I loved reading fictions when I was a kid and I still love it now. I used to dream of writing great books but never really did. Then, something happened in 2012 (don't they always before a moment of clarity?) and I took a long hard look at my life. I realized I needed a change from having not enough time to travel, learn a new trade, make chocolates (I love making chocolates, took classes and all) and do the things I want to do while in my current job. I began to write in my journal more and I learned how to express my thoughts better. Next, I started a blog but it didn't really take off. Then I wrote a book. Didn't finish it. Wrote another book. Finished it too. Actually two books and they bombed out after final editing process. The editors didn't hide the fact that there were too many plot holes. I agreed and believed writing was not for me. Too much money down the drain with absolutely nothing to show. But the itch to write flared up again so in 2015, I made my fourth attempt. I finished the book and to my surprise, Pork received great feedback from my editors:
"You offer an excellent narrative, one that is controlled and skillful." "I have THOROUGHLY enjoyed reading this submission." "The story is compelling, immersive, and well told." "Your settings, scene-building, and character development are very strong." "The climax took me by surprise."
I figured I just might have a bit of talent after all :)
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yeah. It was a mystery story about a woman who makes chocolates and discovers strange things happening in her chocolaterie because of this one batch of chocolate. I didn't finish writing it and the only reason I started was because I had just finished taking chocolate making lessons myself. I knew a lot about chocolate and I was convinced I could come up with a believable story. Reading it now, I realize I broke every cardinal rule of writing in it. But it was fun and I learned a lot in the process.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Character development and scene-building are two things I enjoy most. I love infusing my characters and scenes with 'dark' elements to build a bit of tension. That's the kind of books I write.
What are you working on next?
I'm working on my next book titled Halversham, scheduled for release in May 2016. I just received the content edit report from my editor two weeks ago and I'm knee deep in rewrites.
It's about an innocent small town with unsolved mysteries. If you've read Pork, then you'd have been briefly introduced to Emily Doyne. Halversham is about her. I don't want to reveal too much (chuckles) but know that it won't disappoint you.
It's a lot of work between promoting Pork and rewriting Halversham at the moment but it's fun and I'm not complaining one single bit. This is exciting stuff!
What is your writing process?
I always start with the ending. If I can mentally come up with an exciting ending, writing the rest of the book becomes less of a drudgery because there's a great motivation to reach the ending. That's how I did it with Pork and that's how I did it with Halversham. I'm a little stuck on the third book because I haven't come up with a great ending yet. But I know it'll come :)
What do your fans mean to you?
Haha! Don't know how to answer this one. I don't think I have any fans at the moment. I wouldn't call my best friends or my family my fans either. I mean, they love reading my books and they're extremely supportive. But it'd be really nice to have others following my work just because they love it. So yeah, fans are precious. If you've read my book or just want to connect with me, I'd love to hear from you. I love motivating YA to do things beyond what they think they're capable of and I'm a bit of a daredevil myself. So if you would like a cheerleader or some advise, drop me a note. I believe we all have something we can offer for free.
How do you approach cover design?
With trepidation. Haha! I mean, what I think will be great is usually not. My first cover for Pork was a disaster because it was how I wanted it to be. I directed the designer to come up with it the way I envisioned it. After a few weeks, I looked at the finished design again and knew it was just... bad. My only recourse was to hire another designer and start all over again. Thankfully, she knew what she was doing and instilled enough confidence in me to trust her work. I haven't designed a cover for Halversham yet but I'm confident it'll be fantastic.
Describe your desk
Tiny. Enough space for my laptop and a small notebook. I'm most inspired in this crammed space :)
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
I am from Malaysia so I can't publish directly with certain online retailers. Kobo is one of them. Another example is, my books will have to be for free if I publish in iBooks directly. But because there's Smashwords, I can now make my books available on these platforms and charge for them. The exchange rate for USD isn't great for us Malaysians and I hire American editors and cover designers for high quality reads. So it's nice to be able to charge a little :)
I also love the support, guides and tips that Smashwords provide for free. This is invaluable.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I used to travel a bit but at the moment my (financial) resources are tied up to writing more books. So when I have the time I spend it with my best friends - the group of five, I call them. Each one of them is a great source of inspiration and motivation. And I spend a lot of time with my family as well.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Believe it or not, e-mails. E-mails encourage me to open my eyes and read who have replied to me. E-mails from reviewers, e-mails from editors, e-mails asking for payments, e-mails on design etc. Sadly, no e-mails from fans (yet). But after reading and replying to e-mails, it's on to writing the next page, chapter, book...
Who are your favorite authors?
John Grisham, Jeffrey Archer, Scott Turow, Harlan Coben, Sidney Sheldon
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Personal Injuries by Scott Turow - never loved a book as much as this one. Unexpected ending (just the way I like it in my own books). I don't know how Turow did it but he made the bad guy lovable. Amazing.
The Firm by John Grisham - who doesn't know this one? Fast paced, perfect blend of emotional highs and lows.
Well Groomed by Fiona Walker - I don't usually enjoy romance that much but this was different. Sweet.
The Eleventh Commandment by Jeffrey Archer - loved the twist at the end.
The Innocent Man by John Grisham - This is a shocking non-fiction. I wept for the man.
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