Sibi Selvanathan has worked in various technical roles across industries including banking and tech. During the pandemic with some newfound time and passion, he decided to get a bucket list item completed and 18 months from when he started, he is now a published author that has a book that is a Top 5 book in the Epic Fantasy category on Amazon! Additionally, he is a fitness enthusaist who enjoys being active doing things like soccer & hiking.
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Congrats on the launch of your first book “The Demon’s Return”! What made you decide to write a book? Why is it a fantasy-based story?
I've been reading and writing since I was a kid. I could go through several Goosebumps books in a week and then some. All these stories stuck with me and I started creating my own in my head. Some of them I wrote down and others I just spoke aloud to anyone that wanted to listen. As the stories began to get more complicated and the ideas started evolving, the dream of walking through Chapters and having my own book on the shelves started to grow too. Eventually having a novel out with my name as the author topped my bucket list. It had to be a fantasy story because that meant the world could be anything that I wanted it to be.
Adding all the Tamil elements (Kumari Kandam, Ilemuria, the five different landscapes, Mullai, Marutam, Kurinji, Pallai and Neytal) just gave the story that personal and cultural touch that I wanted. I added the Tamil character names and locations so that readers could identify with each of the main characters of the story.
Tell us a bit about your upbringing and how that potentially played a part in your decision to write this book?
I was an active kid, could not sit still even for a few minutes. I always had to be doing something, whether it was reading, playing soccer or any sport really. It helped me strive to always finish what I started. I walked to the local library a lot and borrowed whatever I thought I could finish. Even going to Chapters seemed like a great thing to do. It's crazy how every time I would meet up with some friends at Yorkdale mall that I would get there early and the first place I would go is Chapters. I would go find a book and read it until everyone arrived. Being surrounded by the words of different authors growing up I knew that I had to add my own story to the archives.
How long did it take you to write this book? What was the most challenging part about the journey?
I was super busy before the COVID pandemic hit. I was on a soccer field or at the gym 5-6 times a week. When the schools were shut down, my coaching program was as well. I remember finishing work one day and just thinking what do I do for the next 6 hours. I started reading again, but I wanted something more. I knew I would never get this time again and I started my research on getting a book published. A week later I had all the information I needed and I started. Eighteen months later my book was hitting Top 5 in Epic Fantasy on the Amazon charts.
The hardest part was getting started. I tried to write the perfect book from the first word. It wasn't until I read online tips where I realized that nobody was ever going to read my first draft. They would only see my final version. The first draft was me telling my story to myself so it could be as boring as possible. When I took away that pressure, the words began to flow and I had a rough first draft finished quickly. After many edits, the second draft followed. Then the third and the fourth. The fifth I sent to a professional editor and the sixth is what is being sold online.
How does writing fit with your full-time job in the tech world?
It keeps my mind creative. If I need a break from coding or being in meetings, I could use 15 minutes to brainstorm and write down ideas. I'm an early riser and I like to use this time to be productive. It helps set the tone for the day. I get in an hour in the morning before starting work and it eventually became a habit.
Can you tell us about 1 major win and 1 major loss you’ve experienced in the last 3-5 years?
The major win was of course getting this book published. I know very few people that can boast the same thing and it feels great to be part of such an elusive group.
I quit a great job to take a risk at a startup company a couple years ago. I thought it was my chance to work for a San Francisco based tech company, get my shares, have the company be sold for millions and I could retire into writing. Unfortunately, it had the opposite effect and the company did not last long. Six months later 75% of the employees were let go. Luckily enough, I was able to find another job rather easily that I was able to start a month later. I was getting married at the time too so it was good to be fully committed to the wedding and reception without having to worry about work.
What advice would you give to someone out there considering writing a book?
Do not worry about the first draft and how it sounds. No one is going to read it. They are only going to be looking at the finished product. Keep your discipline and power throughout the process.
What role has your family played in the choices that you’ve made in your life so far?
I always make my decisions based on what's best for not just me, but my family as well. It helps that we all look out for one another. My wife has been super encouraging throughout this entire ordeal.
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Do you feel like social media is a necessary “evil” in the line of work that you do? Has it been useful as a networking tool or generating opportunities for you?
I do indeed. I barely used social media before I started promoting my book but now I check it much more often. My siblings have been helping with the Instagram page and I've been getting a lot of traction on LinkedIn and Facebook. LinkedIn was surprising in that I had so much support.
What do you do outside of work for fun?
I like to play sports (especially soccer), hanging out with my friends of course and anything active, such as hiking and working out.
What is an insecurity you have?
That people won't like my story.
In terms of your personal legacy, in a few sentences, describe how you want to be remembered by your family and friends?
SK Selva was the guy that inspired many young kids towards reading and writing. He really showed people what you can do when you won't give up.
What do you think you would tell 16-year Sibi looking back?
You've nearly checked everything off your bucket list that you need too. Just a few more to go and you're on the right path to do it. Also, start flossing more.
How would you describe your dream life?
Not having to worry about money and knowing that my friends and family are all taken care of.
What is your favourite book(s) you’ve read recently and why?
The Guardians of Ga'Hoole series is one of the most underrated series of all time. I also started The Wheel of Time series.
What is a new belief, behaviour or habit that has most improved your life?
There's no point worrying about something that other people aren't even thinking about.
If you were given $1 billion, how would you allocate the money to change the world?
Make sure that people are aware of the serious issue that is climate change. I'd also invest in Canadian soccer more so that money would not be an issue for kids that aren't able to afford the high end training sessions and for the teams as well. Also, not sure if it's enough but I'd buy Highway 407 and take the toll off of it.
What kind of impact has the Canadian Tamil community had on you professionally and personally?
I've had a lot of help with the Tamil references in my book. The idea of Kumari Kandam / Ilemuria was first told to me by my father. The references to the villages and the different words I used, I had help from my sister-in-law. A lot of different Tamil groups have actually reached out to help me promote my book as well.
What is your favourite Tamil food (meal or dessert)?
Mutton Rolls. Those things are great when they're actually full of mutton.
What is your favourite Tamil movie?
V.I.P and Vikram Vedha. Massive Dhanush fan.
What does Tamil culture mean to you?
It's more than just the language, it's your identity. There's so many little things that I've only seen Tamil families do that I wouldn't change for the world.
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