Niromi de Soyza
author of Tamil Tigress
Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
I was born in Kandy, the central hill country of Sri Lanka and moved to the northern town of Jaffna when I was eight. As the civil war engulfed the country, I fled to India when I was eighteen and completed my schooling before arriving in Sydney, Australia two years later. I now live in Sydney’s northshore with my husband and two children and teach at a University.
At twelve, I wanted to be a writer, at eighteen, a freedom fighter and at thirty, to make a positive contribution to the community.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
That violence could be combated with violence
4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?
1. Having been separated as a child from my family at a young age.
2. Reading the works of Indian poet Subramaniya Barathi and by Che Guevara.
3. Experiencing the terrible effects of violence early in life have all taught me the transient nature of human life and to not to take anything for granted.
5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? aren’t they obsolete?
Far from it – those who are interested not only in news briefs and current affairs but also in gaining depth of knowledge, enjoy the use of language as an art form and care for a good story will continue to read books, whether in hard copy or as e-books.
6. Please tell us about your latest book…
My memoir the Tamil Tigress is the story of my childhood in Sri Lanka, how I came to be a child soldier with the Tamil Tigers and why I left. It is about teenage idealism, coming of age, shattered dreams and heartbreak of leaving ones home and settling in another country.
(BBGuru: Publisher synopsis – In 1987, 17-year old Niromi de Soyza shocked her middle-class Sri Lankan family by joining the Tamil Tigers. Equipped with a rifle and cyanide capsule she was one of the rebels’ first female soldiers. Now married and living in suburban Sydney, this is her story of her time as a guerrilla.
Two days before Christmas in 1987, at the age of 17, Niromi de Soyza found herself in an ambush as part of a small platoon of militant Tamil Tigers fighting government forces in the bloody civil war that was to engulf Sri Lanka for decades. With her was her lifelong friend, Ajanthi, also aged 17. Leaving behind them their shocked middle-class families, the teenagers had become part of the Tamil Tigers’ first female contingent. Equipped with little more than a rifle and a cyanide capsule, Niromi’s group managed to survive on their wits in the jungle, facing not only the perils of war but starvation, illness and growing internal tensions among the militant Tigers. And then events erupted in ways that she could no longer bear.
How was it that this well-educated, mixed-race, middle-class girl from a respectable family came to be fighting with the Tamil Tigers? Today she lives in Sydney with her husband and children; but Niromi de Soyza is not your ordinary woman and this is her compelling story.)
7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?
8. Whom do you most admire and why?
9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
Mine is simple – to live a life of no regrets.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Nothing they haven’t already heard – true belief and commitment to your craft for the right reasons! And ‘start now!’
Niromi, thank you for playing.
About the Contributor
While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.