QSI Tbilisi Student - A Published Author
Transcript of the interview with Andro Chkhvimiani, a student at QSI Tbilisi, author of the book Unchangeable.
Interviewer: Nina Danelia (librarian)
Place and date: QSI International school of Tbilisi, May 19th, 2022
Running time: 19 minutes
Andro: Hi, my name is Andro. I’m from QSI Tbilisi. I just published my second book, but I’m going to be talking about my first book today, which is called Unchangeable.
Nina: Andro, tell us the beginning. How did it all start? When did you write the book, and the idea and the inspiration behind it? Tell us all.
Andro: So, it was 2020, there was the lockdown. We were all in our houses, and it was very boring. I always thought of using drawing as a way to cope with all the stress in the pandemic. And while doing so, my mom and I decided to make an idea of using our dreams to create emotions and connect with the reader. The book really came from that pandemic. We worked on it. I sketched, I illustrated all the drawings, and then I worked with the text. It was only the year after that I published the book, because it took a while. But while it was my first book, it was a good try for me to do it because it really opened me up to a lot of spheres revolving around books.
Nina: Okay. So you mentioned your dreams. Do you mean the dreams that we see when we are asleep, or something like an aspiration?
Andro: I feel like both. While dreams are necessary for people to achieve their goals, I think it’s also their self-consciousness and their mind that is really important. I think making a book about how people perceive dreams is very important to me, because I do dream a lot and dreams are very interesting to me.
Nina: Do you have any recurring dreams? Anything that comes back from time to time?
Andro: Most of the dreams that I have I don’t remember. They usually fade away once I wake up. But the moment I wake up and remember them, they’re very interesting, and they’re very inspiring.
Nina: How long did it take you to get the ideas for the plot? How long did it actually take you to write down the story?
Andro: I feel I like I wrote the text of a book in an hour. But I ended up revising it a lot, because it wasn’t perfect. The text for the book was not that hard, but the challenging part were the illustrations. I spent a lot of time on them. Sometimes I procrastinated and ended up doing the drawings late. So it took me over a year, alongside school work, to finish the books.
Nina: Did anybody help you to edit the story?
Andro: I’ve had my grandma who--
Nina: --because English is not your native language, right?
Andro: Yeah. The book Unchangeable is bilingual. It has English and also Georgian.
Nina: It was originally written in…?
Andro: English. Then I got help from my grandma, who helped me translate it into Georgian and also edited the text in Georgian. As well as my mom, who stood beside me, who supported me, who also overlooked my text. I got a lot of support from her, and I think without her, I wouldn’t have been able to complete the book so easily.
Nina: Tell us a word or two about your art. I know that you’re a very talented artist. I’m curious to know about the main character. Her name is Joy, right? Did you see her in your head already? Did you see how she looked like?
Andro: Whenever I think of Joy, I think of a lot of stuff. I don’t think it’s just a character, I think it’s all the different meanings around her. I associate Joy with emotions, that’s why I named her Joy. When I think of her, it makes me happy. There are also other characters in there. Joy was not the first character that I drew, it was actually the creatures – the seasons. When I first drew them, I wasn’t thinking of anything. I didn’t even have the idea of the story behind it. The first idea that popped up and made me write the book was actually showing the drawings of the creatures to my mom. She was so interested, so intrigued by it, that she really wanted me to think of something to make with these creatures.
Nina: Did you associate these creatures with the seasons right away?
Andro: I did. I had a plan when I was making it. It was initially going to be a project for me and my friends. We were trying to create a video game, but then we gave up, because it was too hard, and we were not very experienced.
Nina: So these were originally the video game characters?
Andro: Yeah. I thought that video games won’t really suit them, and them being in a book would be way better. So that’s how the idea of the book began.
Nina: Did you think of that? Or your mom helped you? She prompted you.
Andro: I think it was my mom. But at the same time, I was also interested in doing anything. I was interested in keeping myself busy, so my mom suggesting it really helped me a lot. It helped me stay focused during quarantine, and spend my time not just playing videogames or browsing the internet.
Nina: I see that you like playing videogames. I hope you’re not addicted to them. [laugh]
Andro: I was addicted at the time of the pandemic because I really didn’t have anything to do. But this year, it really started to change. I started focusing more on art -- mainly traditional art. I started doing more projects, so the videogames have little effect in my life at the moment. But it really did have a lot of effect on me two years ago.
Nina: Interesting. So, you mentioned your second book coming up. Do you want to tell us a little bit about it? Not all, but could you reveal some information about it? Is Joy still there?
Andro: No, my second book is called Seven Letters to My Brothers. I started the idea last summer, 2021. The book is about seven letters that are written by me to my brothers, Data and Rezi. It talks about our summer experiences.
Nina: Do you mean the actual handwritten letters? Not emails or anything.
Andro: No, just letters.
Nina: How many brothers do you have again?
Andro: I have two brothers -- Rezi and Data, who is the youngest.
Nina: How come you wrote letters to them? Were you apart or it was like a game between you?
Andro: In 2021, I was away from my brothers, so missing them really hit me hard. I would always play with them; I would always do fun activities with them, so missing them really had a huge impact on me, and really motivated me to write the book. It made me reminisce about my brothers being here in the village, and it really prompted me to do more books, because it always made me happy when I drew my brothers together.
Nina: So it’s little bit like your autobiographical piece of writing.
Andro: I think so...
Nina: Have they read those letters yet?
Andro: They haven’t yet, [laugh] but when I publish them, I’m going to give them a copy and they can read it over.
Nina: Will it be illustrated as well?
Andro: Yeah, of course. I did the illustrations.
Nina: Have you done them already, or you’re still working on them?
Andro: I finished all of them. We’re almost close to publishing the book. We just need minor details. This book was really harder than the first book that I wrote.
Andro: Both emotionally and physically exhausting. Being able to recall those memories was very warm, but at the same time it really made me miss my brothers. It also made me more motivated to do it.
Nina: So it was the year of the pandemic, 2020. You were not able to see your brothers, and that’s when you started writing letters to them, right?
Andro: It was 2021. After I came back from the village. Before my bothers went away to Svanetia, which is a part of Georgia, I visited them and…..
Nina How much time did you spend with them?
Andro: It was my birthday, so…..
Nina: I remember your birthday, July 21. [laugh]
Andro: Yeah, July 21st. So I went on my birthday, and I brought a couple of cupcakes from MacDonald’s. I also bought candles and a lighter. I walked in their house, and it was a short stay, but….
Nina: You saw them.
Andro: I saw them, I hugged them, I gave them gifts. It was a very heartwarming moment being able to see my brothers after two months. It was really, really, emotionally exhausting, but at the time, I was so happy. We celebrated my birthday. I put the candles and muffins and I blew them out. It was a very sweet moment. It really is in my mind all the time, and I think about it every time.
Nina: Does number seven have any symbolic meaning? Like seven days of the week, or four seasons of the year, just like in your previous book?
Andro: I think it has a connection to that. I think seven is a very special number to me because it has such a deep meaning to it.
Nina: Are there more than seven letters?
Andro: I think there are seven in total. That’s the most that I have written. Although I wanted to write more, I couldn’t because each letter really took me a lot to write. It was very emotionally exhausting.
Nina: Have you written anything like that before? Or have you read the correspondence or the personal letters of the famous authors?
Andro: I don’t remember, but I always used to look at how letters were made. I always found them pretty and special. That’s why I write letters to my brothers.
Nina: Did you work on your handwriting or something? [laugh]
Andro: Oh yeah, totally.
Nina: People write less and less, that’s what I meant.
Andro: My Georgian wasn’t the best. I’ve been in QSI for four years, and I haven’t focused this much on Georgian. So over time it really diminished my ability to write. But at the same time, writing those letters really helped me strengthen my language.
Nina: Did anybody know that you’ve been writing those letters, or not? Close circle of friends? Family members?
Andro: Yeah, a close circle of my friends knew it, but I haven’t really talked much about it. I really wanted to keep it as a private project. I only wanted to talk about it after I got it published. But I feel like sharing small details about it, and how it was done was very important.
Nina: Did you illustrate that as well? Is it a picture book, like Unchangeable?
Andro It’s going to be similar to Unchangeable, but there might be different versions of the book. There might be the Georgian version and the English version.
Nina: Not bilingual anymore.
Andro: They might be…we’re thinking about that. In any case, they’re going to have different drawings. I made drawings for each of them.
Nina: Are there any real pictures?
Andro: The only real picture that I have is on the back cover, which talks about me as an author. [laugh]
Nina: So when is it going to happen? You mentioned that you like to procrastinate things.
Andro: I feel like I’ll publish my book next week, or maybe the week after. [Interview made on May 19th]
Nina: The actual printing part?
Andro: The actual printing. I’m really excited because I’ll be donating all my books to the children that I read my first book to. Reading Week [event at QSI] was very, very fun. I got so many warm messages from the kids telling me my creatures were cute. That was the highlight of my year. That was absolutely the highlight of my year! Something about reading to kids makes me happy. Maybe it was something that I really wanted to do when I was little.
Nina: How do you think your brothers will react? Will they grasp the whole thing? Will they understand?
Andro: I think they will.
Nina: How old are they?
Andro: One’s eight, and another ten. I think they will be able to grasp it.
Nina: Totally, yeah.
Andro: I feel that they’re very smart and intelligent. Even though they like to act silly sometimes, I really can see that they’re really smart kids.
Nina: I’m sure you represent them somehow in your drawings.
Andro: Of course, they are represented in the drawings. Each and every picture that I have in the book has three of us in it. It’s always us doing any activates together -- planting flowers or swimming in the pool. I always I wanted to make my brothers present in my life. So doing my second book, I really wanted to make them everywhere. Being separated is hard, but when you illustrate each other, you create the space, imaginary space. It’s like a comfort space to go to whenever you feel down.
Nina: You can skip my next question if you feel that it’s too personal. Are you still separated from them?
Andro: Yeah, we’re still separated, but I get to talk with them sometimes.
Nina: On the phone.
Andro: Sometimes they don’t really pick up, but when they do, we always try to talk about how our lives are going, or what we’re doing at school. I get to talk to them, but not that much. Every single moment that I have with them, I’m really grateful. Last week, I went to the village to see them, and my grandma was also there. I haven’t seen her for two years, so being able to see my brothers and my grandma was very heartwarming. I felt like for a moment I was living normally, without any kind of negativity in my life. It really was a good moment for me.
Nina: Alright. Would you like to add anything else, Andro?
Andro: No, I think that’s it from me. [laugh]