Fictional Biography; Contemporary Fiction; Women’s Fiction
Behind The Smile is the heart-wrenching, poignant story of Lek, a Thai bar girl in Pattaya.
This is book one – ‘Daddy’s Hobby’
Book two is called ‘An Exciting Future’
Book three, ‘Maya – Illusion’ – and
Book four, ‘The Lady in The Tree’
Book five, ‘Stepping Stones’
Book six, ‘The Dream’
Lek was born the eldest child of four in a typical rice farming family. She did not expect to do anything any different from the other girls in her class in the northern rice belt of Thailand.
Typically that would be: work in the fields for a few years; have a few babies; give them to mum to take care of and back to work until her kids had their own children and she could stop working to take care of them.
One day a catastrophe occurred out of the blue – her father died young and with huge debts that the family knew nothing about. Lek was twenty and she was the only one who could prevent foreclosure. However, the only way she knew was to go to work in her cousin’s bar in Pattaya.
She went as a waitress-cum-cashier, but when she realised that she was pregnant by her worthless, estranged husband, things had to change. She had the baby, gave it to her mother to look after and went back to work. However, now she needed real money to provide a better life for her child and to make up for spending its whole youth 500 miles away. She drifted into the tourist sex industry.
The book relates some of her ‘adventures’, her dreams and nightmares and her ‘modus operandi’. It tries to show, from Lek’s point of view, what it really is like to be a Thai bar girl – the hopes and frustrations, the hopes and the let-downs, the hopes and the lies and deceit that are part of her every day life.
One day she meets a man she likes and he likes her too. Nothing new there, it had happened hundreds of times, but she feels that it is different. They have a wonderful four weeks together and then he goes home – as they all had, leaving more promises and more hopes.
This one returns, but real life with a real boyfriend is not as easy as she had dreamed it would be. They go through good and bad times, but will they stay together and for how long?
After all she has been through, will she be able to be a regular girlfriend or even a wife again? Will she ever really be able to trust a man enough again either? Or would she be better off giving up her dreams and carrying on working in the bar?
Lek begins to find out that getting what you wish for is not always as good as you thought it would be.
‘Behind The Smile’ refers to the fact that Thailand is known the world over as ‘The Land of Smiles’.
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The night before, Lek had been working in ‘Daddy’s Hobby’, a bar off Beach Road when a thirty-odd year old Arab, Ali, had sat down. Things had been very quiet for her up until then, although most of the other girls were ‘out’. Lek had gone over to him to take his order and make him feel at home, as she had done with other customers thousands of times before. Lek and Ali had introduced themselves and Ali had ordered a bottle of ‘100 Pipers’ whisky, soda water and ice. Within minutes and with customary Arabic hospitality, he had offered her a drink and she had accepted gratefully. After all, she had thought, you never knew where things could lead, it was getting late and she was more than a little bored.
Looking back over events, Lek thought she had seen some danger signs even at that early stage. Why hadn’t she listened to her instincts? They had always stood her in such good stead before. Ali had already been drinking before he got to her bar – she had noticed that, but then he had ordered a bottle of whisky. It was not unusual to see Arabs drinking alcohol, but he was drinking this bottle too quickly and insisting that she kept up with him. Maybe ‘insist’ was too strong a word, but he certainly wanted her to go drink for drink with him and he did not want to take ‘no’ for an answer.
They had finished the bottle and Ali had asked her whether ‘she would like to go for something to eat’ – one of the many code expressions in her profession, which could lead to lucratively-paid nocturnal employment.
And sometimes even a meal too.
About the Author:
Author Owen Jones, from Barry, South Wales, came to writing novels relatively recently, although he has been writing all his adult life. He has lived and worked in several countries and travelled in many, many more.
He speaks, or has spoken, seven languages fluently and is currently learning Thai, since he lives in Thailand with his Thai wife of ten years.
“It has never taken me long to learn a language,” he says, “but Thai bears no relationship to any other language I have ever studied before.”
When asked about his style of writing, he said, “I’m a Celt, and we are Romantic. I believe in reincarnation and lots more besides in that vein. Those beliefs, like ‘Do unto another…’, and ‘What goes round comes around’, Fate and Karma are central to my life, so they are reflected in my work’.
His first novel, ‘Daddy’s Hobby’ from the series ‘Behind The Smile: The Story of Lek, a Bar Girl in Pattaya’ has been followed by four sequels, but his largest collection is ‘The Megan Series’, eighteen novellas on the psychic development of a young teenage girl, the subtitle of which, ‘A Spirit Guide, A Ghost Tiger and One Scary Mother!’ sums them up nicely.
How many books do you currently have published?
I have forty-odd novels and novellas, but a hundred other short books on specific subjects
What has been your favorite book to write so far? Why?
I have enjoyed writing all my books, because I become so involved in them… lost in them. Pleople say that the emotion is evident. Behind The Smile was fun to research and The Disallowed was fun to write, but really, I enjoyed writing them all.
Are you currently working on a book? Will this be your next release?
Yes, but it is going slowly because I am in the process of moving home and it involves visas etc. However, Daisy’s Chain will be my next novel. I hope to finish it in August.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
I enjoy being ‘in the zone’, like a sportsperson… in that state where time ceases and everything is fluid – as if I am part of something greater.
Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, how do you deal with it?
I have never suffered from writers’ block before I got caught up in the government administration of immigrating – it is paralysing! I need tranquillity to write.
Have you ever had one of your characters to take a twist you weren’t expecting and surprise you?
Oh yes, it is a frequent occurrence. Often, I will give them their head, but sometimes, you have to rein them in.
Which of your characters is your personal favorite? Least favorite? Why?
My favourite, by a short margin, is Lek in Behind The Smile. We used to talk in my head a lot. I don’t have a least favourite character because I know why each of them did what they did.
What lessons have you learned since becoming a writer? Do you have any tips for new writers?
This is difficult, because a new author has so much to learn and so many disappointments to bear, so I suppose the best advice is to enjoy your successes and learn from your failures, but don’t expect anything to happen overnight.
If you were to recommend your books to a stranger, which book would you advise them to start with? Why?
I get asked which of my books someone should buy all the time (this morning, for example. It is an impossible question to answer. It is better to direct the person to a place where they can read the blurbs and reviews of the various books.
Do you have anything else you’d like to share with readers?
I started a newsletter today at the Megan The Misconception site, the intention of which is to go deeper into my stories and how they came about. It is a very large subject1