Song of the Sun God,” a passion project she was determined to see published. Her writing journey was driven by a desire to celebrate Tamil culture and resilience, and to address historical injustices through fiction. Despite initial challenges in finding an Australian publisher for her debut novel due to its perceived market suitability, she found success in Sri Lanka through Perera-Hussein Publishing House.

Subsequent novels faced similar challenges, but her breakthrough came with “Chai Time at Cinnamon Gardens,” published by Ultimo Press. This success allowed her to bring “Song of the Sun God” to audiences in Australia and the UK, marking a significant turning point in her literary career.

Q WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME A WRITER? I was always a writer. Anyone who writes is a writer. I loved writing Song of the Sun God and it went from a passion to an obsession I wanted to see published. Writing is addictive, so the more I wrote, the more I wanted to write.

Q CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY TO BECOMING A PUBLISHED AUTHOR? I wanted to celebrate Tamil culture and resilience, memorialise our tragedies and litigate our injustices through fiction. Initially, for my first novel (Song of the Sun God) I could not find a publisher in Australia as my work was not considered Australian enough for the Australian market, despite its very Australian and deeply universal themes.

I published in Sri Lanka in 2017 through PereraHussein Publishing House but the book did not travel very far, except through my global extended family network. I wrote two more novels (one was published in Australia, one remained on a laptop) and then I wrote Chai Time at Cinnamon Gardens. That book and my publisher, Ultimo Press (Australia), changed my publishing life and because of Chai Time’s success, I was able to bring Song of the Sun God to Australia and the UK, through Ultimo. One liner: Safe Haven is a love story and a murder mystery set in an offshore detention centre. 

Q HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR WRITING STYLE  OR VOICE? Increasingly honest. I care less with age.

Q WHERE DO YOU DRAW INSPIRATION FOR YOUR STORIES OR CHARACTERS? I see stories and characters everywhere I look.

Q WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING? The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Q WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY DO YOU ADMIRE THEM? Arundhati Roy – she’s ferociously honest, unafraid and uses story-telling to create social change. I also think Vyasa did a cracking job of delivering the truth.

Q WHAT FICTIONAL CHARACTER RESEMBLES YOU THE MOST? Calvin, Hobbes and Susie Derkins from Calvin & Hobbes. I’m all three.


Q TELL US ABOUT A BOOK YOU ENJOYED READING AS A CHILD AND THE EFFECT IT HAD ON YOU. To Kill A Mockingbird showed me the complexity of justice, revealed its failings and demonstrated how story-telling can interrogate it all.

Q WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON SELF-PUBLISHING? Any path that takes you to readers is a good one and it’s preferable to having a book languishing on a laptop or with the wrong publisher.

Q CAN YOU SHARE ANY INSIGHTS OR TEASERS ABOUT YOUR UPCOMING PROJECTS OR WORKS  IN PROGRESS? Safe Haven is just out, Unfinished Business is out at the end of the year (a political thriller set in Sri Lanka in 2009) and I’m about to start working on my next manuscript (no teasers allowed, talk to me in 2 years).

Pix courtesy SC


Tina Edward Gunawardhana

Tina Edward Gunawardhana is a journalist specialising in travel, fashion, lifestyle, cuisine and personalities. She is also the Deputy Editor for Hi!! Magazine. An intrepid traveller, she likes to show readers the world through her eyes and experiences. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram - tinajourno [email protected]



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