They began as a writing quartet whose aspiration was to pen something new for the publishing industry. Nara, Sonklin, Romkaew and Praenath didn't fail their editor and readers in delivering a feast of fiction, starting with Baan Rai Plai Fun, a set of four novels revolving around the lives of non-identical quadruplets.
Channel 3 heart-throbs: Tanin Manoonsilp as Khun Chai Ratchanon, James Mars as Khun Chai Ronnapee, Tanawat Wattanaputi as Khun Chai Pavornruj, Jirayu Tangsrisuk as Khun Chai Puttiphat, and Warintorn Panhakarn as Khun Chai Taratorn.
Sataporn Books then added Kaotam to the team, and the five novelists worked on the second series, The Sixth Sense, followed by Supharbburuth Chutathep. Both of those feature five related books, one by each author, and set off a new trend in novel publication as well as television adaptations.
"This was a new approach as previously a series of novels was penned by one writer," said Sonklin, or Monchai Sirilataporn, the only male member in the team. "Readers liked our first series, and we have already launched the fourth series by eight writers. The more the merrier, and this has become a trademark for Sataporn Books."
The publishing house saw surging sales of the novels' box sets when Channel 3 presented the prime-time soap opera adaptations.
First, four top producers took each novel of the Baan Rai Plai Fun books and reinterpreted them in the 2010 special series See Hua Jai Haeng Khun Khao. It became a TV sensation while sending actors such as Nadech Kugimiya and Yaya-Urassaya Sperbund to stardom.
Likewise, five TV producers worked on each of the Supharbburuth Chutathep books, with the small-screen version now airing every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night and gaining big popularity.
Besides watching Supharbburuth Chutathep, the five writers are also looking forward to seeing the second part of The Sixth Sense, which will be on TV later this year.
"TV scriptwriters don't consult us and it's always exciting to see how they translate our novels into soap operas," said Sonklin.
"We have followers who like reading our romantic novels. When they become a TV hit, the audience may also want to read the original novels to identify the differences. Therefore, we have new followers who get to know us through what we write."
From left: Praenath, Sonklin, Nara, Kaotam and Romkaew came together as a writing quintet in creating The Sixth Sense and Supharbburuth Chutathep series of novels.
A civil engineer by training, Sonklin discovered a calling for writing and turned it into his profession. He specialises in the tob-joob style ("slap and kiss", referring to a hate-love romance in Thai series).
The novelists have diverse backgrounds. Living in Canada, Nara or Nicha Tantichalermsin has a finance master's degree from Xavier University, Cincinnati, Ohio. Kaotam is actually an obstetrician-gynaecologist; her real name is Dr Kudkanang Mingmitpattanakul and her patients are mostly unaware of how proficient she is at writing romantic novels. Romkaew, aka Chatrarat Kaewmorakot, forged a career as a newspaper journalist reporting fact before finding her flair for fiction, especially romantic comedy. Praenath, or Thippayavalai Supanwanid, helped her family run a kindergarten. The former headmistress decided that it was more fulfilling to be a professional novelist, and her previous interaction with children contributes to her imaginative writing and preference for fantasy.
"The five of us have different specialities and styles," said Praenath. "The editor saw how our different styles could be combined for a harmonious series of novels. They are not just smoochy love stories and we like to make them thought-provoking. Readers also get to know more about various professions through the characters, and this has become a signature element of our novels."
She had to do research on winemaking when writing Wayuphak Montra, the fourth novel in the Baan Rai Plai Fun series about non-identical quads Din (Earth), Nam (Water), Lom (Wind) and Fai (Fire). Praenath's protagonist, Lom, owns a winery. The other novels feature Din running a resort, Dr Nam working in a community hospital, and Fai dairy farming.
Intensive research is conducted before writing begins, emphasised Praenath, and the Supharbburuth Chutathep books had the five novelists spending three to four months finding information from archives and interviewing people before acquiring a picture of Thailand in the late 1950s, the setting for the series of period novels.
The writing then took one to two months, as each author worked on each novel with Nara sending her work from Canada.
The drama revolves around five blue-blood brothers, the sons of Mom Chao Vichakorn Chutathep and his three wives. Their father and mothers all died in a car accident, and the siblings are raised by their grandmother and her sister, who want them to marry ladies of the same social status. However, their beloved boys find their own true loves.
Those novels also provide insight to different professions, with Khun Chai Taratorn as an archaeologist, Khun Chai Pavornruj as a civil servant in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Khun Chai Puttiphat as a surgeon, Khun Chai Ratchanon as a civil engineer, and Khun Chai Ronnapee as a fighter pilot.
Premiering in March, the TV series started off with Khun Chai Taratorn; the tale of Khun Chai Pavornruj written by Romkaew is now airing.
"Conducting research for Supharbburuth Chutathep required a team effort, and we shared information, for example historical events, people's lifestyle and the language of that period, and discussed how to incorporate them into each novel," said Romkaew.
"My novel is also set in late 1950s Switzerland, taking readers to places like Lausanne and Interlaken, and that had me researching about travelling around Switzerland as well as interviewing a former Thai ambassador of that period."
Romkaew, the youngest writer in the team, is happy to see Khun Chai Pavornruj come to life as a warm and caring character, whose broken heart is mended by a lady of higher nobility.
"Because his mother was a servant, he has to break his limitations and prove himself more than the other brothers," Romkaew said of the humble character. The third in the TV series follows Khun Chai Puttiphat, presenting a dedicated surgeon who adheres to his principles more than his heart until he meets a beauty queen with the title Nang Sao Sri Siam.
"I pictured Khun Chai Puttiphat based on information given by my uncle, who shared with me his experience and life as a neurosurgeon," said Kaotam, the author.
"His reserved character however doesn't come from my uncle. Each of the Chutathep brothers have different personalities.
"Representing virtuous aristocrats, they use their knowledge and ability in each profession to set good examples."
Kaotam's novel writing began while on maternity leave from her obligations as an ob-gyn at a private hospital.
While the TV version of Supharbburuth Chutathep introduced five male idols, The Sixth Sense features five girls with different supernatural abilities in connecting with the dead.
The idea was sparked when Nara was in the restroom and the electricity supply was suddenly cut off, and she found herself in darkness.
That made her think of doing spooky stories for a new series, which was then based on a ghost-busting company founded by the five gifted girls.
"We were curious about how the scriptwriters would combine three novels for the first part of The Sixth Sense, which aired last year. And they did a good job in weaving the novels while making adjustments to make the story run smoothly," said Kaotam.
Now she's waiting to see how her novel, Maya Roi Jai integrates with Romkaew's Kubduk Ruk Luang in The Sixth Sense 2.
Kaotam's protagonist, Kornrampha, has to wear gloves otherwise she sees the scary past of everything she touches. The hi-so fashionista is crazy about a Thai-Korean pop idol, and their encounters make for romantic comedy in The Sixth Sense 2.
The latest set of eight novels, The Cupids, has already been bought by Channel 3 for making an enthralling series of romcoms.
Kaotam said: "Sataporn Books has many talented writers, and three others have joined the five of us in creating The Cupids. So the variety of writing styles makes it enjoyable to read. Furthermore, eight is an auspicious number and we hope that this new series of novels takes the book industry to the next level."
About the author
- Writer: Kanokporn Chanasongkram