Interview with Clarissa Goenawan, author of Rainbirds

Clarissa Goenawan’s debut novel, Rainbirds is out today. Happy release day, Clarissa!

Here’s a little bit about the book.

Ren Ishida has nearly completed his graduate degree at Keio University when he receives news of his sister’s violent death. Keiko was stabbed one rainy night on her way home, and there are no leads. Ren heads to Akakawa to conclude his sister’s affairs, failing to understand why she chose to turn her back on the family and TRainbirds-final-cover-198okyo for this desolate place years ago.

But then Ren is offered Keiko’s newly vacant teaching position at a prestigious local cram school and her bizarre former arrangement of free lodging at a wealthy politician’s mansion in exchange for reading to the man’s ailing wife. He accepts both, abandoning Tokyo and his crumbling relationship there in order to better understand his sister’s life and what took place the night of her death.

As Ren comes to know the eccentric local figures, from the enigmatic politician who’s boarding him to his fellow teachers and a rebellious, captivating young female student, he delves into his shared childhood with Keiko and what followed. Haunted in his dreams by a young girl who is desperately trying to tell him something, Ren realizes that Keiko Ishida kept many secrets, even from him.

Sounds intriguing, Clarissa. How did you come up with the idea?
One afternoon, I was just wondering, “What if someone I cared about suddenly passed away, and then, I realized too late that I never actually got to know them?” At first, I wanted to write a short story about a young man who had just lost his older brother, which later on, morphed to an older sister. And then, I realized there were so many things I wanted to explore in their relationship, and that this story has to be a novel.

Can you tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket?
RAINBIRDS is part of a series of interrelated novels. So do keep a lookout at the side characters, because they might be the main characters for the next book.

Who’s your favorite character from the book?
Rio Nakajima, also known as ‘Seven Stars.’ She’s a seventeen-year-old girl who is bright and bold, unafraid to voice her opinion and relentlessly goes after what she wants. She doesn’t care about conforming to public’s expectation, and I really admire her for that.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born and raised in Surabaya, a city in East Java and also the second most populated city in Indonesia. In my mid-teens, I migrated to Singapore, which I now call home. I live with my husband, three beautiful daughters, and a broken-coated Jack Russell named ‘Hunter.’

How did you get into writing?
It was my childhood dream  I’d loved reading ever since I was a kid and dreamt that one day, I would publish my own book. But I only started to seriously pursuing the profession after I quit my banking job at age twenty-four (probably not the most conventional thing to do, but I never regretted it.)

What’s your next project—what are you working on now?
I’m currently editing my second and third novels, both of them literary mysteries. And just like RAINBIRDS, they’re set in Japan.

You can connect with Clarissa Goenawan here:


You can buy a copy of Rainbirds here:

Barnes & Nobles:

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