About Ivy Ngeow

Posts by Ivy Ngeow:

EXCLUSIVE: 5 TOP TIPS on How to Write Asian or Non-White Characters and Smash the Stereotypes!

Without risk of cultural appropriation or misrepresentation or just being plain offensive.

Diversity is a buzzword we all may at some point encounter. I have written from white, mixed and Asian people’s viewpoints and can say I am fairly comfortable now. My published stories or novels have a mixture of different cultures and it is something that I grew up and am familiar with because I was born and raised trilingual in an urban environment in Johor Bahru, the industrial southern city of Malaysia. To me it is more normal and natural that everybody is unique and different than everybody looking and acting the same, eating the same food, going to the same places, speaking the same language. Writers, if you have not had the privilege of a diverse upbringing, I will give you the secret now on how to absolutely crack the code of writing your diverse characters.

1. Switch off your spell check.

This is very important. Do not proceed until you have done this. Do yourself a big favor and free yourself of all Judeo-Christian terminology, grammar, language, spelling. You will enter foreign now. Food, words, culture, syntax and they will not be underlined in red wavy lines and they will not be removed or changed by auto correct. Train yourself to always listen to real conversations, on the bus, in restaurants, on the streets, and write them down phonetically. I had listened to probably hundreds of Aunties (who are just women older than you by at least 16 years and not really aunts) which made writing the character of Auntie in my novel Heart of Glass a breeze.

‘Siu-cheh, if you wan’ lunch, I fix now.’
I stared at her. Threw my hands in the air. She knew everything.
‘What you wan’ eat?’
‘Anything.’

2. ALL culture is appropriation

We all learned it, right? Our families and our communities gave us our culture and traditions. Now find out what culture means to YOU as a writer and you do this by working with BIG themes. Jot down the themes in each culture that you know. The themes in Asian families, for example, are the 4 Fs: family, food, frugality, freedom. When you realize that many cultures including white cultures (eg Jewish, Italian, Arabic, African etc) have these very same themes, you will realize what we know and are close to is infinitely what is called the human condition, why we are here. It’s the cliched phrase which comforts writers that we are not as different as you think and that we should find the similarities in each other not the differences. Books bring people of the world together. Our job as writers is to bring the ideas which bring books together.

3. Embrace, don’t avoid stereotypes

It is the only way to challenge and smash them. For example, in Heart, I’m writing from the viewpoint of an American girl of Chinese origin, Li-an. At some point she was bound to eat Chicago hot dog, especially when Paolo suggests it to her.

‘Gimme a dog wid everythin’,’ he said. ‘Make dat two.’

At some point also, Li-an was bound to eat Chinese food. She was in Asia and she’s Asian, right? So why would that be a stereotype?

I hung up and put my feet back up again. I had jasmine rice, peppers
and fried monkfish with a coriander sauce for lunch. I played
guitar all afternoon. I wrote down melody lines and chord changes.
I wanted to be happy here, but I struggled to imagine just playing
the piano and living in a gilt cage called the pavilion.

Your reader is not interested in something ordinary or bland but the context of the detail, even if it’s a poor man’s meal like burger and chips or rice with soy sauce, it has to glitter. I especially like Crazy Poor and not Crazy Rich characters because the poor have so many more things to crave and die for. What keeps them craving for something? Your reader is interested in the finer detail of what it it means to be white, mixed, Asian or whatever, and what it means to be alive. All details will add to authenticity of the character and the voice. You can show they are poor or rich or mean or kind by the detail in the stereotype that you are challenging.

4. Practice writing a few characters

Some may work, some may not, and some may come to you easier than others. In Heart I had three main characters, Ben Mizrai, a Jewish DJ from NY, Paolo, an Italian businessman from Chicago (Chi-town, Windy City etc) and Li-an, the main character who is half Irish and half Singaporean Chinese. All have their own quirks and language. I made sure that I practiced a few times to make sure that everything that they said or did or ate was in character and not just because they were Jewish, Italian or Chinese. For your practicing, you could try a young Japanese soldier or an elderly Chinese lady. Or a pretty Chinese girl student looking for fun. These are all characters which you may find easy or hard to get into, depending on how it comes out in when you figure out what they say or do. Try on a few hats. It is just like being in a costume shop in front of a mirror.

5. Ready, SET, go

Use settings and movement between settings to inspire and arouse your imagination for the depth of your characters. For example, try a huge modern Japanese city, a tiny rural village in China, or in my case, Chicago’s Chinatown and Macau’s seedy casinos and Docklands area. Already you have a sense of the characters needs, conflicts and culture. This is because of the hybrid element in the cultures of diverse characters. As Li-an says, she is living in her fifth culture. Her first and second are Irish and Chinese as she is of mixed parentage, she has never been either countries of her parentage. She was born in Singapore – that would be her third culture, moved to Chicago – that would be her fourth, moved to Macau – that would be her fifth.

We as writers are all these places and all these things, we just turn them into stories. What all humans crave are stories, stories to inspire, to move, to teach, to entertain. If your stories work, you would also know that it would not matter what ethnicity the characters are. Bring them to life. Writing diverse Asian characters is just another way of writing an aspect of yourself, whoever you are.

Are you writing Asian characters and did you find it pretty easy or tough? As usual I would love to hear from you. All feedback and questions are welcome.

Ivy Ngeow was born and raised in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. She is of Malaysian Chinese origin and the author of two novels. Cry of the Flying Rhino (Proverse Hong Kong), winner of 2016 International Proverse Prize, is her debut set in Malaysia and Borneo. Her second novel Heart of Glass (Unbound UK) was set in Chicago and Macau. She is fond of margaritas, seafood tacos, Americana and all things vintage. She lives in London and is in her ‘third culture’.

#heartofglass #cryoftheflyingrhino Tweet me: @ivyngeow

 

 

 

 

Readings @Seksan Sat 25 August 2018 in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur 59100

Everybody in KUALA LUMPUR.
As part of my book promo tour, I am travelling from London to make a RARE public appearance and to read from my second novel Heart of Glass in my inimitable street style. I am second or third in the running order. It’s FREE to attend.
Date: August 25, 2018    03:30PM — 06:00PM
RSVP by: August 25, 2018    12:00PM
Venue: Seksan, 67 Jalan Tempinis 1, Kuala Lumpur, 59100, Malaysia
Type: author appearance

Seksan Gallery in Bangsar is a beautiful landscape architect designed indoor outdoor space in the contemporary tropical vernacular. There will be sale of signed copies and merch. You’ll bloody love it. Take the opportunity to come and say hi to a shy and reclusive author in her own home country, the place which gave birth to and inspired her writing and her memories.

 I cannot wait to meet y’all! Please support me and my writing.
FYI I am NOT from KL.  I am an award-winning author, born and raised in Johor Bahru, Malaysia’s most dangerous city, notorious for shootings, muggings and carjackings. It’s supposed to be twinned with Hull but I think it is more befitting with Sao Paulo in South America for just general violence rating, gangs, tattoos, dyed hair and abandoned fridges.

Heart of Glass: BOOK LAUNCH PARTY/ Reading/Talk/Q&A sesh Sat 30.6.18 The Park Tavern London

Everybody, it’s happened! Together we did it. We made Heart of Glass. Watch the BOOK LAUNCH videos and photos, now live. Thanks to those who attended and helped usher in the momentous moment. I know you’re really busy so I have cut up the evening into three videos of different lengths. They do not have to be viewed in order and each is a standalone.

I understand your copies are on the way. While waiting, check out the my tour merch too! Only £5 per item. As you know writing is a non-profit organisation. Everything that comes from my sales goes back into writing, the purchase of cosmetics and printer cartridges. The Park Tavern is an 18th century coaching inn. It is so perfect for a book launch. There are actually shelves everywhere for your shelfies! If you want a cake for any occasion, check out my cake genius friend Tina Foo’s cake below. I guarantee there is NO cake like this in the world. Chocolate with Kahlua butter cream icing. It’s pretty much heaven. Thanks also to Tina and Mary for being my tour merch managers and roadies. And so THE STORY HAS JUST BEGUN! And you thought we were finished?

Heart of Glass eBook now available now here. Paperback here.

BOOK LAUNCH PART I (Talk) 4min
BOOK LAUNCH PART II (Reading) 12 min
BOOK LAUNCH PART III (Q&A Sesh) 9 min

 

 

 

5 Reasons I am doing Promotional Merchandise as an Author

My tour merch has arrived-arrived in time for my book launch on Saturday 30 June 2018. Not only did I write the book, I wrote thesoundtrack and shot the trailer. And now it seems, I designed, curated AND modelled my promo merch. Why? Because a) I am a grassroots person. b) I make everything if I can and c) I cannot afford to hire anyone and no one else will work for free except me. Therefore I am my own asset and commodity.

There are many reasons why I chose this form of marketing.

1. It is cost-effective

Manufacturers of promotional products keep the prices very low for mass distribution. I learned everything I needed to know from when I was doing a band, Satsuma 2005-07. The difference was that in those days there was NO social media and very limited internet. The only way to reach people was to reach people physically, with real things they will touch and hold, and real people you smile at. Prices of the gift items are low but the impact is high. You cannot afford a huge scale advertising budget. Merch is cheaper than advertising. It is cost-effective for me because I am already a designer. I can design and curate and I can source products which I may safely say, are tasteful and funky. I have been designing for more than half my life, therefore the experience is there.

2. It is instantly my brand

I designed the black and white line drawing pointed heart logo with H G monogram before I mass produced the cards on which they were printed with all my contact information. The brand is themed through my story. I am using cultural references, the period and the settings throughout my merch products. I am telling a story through these products.

3. Greater exposure of my novel and my profile as an author

My products are fun and eye-catching. A leaflet or advertising on the internet will pass before the eyes whereas a physical entity, I believe, is attractive, permanent thereby having gravitas and lasting impression on consumers. Let’s face it, readers are consumers, are we not.

4. It is my business card

Every themed product has been packaged with my contact information, thereby acting like a handmade business card.

5. Reader loyalty

I am building loyalty through merchandising because I am hoping that readers will not just read this one novel but my other future books too. I am hoping that Heart of Glass will achieve a cult following, not to mention the fact that each item has been individually packaged by yours truly in my cottage industry. This strange and unique story of branding, merch and the book itself which is deeply rooted in the 1980s reflects the obsessive, foolhardy and youthful nature of music and how it drives our passion, my passion.

2018 All rights reserved © Ivy Ngeow

Ivy Ngeow is an award-winning author living in London. Find her here. Read the latest interview here. Read a review of Heart of Glass here. Buy the eBook here, the paperbackhere.

Heart of Glass: BRAND NEW Tour Merch has arrived!

Ivy’s tour merch has arrived. Featuring the piece de resistance 1” Heart of Glass cabochon pendant and silver chain necklace.
Wrote the book, wrote the soundtrack, shot the trailer and now designed, curated and modelled the promo merch. Each item 5£. To be launched on Saturday at #booklaunch #limitededition
Look. Writing is a non profit organisation. Anything I make from these goes into buying coffee, cosmetics and printer cartridges. #myrequiredtools

OK nevermind. Just admire my cheekbones. Thank you.