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How being a writer led to tooth cavity. Adhitya Mulya reveals.

by Farah 'Fairy' Mahdzan (6 August 2005)

CAUTION: This is a feature that would may interest, oh I don't know, two people?

an interview with the wacky writer, adhitya mulya of indonesia


an interview with the wacky writer, adhitya mulya of indonesiaFinally, I get around to present you the interrogation... err, I mean, the interview with Adhitya Mulya, author of Jomblo and Gege Mencari Cinta. Please keep your arms and legs tucked in at all times. The bathroom is to your left should you wish to pass motion.



1. What gave you the idea to write Jomblo?

ADHITYA: In Indonesia, many novels came out with leading characters (LC) NOT from technical backgrounds. Mostly writers tell stories of doctors, housewives, journalists, etc. But not of engineering students or engineers. So I decided to make one, since I know how it felt like. I studied civil engineering - transport management in ITB (Institut Teknologi Bandung).


2. What inspired you to write the book?

ADHITYA: I don't really like to to read fiction. But I do love movies. The only reason I write books is because I can't make movies.


3. Was it difficult to write?

ADHITYA: It was not difficult to write, supply wise, because all my life I like to joke around with friends. And the book consists of basically most of my jokes over the years. Time management wise it was hell. As you know, I have a full time day job. As you also know, we cannot be late for work. 3 minutes late and BAM! They will hammer you. On the other hand, I often wrote until like 3 AM. So what I did was write at nights. Early in the morning I tried to beat the Jakarta traffic, got into the office basement by 7 AM, sleep in the car and be in the office by 8 AM. That went on the whole time during the making of Jomblo. That's 1 year.

Also, during writing Jomblo I drank too much Coca-Cola. Whe the book came out I had 2 teeth taken out due to cavity from Coke. I thought I learnt my lesson and consumed less Coke when I wrote my second book. Turned out I had to take out 1 other. (And yes, I brush religiously, Farah hahaha...) I think by the time the 5th book comes out I will have no tooth left.


5. How does one begin to write a book?

ADHITYA: To begin writing a book you need to know the how it begins, what is the conflict and how it climaxes and how the story ends. You need to know what moral of the story you want to tell. You have to know all of those before you even write a single word. This will reduce writer's block and avoid you from writing things that are not related to the book.


6. Who is mainly your target audience? How has the response been towards Jomblo?

ADHITYA: My target audience for Jomblo is only young readers (college age). But the response was unexpected. The reason was, high school age people buy it also because they want to know what college life is like. People who are now married also buy it for nostalgic reasons of their college years. And college people buy it because it is a story made for them. That's pretty much the response. So far we have sold over 34000 copies, a movie producer bought the movie rights, the script is almost done. That's the response in Indonesia for the book.


7. Which character in Jomblo is most like you?

ADHITYA: I would say 'Agus'. I cannot help it because he is the leading character and I was the one writing the book. This is actually not very politically correct because a good writer must be able to write a character totally un-attached to him/her. But this is my first time writing a book, soo... you know.


8. Why should people read your books and what do you hope your readers will take with them when they finish that last page of your book?

ADHITYA: Hmm, people say that my writing style is different from others. One of a kind, they would say. I cannot judge for myself though. So to answer your question, people should read my books because MAYBE I tell a story in my own way which turned out much liked by them. My hope from the readers after reading my book is that they gain some new perspectives in life. I always ensure that my stories has a moral value in it. About love or life. Bottom line, they gain something after investing some time reading it. Don't you ever feel you've been wasting time after reading a book? I always try to avoid that.


9. We hear you're in the midst of planning to make a feature film out of Jomblo. When will it be out?

ADHITYA: It is scheduled to be released in 9 FEB 2006, a long time coming. Qualitatively, the media transfer is not difficult because as I said, I love movies and the only reason I decided to write a book was because I can't make movies. So when the opportunity for the movie came up, it was like...'Finally, a chance!'


10. What are the challenges you face in translating Jomblo the book into Jomblo the movie?

ADHITYA: The real challenge was cooperating with the co-writer 'Salman Aristo' and director 'Hanung Bramantyo'. They're wonderful, creative people but due to the distance, it is very diffuclt to reach them and have conferences and like wise from their side. As you know, I live in western Africa and we have 7 hour difference with them. On the other hand, a script sld be discussed, argued, agreed and re-read with a 'triangle system' method (writer, producer, director all sitting in a room and discuss the the movie and go surgical on the script) which we cannot do.


11. How has your second book, Gege Mencari Cinta, fared in comparison to Jomblo? As good of a response? Better? Worse? Why do you think it did so?

ADHITYA: Worse. I think GMC is not doing as good as Jomblo because the target audience is segmented to one age groups and it doesn't 'infect' other age group to read it as what happened to Jomblo. GMC was also finalised at time of war in Ivory Coast so I would say I did not do a good job on perfecting the book. What with the shootings and evacuation and all hehehe...but seriously, I would say it sell nicely, but not as selling as Jomblo. I think there's only a slight chance I will ever make a book as ground breaking (if I may say so) as Jomblo.


12. Your favorite author, book and why.

ADHITYA: As I said, I don't read much fiction. People I admire are from film industry. Riri Riza and Mira Lesmana (directors and producers in Indonesia), Mike Myers, Guy Richie (did I spell that right?), and Zhang Yi Mou (China). If you really want to know strictly about authors...then it is only Dan Brown.


13. I've only read one other Indo author whom you remind me of: Hilman who wrote the popular Lupus/Lulu/Olga series. What do you think of his work?

I respect and admire him. He and I and a few others are the only ones who write comedies. I grew up reading his books which so far, 1 million sold. I don't think any other Indonesian writer is that successful, commercial-wise.


14. What are the challenges you face in the writing world of Indonesia?

ADHITYA: In Indonesia, a person still cannot make a living from writing a book. Our average royalti income is 10% from selling price and even that is taxed 15% to the government. This means 8.5% net income. The royalty is fixed to come out every 6 months, not every month. This unfortunate mechanism is hampering good writers to focus solely on their work and thus not giving their best effort. I am lucky to work in a company AND able to write. In England, a person gets a gross of 30% (to be further deducted for agent fee and tax).


15. Is a third book in the works? Any teasers for us?

ADHITYA: Regret I'm not writing any books in 2005 because I am writing the movie script for Jomblo the movie with Salman Aristo. You should interview him, he is currently the most productive Indonesian screenwriter. If I'm not mistaken, he wrote 4 films in 2005. That's uncanny. I admire him very much.


16. What does Jomblo mean?

ADHITYA: Jomblo means 'single' with a slight negative conotation. When we say we're single, it says as it is. When we say we're jomblo it midly translates 'OH MY GOD I can't get a girlfriend, kind of single.'


17. From Jomblo, I noticed that women are constantly portrayed as this sort of higher being on a pedestal - the object of oogling and fascination as well as confusion to men. Do you really think women are so complicated?

ADHITYA: Hahahah...Yes I think women are complicated. The following is an example of a conversation between my best friend (writer also) and his wife.

him: *replying an email from a female writer*
her: Who's that?
him: A writer with a debut. Award winning too..
her: Where is she?
him: in Jogja


18. What is the worse pick-up line a guy could ever use on a girl? (Bhs Indo, Inggris, terserah)


him: You have a screw driver?
her: no
him: you have a phone number, then?
(this will not work in case the woman actually brings a screw driver everywhere...)


19. Finish this sentence. "Being jomblo is not that bad, really, because...

ADHITYA: ....we get to choose who we want to be with....the tiny problem is nobody chooses to be with US! Hahaha...


Orang gila .... :-P


{ end! }

Related stories: Book Reviews - Jomblo & Gege Mengejar Cinta by Adhitya Mulya

Adhitya Mulya's blog (ideas and a rough introduction to his 3rd book are now available!)


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