The 2015 winner of the South East Asian Writers (SEA Write) Award, Veeraporn Nitiprapha, 53, used to work in advertising and magazine editing before releasing her debut novel this year, Saiduan Ta Bod Nai Khaowongkot (A Blind Earthworm in a Labyrinth). Reflecting political turmoil and romantic feuds through five main characters and their relationships, the novel was praised for both its critique of Thai family structure and its evocative descriptions of food. Here, she talks to BK about life before and after becoming a successful novelist.

What questions are you sick of hearing?

What my thoughts are on being a female writer winning this award. I don’t feel any different or think any differently. I also get a lot of “how has your life changed?” My life hasn’t changed much. I’m a lot busier but I am still living and writing. What I want people to ask me are questions like, “how do you stay looking this young and healthy?”

Are you always a positive, happy, person?

I guess you could put it that way. My mom was a piano teacher. We didn’t have much but every time she earned enough she would take me to a nice fancy restaurant to try international food. Eating sushi back then wasn’t as normal as it seems today. I was the kind of kid who liked exploring. I would skip class and go sell noodles with some aunties and lie that I went to school. I think I am an optimist. I promote life. I live like a punk. I am not attached to anything.

How did you start writing and how did Saiduan Ta Bod Nai Khaowongkot come about?

I started writing at a very young age [22], but like writing a status on Facebook, it didn’t sound pleasant enough. This book came at the right time for both me and the readers. My inspiration came from the political conflict of 2010. Writers, when they have anger, frustration, love or any emotion, can express those emotions on paper. I wrote it as a love story, so it’s not too in-your-face with politics. If you get the political references, great, if not, still great. Myths like peace and unity are promoted in society, but why is the result never what you expect it to be? This book doesn’t give you answers but it raises awareness.

Describe your creative process.

I think many writers like myself have our own bubble. When I write, I write for myself. My goal was to write this piece until I considered it a good piece of material. It took three years because I kept going back to furnish the characters’ thoughts. Think of it as a friend; you need time to get to know one another. It’s the same way with a character. I need to stick to the character and not mess it up with too many different thoughts in my head. Although I wasn’t brought up with artistic skills, my mom was a piano teacher so I was surrounded by music and art. I studied to be a secretary but I always had a curiosity for art and music.

Have you ever faced tough times in your career as a writer?

I published my own magazine, called Hype. I was desperate to make it work. But I had to ask myself the question; did I really enjoy the work or was I just comfortable with the life of picking up calls and being the boss? I knew that if I continued with publishing I would lose the integrity I have as a writer by focusing on sales rather than the creativity of the magazine. I forgot to look at what I have in life. I forgot what I was living for. When I stopped with all the work and stayed home, I got to understand myself more. I didn’t want a fancy job, I wanted to be able to live comfortably and be with my family.