So after reading Radio Shangri-La, and reviewing it, I found the perfect opportunity to ask Ms. Napoli the questions I wanted to about the book. I wanted to know more about her and the process of writing this wonderful book. So here goes the interview:
Why write about Bhutan? What led you to it?
I knew next to nothing about Bhutan when I met a handsome man at a party who got me invited there to help with a new youth-oriented radio station. I was a radio journalist at the time and I had no intentions of writing a book. I just wanted to get off my daily treadmill…but nine months after I returned, I realized going there had changed my outlook on life, and that in mid-life, everyone gets to that point where they feel trapped, regardless their circumstances.
Your thoughts on life – The one thing that it takes to live it.
Be kind. (Be open, too, to new things, but in way these two things are very much tied together.)
What do you think of Bhutan as a country basis your experience? What did you think of it before visiting and writing this book?
I knew it didn’t have TV until ten years ago, and I knew the people were very religious (Buddhist.) Those were very appealing to me, as I see television as a very problematic force (for all the good it has offered, it’s like candy–you can’t exist on a steady diet of it.) And I was feeling a serious lack of spirituality in my life.
American vs. Bhutanese culture
In the end, everyone wants love, clean water and food, and good shelter. Beyond that, the trappings and how they manifest are variant.
The favourite and least favourite part of Bhutan according to you
The landscape is my favorite, followed a close second by the mythology. The least: the issues with Nepali citizens forced out of the country.
How difficult was it for you to adjust to Bhutanese Cuisine? You did mention that most dishes were too hot to be tried.
Super-hot spice is a big essential part of the Bhutanese diet. I’m a leafy green, fresh vegetable sort of person and that wasn’t a typical part of the diet. But having my own kitchen helped.
Your literary influences
I love the complete works of Sinclair Lewis, an American author not as widely read any more as I feel he should be. While I was writing Radio Shangri-La, I slept for a while with Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt under my pillow. I thought if I could write something even a fraction as good as that, I’d be happy.
Lisa the writer…
I love being holed up in a room for days and hours, thinking and writing. And then walking or swimming and thinking some more about it. I don’t believe there’s a thing called writer’s block–you just sometimes need to go for a walk. Or take a protracted break.
Lisa the reader (her favourite writers and books)
See above. I also love the southern US writers, Flannery O’Connor, James Agee, Eudora Welty. Truman Capote, too. And Donna Tartt’s A Secret History has to be still one of the most fantastically terrifying books I’ve ever read. Finally, Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying is, to me, a masterpiece.
Then there’s ee cummings and Roald Dahl and, and….
Has Lisa the person changed after Bhutan? If yes, then how?
I’m not sure if changed is right as much as evolved. I hope I’m more empathetic, and I’m definitely more giving. The only reason I’d like to make a lot of money is to have a lot to give away. I’m also definitely far more religious. And thankfully, I’m no longer stuck in that treadmill of a job.
Finally, what next after Radio Shangri-La?
I’m working with some friends to help build a library in Bhutan by raising money through READGlobal.org And I’m working on two books, one about the parties I have every Friday night at my apartment, and the other the memoirs of an American-born Buddhist monk I study with in Los Angeles.
And here is where you can know more about the book and about Lisa:
On her website: http://www.lisanapoli.com
To read an excerpt from the book, please go here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/47547372/Radio-Shangri-La-by-Lisa-Napoli-Excerpt
You can also see her speak about the book here: