JESSE Q. SUTANTO BRINGS LOCAL STORY TO THE NETFLIX
Sutanto has written several novels, all of them in English, and "Dial A for Aunties" is her ninth book.
The Indonesian writer, Jesse Q. Sutanto, didn't expect her novel Dial A for Aunties to be published immediately next year. But, the most surprising news is, it will be adapted into a movie by Netflix!
Alike Jesse said to VOA Indonesia, and she still can't believe it. "All of this is really mysterious. My agent sent my novel to a publisher, and in the first week that he did, he kept getting calls from the film agency. When she asked, 'How did you know about this book?' They didn't want to divulge their source, so, yeah, we don't know either," Jesse said.
Jesse remembered at least four production houses that approached her. But, after going through the auction, she settled on Netflix that she considered a perfect platform for her story.
How complicated it is to bring Indonesian story to Hollywood
Jesse Q. Sutanto is a newcomer to the writing industry in Indonesia. However, the graduates of creative writing from Oxford University in 2009 has written several novels, all of them in English.
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After completing her eighth novel, she finally has an agreement with an American publisher and published one of the novels, The Obsession, published in February 2021. Dial A for Aunties itself was published on April 2021 through a different publisher.
"I've been trying about 10 years, and Dial A for Aunties is my ninth book. It took a long time for me to finally publish my book. And once my book was sold, it felt so much easier to sell other books," said Jesse.
"Dial A for Aunties," tells the story of Medellin Chan, an Indonesian woman with Chinese blood, who accidentally kills her blind date. Her mother and her meddling aunts helped her remove the man's body in the middle of a lavish Indonesian wedding attended by thousands of guests on an island near California, USA. At the same time, Madelin was also confused when her ex appears suddenly in the midst of the chaos.
"The story is like Crazy Rich Asians that meet with Weekend at Bernie's," said Jesse.
The idea comes from her big family's life in Jakarta
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"We always chat, we have a WhatsApp group, and we also argue and fight a lot. But, basically, we love each other and care a lot. When one of us is in trouble, the other will definately come to help, just like the story in my book," she explained.
However, it's not easy to sell stories with backgrounds of Indonesia to foreign publishers. Their ignorance of Indonesia's existence is often becoming an obstacle that Jesse has to face.
She said one of her books, the seventh one, is set in Indonesia. Her ex-agent sent it to the publisher, and they asked her to change the setting to America because it's a bit too strange. Jesse admitted such a broken heart when she heard that.
"I think, for us, especially Southeast Asians, we need to be very patient and work harder than others, even just to maintain our original identity," she said.
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