"Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?"
Quite a bit. First off, the book was itself about my experiences exploring a remote part of the world. So, in a way, what’s in the book is what I learned from the project as a whole. Every new village that I walked into had its own stories. The cultures of the region were incredibly diverse: One village would be mostly Presbyterian and everyone in it would speak English and listen to Taylor Swift, and then another village only a few kilometers away would be mostly nature worshippers, and would speak almost entirely in a unique, local, dialect of the Khasi language. Really, the entire project was about searching for new learning opportunities!
When it comes to the actual craft of writing, creating the book was a learning process in that I had to figure out how to condense several years’ worth of experiences into 40,000 words (which was the limit given by my publisher). That made writing the book a sort of crash course in editing: I often wrote more than I could afford to on a given subject, and so I had to learn how to cut as much as possible from certain passages without having them lose their impact.
“What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?”
I have to admit, bringing the book to life was challenging across the board. As I mentioned above, simply writing the thing was a process of distillation: I had, if anything, too much material to fit into just one short book, so writing the book was just as much about what to leave out as what to include.
But then there were other, small, unforeseen issues. For example, the book is being released by an Indian publisher, and is targeted in large part towards an Indian audience. So, my publishers’ editor had to go in and make the text adhere to Indian (usually meaning British) usage standards. This means that in the published book “Color” is “Colour,” the quotation marks are different than they would be in a U.S. book, etc.
Regarding research, the whole book grew out of a project I was doing on Northeast India’s living root bridges. This meant that the travel the book focuses on was basically the same thing as the research. However, walking from village to village across steep canyons, in the rainiest inhabited place in the world, never having a clear idea of what was coming next, was always challenging. Of course, overcoming those challenges is what (I hope!) will make the book an interesting read.
"What are your current projects?"
I have several at the moment. I’m hoping to go back to India in 2018 and in 2019, in order to collect information for a follow-up book to The Green Unknown, and also to start work on a new project called Root Bridges Grown by Headhunters. The follow-up is going to be a day-by-day narrative of what I hope to be a six to eight week walk through a large part of Meghalaya that I’ve never been in before. Whereas The Green Unknown is sort of an introduction to the area, this new project is going to give much more details about Meghalaya, and will also be constructed as one, single, long adventure.
The other project, Root Bridges Built by Headhunters is going to be about travelling to a different Northeast Indian state called Nagaland, which is on the Indo-Myanmar border. In Nagaland, there is a tribe of people called the Konyak Nagas, some of whom were headhunters up until the 1960s. I’ve received some information that there are living root bridges in that part of India also, so I’m hoping to go and track some of them down, and write about the experience. I hope to use my notes on that expedition as the core of a new book.
"Do you have any advice for other writers?"
Yes. Don’t take advise from first time authors!
“What book are you reading now?”Right now I’m reading David Copperfield.