Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mamu Vies & Dog Pound

Today theSun published my interview with Mamu Vies who spoke about his debut Dog Pound that has hit the book shelves recently. The interview took place in Chawan Bangsar and his fiancee, the famous novelist Nadia Khan was also present at the interview and she  contributed a few words to the interview. Here is the full article.   

Headline: A Tale Worth Telling  
By Bissme S 

The Violent world of underground boxing formed the main plot for Muhammad Fahmi’s Dog Pound, his English fiction that recently hit the bookshelves. The author, who writes under the pen-name of Mamu Vies, explains that the boxing element in his debut novel is an allegory of how all of us are fighting for survival in life.
On his personal battles in his own life, Mamu says: “I am constantly fighting to make a living as an artiste. I have failed in so many things. But I always find myself coming back and doing artistic stuff. I feel alive when I am doing artistic stuff.”
Published by Fixi Novo, Dog Pound centres on Azroy, a risingstar in the underground boxing circuit, who finds himself in hot soup after he kills his opponent in the boxing ring. On the run from the law, he soon learns that he has been framed and that there are powerful forces involved.
Mamu himself has taken some lessons in kickboxing in the past and his experience proves invaluable in writing this novel.
“Some of my friends and I had sparring sessions after our kickboxing lessons,” recalls the 27-year-old full-time writer.
“But, honestly speaking, the sparring sessions I have watched and participated in are not as violent and gory as I have portrayed in my book. I have magnified my experiences some 200%!”
Mamu believes it is essential that writers today write books that are fast-paced and can be read in a few sittings to rival what the internet or smartphones and Facebook have to offer.
“People are spending more time online than on books,” he says. 
“Today, there are many more things out there that can distract you from books. I like to be a part of the movement that brings people back to reading.”
Writing this novel has been a personal achievement of sorts for this writer.
“I am one of those people who will start something and if I cannot make sense of the thing I am doing, I will not complete the task,” says Mamu who was born and raised in the Klang Valley.
“It took me three years to complete the novel. I really believe this novel is something that I really care about because I have completed it.”
Currently, writing any more novels has to take a back seat as he is busy writing three film scripts with his fiancée, Nadia Khan, who is also a novelist and writes in both the national language and English.
Some couples do not like the idea of working together. But not these two creative minds.
Nadia says Mamu is more attracted to the way a writer writes his prose while she goes for the way a writer writes the dialogue. 
“I think we complement each other [in this way].”
Is Mamu jealous of his more famous, and popular, girlfriend who has two bestselling Malay novels under her name – her debut novel Kelabu and second novel Gantung?
“If I’m successful, I want her to be happy for me and the same goes with me. I am really proud of her achievements,” says Mamu who reveals that they hope to get married next year.
“Nothing much intimidates him,” adds Nadia who states that they are very open when it comes to making criticisms or giving compliments to each other’s work.
“I will always encourage Nadia to be fiercer with her criticism on my work. I will keep asking her where are her claws,” says Mamu with a laugh.
Asked which he likes better – writing scripts or novels, Mamu admits to preferring the latter. He says with a smile: “I am a control freak. In [publisher] Amir Muhammad’s words: with a book, you deal with lesser idiots; it is only between you, your publisher and your readers.”
In some ways, he admits writing allows a writer to play god to his/her characters. 
“I like playing god,” he says. “But I would not be an intrusive god who throws out lightning or swallows up my characters.”
He also adds that whenever he writes, he makes it a point to never judge his characters.
“I believe that if you judge your characters right away, there will be a lot of self censoring and your characters will be bland and you will not get the full story.
“When your characters are bland, then it will not be a story worth telling.”
Interestingly, Mamu had wanted to be a cartoonist.
“Creating worlds and telling stories have always appealed to me,” he says. “[But now] instead of drawing, I am creating my worlds and stories with words.”
He hints that, one day, he might still be able to fulfil that dream where he gets to tell his stories through pictures.
Mamu Vies with his fiancee Nadia Khan
Mamu with his book Dog Pound

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