Author Interviews

“Staying In With…” Cry of the Flying Rhino in Linda’s Book Bag Interview Article

Check out an amazing interview with Linda’s Book Bag, award-winning UK blogger in her series “Staying in With…”

Staying in with Ivy Ngeow

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Here on Linda’s Book Bag I frequently mention my love of travel. Today I’m thrilled that my guest Ivy Ngeow is taking me off around the world again as we stay in to chat about one of Ivy’s books.

Staying in with Ivy Ngeow

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Ivy. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me. Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it? 

I’ve brought Cry of the Flying Rhino and I have chosen it because it is my debut novel and it won the 2016 International Proverse Prize.

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(Oh! How exciting. Congratulations. I also understand more congratulations are in order as your new novel Heart of Glass was published earlier this week too and there is more informationhere.)

What can we expect from an evening in with Cry of the Flying Rhino?

Cry of the Flying Rhino is a modern novel set in the railway town of Segamat, which has already been deforested and turned into miles of plantation, and Borneo, whose jungles are under threat. It is written in multiple viewpoints and is set in the 1990s and 2000s. The Chinese GP, Benjie, has been forced to marry Talisa, a mysterious and tattooed teenager, and the adopted daughter of wealthy crass Scottish landowner Ian. Benjie has to discover for himself his wife’s true identity, when Minos and Watan, two Ibans who leave the jungle and appear in Segamat one day, looking for Talisa.

(This sounds very interesting Ivy.)

I am quite pleased that the writing has been compared to my heroes, amongst others, Orwell and Burgess:

Anyone impressed, anyone imprinted upon and inspired by Lalwani, Roy, Chatterjee, Burgess, Lowry or Orwell, will be correspondingly affected by Ngeow. – Professor Jason S. Polley, Department of English, Hong Kong Baptist University

(My goodness. That’s quite an accolade. You must be thrilled with the comparisons.) 

You will also find out in the book what is a flying rhino and why does it cry.

(And I’m very intrigued to do so Ivy!)

What else have you brought along and why? 

I have brought along some inciting photographs.

map

Cry of the Flying Rhino was written thirteen years ago after I made my one and only trip to Borneo with my mother. I was inspired by the dark, macabre and gothic nature of communal longhouse living and the tribal civilisation and culture which have been around for thousands of years.

window

Two things triggered some ideas. Firstly, during the trip, I saw a tattoo parlour called Headhunters. It piqued my interest in the traditional art and symbolism of Iban tattooing, performed manually with a hammer, steel pin and ink made from tree ash. Secondly, long after our trip, I dreamt of a girl in a longhouse with eyes as huge as the “hollows of the benuah tree”. Those words came to me in the dream. I wrote them down. She looked sad and haunted and there was also terror in her eyes. I did not know who she was or what the dream was about but something unpleasant and unusual had happened to her and I set about finding out about the Iban culture, which I later discovered, is based on dreams. That dreams were everything, our hopes, work, happiness and luck.

(Wow – that’s quite a stimulus for your writing.)

tribe

In exploring the two triggers above, I found out that indigenous cultures are threatened and dying, because of loss of habitat due to logging and deforestation, and due to the conversion of the Ibans to other religions. As a result, orang asli (original people) like the Ibans are forced to leave their habitat for the city because their livelihood, dependent on being able to survive in the jungles on the fat of the land, is diminishing due to the jungles being cleared. Their way of life which is so rich in folklore, superstition and traditions will soon be lost. Ultimately the rapid destruction of the jungles will impact upon the rest of the world via climate change and so on. I also found out that children tattooed children which ensured that the art would never die. If adults were one day wiped out by an epidemic or a massacre, the surviving children would all have learned and mastered all survival and artistic skills including tattooing.

(This is utterly fascinating Ivy. I’m thrilled you’ve shared these images and the information with us today.)

Ivy, thank you so much for staying in with me to introduce Cry of the Flying Rhino. I’m absolutely intrigued by what you’ve told me and I’m sure many blog readers will be too.

Cry of the Flying Rhino

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Cry Of The Flying Rhino is set in 1996 Malaysia and Borneo, told from multiple viewpoints and in multiple voices.

Malaysian Chinese family doctor Benjie Lee has had a careless one night stand with his new employee – mysterious, teenage Talisa, the adopted daughter of a wealthy, crass Scottish plantation owner, Ian, in the provincial Malaysian town of Segamat. Talisa’s arms are covered in elaborate tattoos, symbolic of great personal achievements among the Iban tribe in her native Borneo. Talisa has fallen pregnant and Ian forces Benjie to marry her. Benjie, who relished his previous life as a carefree, cosmopolitan bachelor, struggles to adapt to life as a husband and father.

Meanwhile, Minos – an Iban who has languished ten years in a Borneo prison for a murder he didn’t commit – is released into English missionary Bernard’s care.

One day, Minos and his sidekick and fellow ex-convict Watan appear in Segamat, forcing Benjie to confront his wife’s true identity and ultimately his own fears. Are the tattoos the key to her secrets?

Cry Of The Flying Rhino is published by Proverse and is available for purchase here.

About Ivy Ngeow

ivy

Ivy Ngeow was born and raised in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. A graduate of the Middlesex University Writing MA programme, Ivy won the 2005 Middlesex University Press Literary Prize out of almost 1500 entrants worldwide. She has written non-fiction for Marie Claire, The Star, The New Straits Times, South London Society of Architects’ Newsletter and Wimbledon magazine. Her fiction has appeared in Silverfish New Writing anthologies twice, The New Writer and on the BBC World Service. Her story Funny Mountain was published by Fixi Novo in an anthology Hungry in Ipoh.

Ivy won first prize in the Commonwealth Essay Writing Competition 1994, first prize in the Barnes and Noble Career Essay Writing competition 1998 and was shortlisted for the David T K Wong Fellowship 1998 and the Ian St James Award 1999. Her debut novel, Cry of the Flying Rhino, won the 2016 International Proverse Prize.

Ivy has been a highly-accomplished multi-instrumental musician since childhood and won fifth prize (out of 850 entrants) in the 2006 1-MIC (Music Industry Charts) UK Award for her original song, ‘Celebrity’. Her second novel Heart of Glass, published by Unbound, UK, will be out from 5 June 2018.

To find out more you can follow Ivy on Twitter @ivyngeow and visit herwebsite where you can also obtain signed copies of Cry Of The Flying Rhino.

Interview with Nigel Ng: Malaysian Comedy Sensation

What are Malaysians in London famous for except Battersea Power Station, Genting Casinos and authors (umm, that would be me)? Meet young comedy genius, Nigel Ng from Kuala Lumpur, an award-winning stand-up comedian. He performs at comedy clubs here and abroad. He won Amused Moose’s Laugh Off in 2016 and was selected to be part of the prestigious Pleasance Comedy Reserve in 2017. I watched his Malaysian Sensation show at the Wandsworth Arts Fringe festival in 2018 on 13th May (the date of which is notorious only to Malaysians due to an unfortunate bloody event in our political history). I talked to him after the show, and was thrilled to jump into comfort chatting in Mandarin, which happens to be both our first languages.

How long have you been performing?

7 years.

When did you decide to become a comedian?

I started at university and then I realised I was quite funny at parties. I was doing horribly for 3 years performing and 4 years in I thought to myself: “I think I can do this.” From then on I decided to go full time.

How did you parents react when you told them you’re not going to be a doctor, lawyer, engineer, accountant?

(Laughs) They are Asian parents. To be fair they are quite cool with me doing anything I want as long as I am happy because I was the fist kid in the family to study abroad. I am the golden child.

Where did you go to University and what did you study?

In USA. Northwestern University. Engineering and philosophy.

How hard do you think it is for Asians to be represented in the comedy industry?

Maybe it is more uncommon. When I do smaller town gigs people think ‘oh that’s unusual, an Asian guy?!’ but then you go on stage you just have to show them you are funny and then they get over it. ‘OK he’s fine.’

Does comedy does bring people together?

They are willing to listen but if they are not listening you have to work a bit harder. Sometimes it does not work.
Maybe our (Asian) culture does not prize someone being outspoken or opinionated. Asian culture is about obedience and following the rules and is not focused on freedom of expression unlike Western cultures. But that is changing as Asians are going abroad and growing up in a Western environment too.

Tell us about your next project quickly.

I am recording for stand up central Comedy Central tomorrow (Monday 14 May), 6 minute set. My TV debut.

That is a big deal, no?!

Yes! I am also going to Edinburgh Comedy Festival for the full month to do the same 45 min Malaysian Sensation show.

Nigel is performing many gigs in June in London and the South. Catch him if you can. You can get tickets from here. You can watch him Live at the Glee here (11min).

Chris Ramsey’s stand up central Comedy Central is filmed live at the Electric Ballroom in Camden.

He is also playing at the prestigious Edinburgh Comedy Festival in August. He will be at Venue 85, Laughing Horse @City Cafe. Check him out here, if you are in Scotland!

I totally enjoyed the show, it was a great laugh and I was crying. Comedy is our single most successful arts and culture export as I keep telling everyone. Only Malaysians can do funny and upsetting at the same time.

 

Island Life Sentence: Carrie Jo Howe’s Florida in 10 Never-Seen-Before Photos

“A prosthetic leg with a Willie Nelson bumper sticker washed ashore on the beach, which meant it was Florida.” – Tim Dorsey, Pineapple Grenade.

“The Key West airport greeting from the tarmac. They look like mannequins, but are actually overcooked humans who have crisped into a permanent display.”

Never been to Florida? There are some eye-opening and thirst-quenching treats for you in our special photo journey today. I have been to Florida in the days BC (before children). We travelled down from Miami to Key West and Key Largo. I remember having make a few stops during the car journey. One of them was a shop (sorry, store) we found that was also a cafe and all-round convenience store. It was so convenient that it sold both tampons and guns. There were also souvenir key chains made from chopped off baby alligator paws and some incredibly cute ceramic critters of Florida wild animals, no bigger than your thumb, which I still have and admire in my bathroom to remind me nothing is what it seems.  

Ready for your dose of Floridian sun? She’s tall, blonde and blue-eyed and she epitomises the all-American girl. Meet Carrie Jo Howe, an American author based in Key West, Florida. Her new book, Island Life Sentence is a fictional account of an American Mid-western woman who feels like an alien in the “one human family” of Key West. Carrie Jo’s first book,Motherhood is NOT for Babies, published in Chicago by Windy City, works wonderfully as a form of contraception. 

Carrie will show us her Florida in a journey of 10 Never Seen Before photographs.

1. Key West: lots of water with scattered bits of land.

“I’m afraid to drive across bridges – there are 42 of them to get to mainland Florida.” – Carrie Jo Howe, Island Life Sentence

horseriding landlubber, Carrie grew up in New Jersey. Her childhood was ordinary (she says) but her claim to fame was that her Junior Prom date was James Comey (ex director of FBI). She lived in Glen Ellyn, Il (suburb of Chicago) for 20 years. Carrie says they ended up in Key West because her husband Tom works for Google and he got a Florida posting.

2. Watch out for killer wildlife. Also elderly drivers.

Peg is unaccustomed to the sight of wildlife in Key West

“Most of the wildlife can kill you, not to mention the elderly drivers, and the sun–MY GOD it’s HOT.”

In Florida it was actually too hot to go to the beach. I remember now why I had to leave Malaysia. It was not the racist, apartheid policies, corrupt third world government siphoning the people’s money, though that has something to do with it. Every time I go somewhere hot which seemed a good idea at the time, I remember why I had to leave. This included Vegas which involved crossing an 8 lane motorway in a 2 minute cab ride (he basically did a U-turn and required the customary $5 gratuity) in 42 deg C heat because no one, except slaves and donkeys, walked anywhere.

Lying down in the 40 deg C (90 deg F) sun in 99% humidity is out of the question. Forget reading. Forget makeup. Forget nice clothes. For me, there is something oppressive, desperate and torturous, about extreme heat and humidity and insects biting and singing in high pitch voices, that make you unable to think clearly or even function in a civil manner. Most terrible things I did were in extreme heat and humidity with insects biting and singing in high pitch voices. To this day I regret them.

3. On Recent Gun Crime

For Peg, it’s downward dog followed by corpse pose.

Speaking of the madness in the sun, Carrie questions why in the world would semi-automatic weapons be legal? Carrie mentors a high school girl at Key West High School and she’s scared.

“Kids should be able to attend school without being afraid. The teenagers are becoming more proactive by lobbying and protesting. The adults need to do the same.”

4. On Island Life Sentence:

Carrie’s new book is about the adventures and misadventures of main character Peg Savage whose husband Clark has signed a contract to move to Key West. She has to fend for herself and her dog Nipper as Clark has taken up a long term post in Cuba. Island Life Sentence was born out of Carrie’s own culture shock:

I’m afraid to drive across bridges – there are 42 of them to get to mainland Florida. I have rashy, pasty skin and frizzy hair- not the best when combined with tropical sun, 90 degrees and 99% humidity. I miss my friends and family and struggle with feeling isolated. All of Peg’s stories are true – other than the persistent hauntings. Our house “haints” do not visit me as regularly.  On our Irma evacuation experience, I got to see mother nature at her worst. It was terrifying and humbling. We were lucky that Key West was mostly spared. The Keys north of us were not as fortunate.

Peg drinks like a fish out of water. But can she survive Key West on her own?

  5. Surprise! There is very little crime in Key West.

“Fantasy Fest. It’s an entire week every October. My God.”

Unlike the rest of the state of Florida, there is very little crime Because Key West is isolated by the aforementioned 42 bridges,  the crime is related to drinking and general dumbness.

6. On Hemingway

“I want to get to Key West and away from it all.” – Ernest Hemingway

“Hemingway is everywhere in Key West. He’s crabby and bossy and Peg wishes he would leave her alone.”- Island Life Sentence

When I was working in Cuba on resort design, the legendary Papa Hemingway was everywhere too. He is the key tourist attraction for the intellectual, the god of modern American literature. In Havana I managed to frequent his haunts, the El Floridita and La Bodeguita del Medio and I habló y bebió like a writer with all these other tourist writers who were re-living the romantic past. He symbolises the ultimate vintage fantasy of the writer, a beach shack, a typewriter, two three bottles of whisky, a fishing boat. His house is in the Spanish Colonial style, built in 1851 and is at 907 Whitehead St, Key West. He restored it and moved into the house in 1931 with his wife no. 2. The house is also a location for the James Bond movie License to Kill. Of this property, I would mention an interesting point being that half of the cats here are polydactyl, having 6 toes, and most of the cats are believed to be descended from Hemingway’s six-toed cat Snowball. All cats are given the names of famous people, such as Clark Gable and Martha Gellhorn. It was in this house that Hemingway wrote some of his best work, including the short story classics “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” and “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”, his novel To Have And Have Not, and the non-fiction work Green Hills of Africa.

7. Ghosts of Key West

“The supernatural protection of the blue porch ceiling has long faded away. The haints have taken over this old conch house.”

Haints are spirits or ghosts dating back to African descendants from the West Indies. The blue paint of porch ceilings are a common sight in Key West.  The shade is called Jack Frost Blue.” It was believed that “haints could no’t cross water and that painting the porches blue acted as a deterrent. Ghost hunting is a popular tourist activity in Key West. Hauntings are rife. Even the Hard Rock Cafe is haunted. The most haunted place seems to be East Martello Fort built in the 1860s to protect Key West against a confederate assault by sea. It is home of Robert the Doll—an eerie handmade doll that many have dubbed “the original chucky”. He was the beloved toy of artist Gene Otto and it is said that whenever Gene, an ill-tempered boy, got into trouble, he would blame Robert the Doll. The Trolley of Doomed will take you round the ghost tours of Key West. Well maybe the blue ceilings kept the haints away but not Hurricane Irma.

8. On Storms

Storm brewing

Shel Silverstein’s house

Most likely more terrifying than Robert the Doll are the storms and hurricanes of Key West. On a worldwide scale, May is the least active month, while September is the most active. Hurricane Irma destroyed Key West in September 2017 including Shel Silverstein’s house and “you know he hain’t happy about that.”

 9. Key West – Where the Weird Go Pro

This strange sticker motto is the equivalent of the British Keep Calm and Carry On. I have my own which is Shut Up and Deal with It, because, well, I’m not British so why Keep Calm?

Anyway, you don’t keep calm when you are in Key West.  The Key West mantra, according to this online tourist boutique which I checked out: is that “Life. Is. Weird.” This is in their own words. Yeah, I know!

This going pro concept comes from none other than the esteemed Dr Hunter S Thompson, whom as we know is the master of weird:

“When the going gets weird, the weird go pro.”

10. OK I’m in Key West. What shall I do, Carrie? I want it all. Weird. The whole thing.

The final photo in our journey with Carrie. If it’s good enough for Papa Hemingway to fall in love with …

Carrie says:

“When you come to Key West, I’ll make you a Key Lime margarita from our backyard Key Lime tree. We can sip our cold beverages in the cocktail pool which was the original cistern of the property. We’ll walk to the restaurant Salute on the Beach and dine on the most delicious yellowtail snapper–caught fresh that day. We can watch the sky turn colors over the Atlantic as the sun sets a mile away over the Gulf.  Book your ticks now!

Have you been to Key West? Have you read any books set in Key West which piqued your interest? If you have enjoyed this blog post, please share, or email me here: ivy_ ngeow at yahoo dot com with your comments and feedback. As usual I would love to hear from you.

2018 All Rights Reserved © Ivy Ngeow

Carrie Jo Howe is the author of Island Life Sentence andMotherhood is NOT for Babies. She lives in Key West with her husband Tom. She has three grown-up sons. Island Life Sentence is published by Unbound and now out on Amazon. To read more about Carrie and life in Key West Florida, check out: www.carriejohowe.com Tweet her @carriejohowe #islandlifesentence www.floridakeyscrimereport.com 

Carrie’s backyard lime tree. It is thriving post Irma. This is where my Key Lime Margarita will come from.

Ivy Ngeow lives in London. Cry of the Flying Rhino is a debut award-winning novel set in Malaysia and Borneo. Her second novel Heart of Glass is published by Unbound in 2018. She is fond of margaritas, seafood tacos, Americana and all things vintage.

#cryoftheflyingrhino #heartofglass Tweet me: @ivyngeow

ASIAN BOOKS BLOG: 500 words about Cry of the Flying Rhino

What were the inciting incidents which inspired Cry of the Rhino to become an award-winning novel? Asian Books Blog ran a 500 word article with answers and much more. I was also covered by the American author Robert Raymer in his insightful and entertaining blog, the Borneo Expat Writer. Robert and I interviewed each recently.

You can also read the article here below:

Cry of the Flying Rhino was written thirteen years ago after I made my one and only trip to Borneo with my mother. I was inspired by the dark, macabre and gothic nature of communal longhouse living and the tribal civilisation and culture which have been around for thousands of years. Two things triggered some ideas.

longhouse3 longhouse1 longhouse2

Firstly, during the trip, I saw a tattoo parlour called Headhunters. It piqued my interest in the traditional art and symbolism of Iban tattooing, performed manually with a hammer, steel pin and ink made from tree ash.
36BorneoDayak
Secondly, long after our trip, I dreamt of a girl in a longhouse with eyes as huge as the “hollows of the benuah tree”. Those words came to me in the dream. I wrote them down. She looked sad and haunted and there was also terror in her eyes. I did not know who she was or what the dream was about but something unpleasant and unusual had happened to her and I set about finding out about the Iban culture, which I later discovered, is based on dreams. That dreams were everything, our hopes, work, happiness and luck.

In exploring the two triggers above, I found out that indigenous cultures are threatened and dying, because of loss of habitat due to logging and deforestation, and due to the conversion of the Ibans to other religions. As a result, orang asli (original people) like the Ibans are forced to leave their habitat for the city because their livelihood, dependent on being able to survive in the jungles on the fat of the land, is diminishing due to the jungles being cleared. Their way of life which is so rich in folklore, superstition and traditions will soon be lost. Ultimately the rapid destruction of the jungles will impact upon the rest of the world via climate change and so on. I also found out that children tattooed children which ensured that the art would never die. If adults were one day wiped out by an epidemic or a massacre, the surviving children would all have learned and mastered all survival and artistic skills including tattooing.

headhunters tattooing girls tattooing girls

Cry of the Flying Rhino is a modern novel set in the railway town of Segamat, which has already been deforested and turned into miles of plantation, and Borneo, whose jungles are under threat. The Chinese GP, Benjie, has been forced to marry Talisa, a mysterious and tattooed teenager, and the adopted daughter of wealthy crass Scottish landowner Ian. Benjie has to discover for himself his wife’s true identity, when Minos and Watan, two Ibans who leave the jungle and appear in Segamat one day, looking for Talisa.

Cry of the Flying Rhino raises uneasy themes of identity, poverty, religion, race, greed, colonialism and post-colonial struggles, and deculturalisation because I want to convey to readers the issues and conflicts which affect Asia today using the medium of fiction. I hope the story will take them to another world.

 

 

Lulu Allison: The Relevance of Art in Literature

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” – Edgar Degas

-COVER smlLulu Allison is a Brighton-based artist and writer. Before she started writing she had already been an established artist.

Author photo smaller

Twice the Speed of Dark
is told from the viewpoint of Caitlin, killed by violent boyfriend Ryan. Ten years on, her mother Anna is still burdened by suppressed grief. Dismayed by the indifference in the news to people who die in distant war and terror, Anna writes portraits of the victims, trying to understand the real impact of their deaths. It is only through these acts of love for strangers that she can allow herself an emotional connection to the world. Anna’s uneasy equilibrium is disrupted when Ryan is released from prison. As her anger rises will Anna act on her desire for revenge, or will she find freedom at last from the terrible weight of grief? And will Caitlin reclaim herself from the brutality that killed her?

Lulu Allison’s self-discovery
unexpectedly made her transition from visual artist to a writer as an indirect result of the Boston Marathon Bombing in 2013. It was triggered by her curiosity for why the news offered reasons to care about victims of the Boston bombing when the names of those who died in Iraq or Afghanistan were not released. Why were some victims unseen and others offered up for public grieving? Lulu began what she thought of as an art project, writing portraits of the nameless victims in the news. It became clear that writing offered a means of expression that didn’t exist in art. She expanded the portrait writing; the result was her first novel, Twice the Speed of Dark.

Art by Lulu Allison

in a gallery in Cardiff, from her pre-writing days. They are site-specific installations, newspaper and bamboo structures, part of a series called Vagabond Palaces because they are made of waste newsprint.

“I liked the idea that waste becomes something valuable because something is removed from it (the cut holes) and I thought too that it is a vagabond material, transient, overlooked.”

vagabond palace 1

Vagabond Palace 1

vagabond palace 4

Vagabond Palace 4

There are three types of art in literature:

1/ art for art’s sake
Is the purest form of art. There is no one best to represent this than Shakespeare whose literature was to entertain, and not just the esoteric few, but the masses. Shakespeare’s plays were exercises in realism. There was no intention to reform or to revolt against the evils of society or the ruling party. Yet being a true artist, his insights and portrayal of the human condition and the conflicts in his tragedies, histories or comedies are true to character and filled with empathy.

2/ art for social purposes
is for spreading or instilling social ideas. In poor countries, with corrupt, inept governments, art is used as a device through which social ideas are spread, through billboards, public art, printed material such as leaflets. Keats, Tennyson, Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot and Edgar Allan Poe are of the view that society is influenced by propaganda, which is when artistic licence is taken to spread social ideas.

3/ art for morality
is the positive end of art for social purposes. Dickens, Bernard Shaw, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Upton Sinclair, John Steinbeck, Balzac, Stendhal, Flaubert, Victor Hugo; Goethe; Cervantes; Tolstoy, Gogol, Dostoevsky speak the truth through their fiction: the truth being their despair and opposition of oppression, fatalism, passivity, and submission to the societal flaws. Twice the Speed of Dark by Lulu Allison is a novel which comes into this third category as there are themes of grief, domestic violence and disorder which ultimately examine the moral and emotional conscience.

This is another example of Lou’s site-specific non-gallery based art from a series called Entropy: Value-Added.

“Again, it was thinking about value, and I loved the bombastic idea that I was adding value to decay. There is something beautiful in that for me. This is essentially street art, but I called it feral, because I felt it had escaped from the studio back into the wild. I guess it suits Anna’s interest in the accidental too.”

entropy value added

Entropy: Value Added

Anna, the grieving mother in Twice the Speed of Dark seeks solace in the viewing of public art at the Tate, but makes the weary re-discovery that her “passion for art has gone” and that “Twentieth-century art… looks tired, more tired than her even.” Yet she stands back, passive, she feels she has outgrown that passion and is unmoved by the passion invoked by one of the trustees, energetic Eva, of the arts organisation.

Also in the same chapter, we see from the viewpoint of the late Caitlin bonding with her mother Anna in a flashback.

“It was easy to absorb her joyfulness, and soon Dad and I were as elevated as she… Today’s happy evening was brought to you by the colour purple.”

Caitlin describes her pride for her mother being an art history lecturer, who

“spent her life looking at paintings, artworks, filling her eyes with arrangements that had been created, if not inevitably to please the eye to fill it.Little_Chittenden_Wood_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1861070

“…But she did offer the chance to share in her looking. Look, Caitlin how beautiful it is! It might be a distant view… it might be something I couldn’t spot at all.”

These scenes in Chapter 4 are firstly symbolic of art which bring people, in this case, family together. It is something that grows up and grows old with us. Secondly, these scenes depict also that in literature, art becomes a habit, a theme, an inspiration both for memory and storytelling.

Author’s Biography:

Lulu Allison has spent most of her life as a visual artist. She attended Central St Martin’s School of Art then spent a number of years travelling and living abroad. Amongst the bar-tending and cleaning jobs, highlights of these years include: in New Zealand, playing drums for King Loser and bass for Dimmer. In Germany, making spectacle hinges in a small factory. In Amsterdam painting a landmark mural on a four storey squat and nearly designing the new Smurfs. In Fiji and California, teaching scuba diving. After a decade of wandering, she returned to the UK, where she had two children and focused on art. She completed a fine art MA and exhibited her lens-based work and site-specific installations in group and solo shows. In 2013 what began as an art project took her into writing and she unexpectedly discovered what she should have been doing all along. Twice the Speed of Dark is her first book, published by Unbound. She is currently writing a second novel, called Wetlands.

You can find Lulu Allison here. Check out her new novel Twice the Speed of Dark paperback version here and the kindle version here. Check out my new paperback award-winning novel Cry of the Flying Rhino here, kindle version here.

 

 

DEBRIEF: Publishing Two Books!

Bako KuchingThis is a view of Bako National Park in Kuching, Borneo, home to millions of flora and fauna many of which are still undiscovered and unknown to humans. It seems the opposite of the Hong Kong in the photo below, yet both of these places are where Cry of the Flying Rhino was born.IMG_9230

Publishing Cry of the Flying Rhino traditionally and publishing Heart of Glass through Crowdfunding:

Before my book launch in Hong Kong, Borneo-based US author of Lovers and Strangers, Robert Raymer, had talked to me about having two books out not quite but nearly at once after writing for so many decades. We discussed both traditional publishing and the crowdfunded system ofpublishing for Heart of Glass. I was very chuffed that Robert had written the advance commentary for my book Cry of the Flying Rhino. I had admired his writing from a very long time ago, in fact, 31 years to be exact, when I first met him. I was a 17 year old schoolgirl and I had just won my first “prize” in writing, which was a Writer’s Workshop in Kuala Lumpur. It was the second time I submitted a short story to the New Straits Times for a competition and the first time I won anything in my life or travelled to the capital city on my own. Therefore it was a rite of passage for me. I read Robert’s books when I was a young adult (in those days there was no such thing as YA fiction). You are either an adult or not an adult.

The magic of writing and the beauty of ideas all begin in the mind, in the imagination. One day it is somewhere else, in someone else’s mind and imagination. Read Robert’s post after the book launch, where a book about Borneo finally arrives in Borneo in the very place where the novel is set!

Check out my SHOP where you can purchase SIGNED FIRST LIMITED EDITIONS of Cry of the Flying Rhino. Find out why this book won outright for the first time in 9 years of the International Proverse Prize competition.

USEFUL LINKS

If you would like unsigned copies, please go to

Paperback: amazon.com
Paperback: amazon.co.uk
Kindle eBook: US

Kindle eBook UK 

NEW author pages! See below:
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INTERVIEW: American writer Robert Raymer on Writing and Publishing

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Robert Raymer is an American writer and writing facilitator from Grove City, Pennsylvania, who now lives in Kuching, Sarawak on the island of Borneo.

I have met Robert just once. I mentioned him in another blog post called “My First Prize-winning Story was typed on this typewriter” about when I first started submitting my work to competitions and won a short story workshop as a prize for a story I entered. I was 17. I had travelled to the big city of Kuala Lumpur for the first time as part of the prize was attending this workshop. I had never been to KL on my own before. I was totally naive and he was the first American I had met and I thought hey, this glamorous guy must be a movie star from Hollywood as all Americans were movie stars, were they not? The only other white people I had ever met were three women preachers or missionaries from my mum’s home church who played the church organ, wore frocks and sandals and sang gospel hymns all in harmony. They were not film stars. They were Methodists from New Zealand.

It was thirty years ago. I am now 47. About twelve years ago, Robert was the editor for an anthology of short stories called Silverfish New Writing 4. He selected and edited my short story entitled “Friday Night at the Pheasant”. I have lost touch and found him again, thanks to the internet. It seems that life has its circular way of making sense.

I am really honoured that I got to interview Robert here. I have read most if not all of Robert’s stories and what comes across is that he really loves writing and his work is accessible. He writes with kindness, passion and humour. Here he shares with honesty his invaluable experience, hard work and expertise as a writer which he has gained over many decades, his lessons learned and re-learned, the dedication and sacrifices he and his family have made. Warning: This post is a treasure trove. Look away now if you do not wish to know the skill, hardship and labour of love that is the writing life.
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-Interview begins-

1. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
Usually once you publish a book, you move onto the next one, but when the publisher, Heinemann Asia got bought out and the buyer got bought out, too, and dropped their whole line of fiction, I found my three-year-old collection of short stories orphaned. So I kept revising the individual stories, trying to sell them to markets outside of Malaysia/ Singapore. Then a Malaysian lecturer wanted to use my now-out-of-print book for his course on post-colonial writing, so I contacted another publisher that said yes. But first I took a hard look at the stories, hired an editor to rip them apart, and then I overhauled the stories, adding back-stories, changing endings, even doubling several stories in length. After moving to Sarawak and not finding the book in the stores, the Malaysian publisher blamed it on the Singapore distributor refusal to ship the books because of the additional costs, so with his blessing I switched to a third publisher, and revised everything again. That third collection, with the addition of two stories, won the 2009 Popular Reader’s Choice Award and was translated into French. Those original 15 stories (minus one, plus two) have been published 80 times in twelve countries. I even blogged a story-behind-the-stories series, pointing out the significant changes for each story that led to their publications locally and overseas.

The lesson, even though a book is published, doesn’t mean you can’t improve it.

That surely applies to unpublished novels that I felt could’ve been published a long time ago— I’ve had offers, but I didn’t think it would ever get out of Malaysia or Singapore. The heavily-revised books are so much better than what they would have been had I settled for a local publisher.

2. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Investing in myself by moving to Malaysia to write full time (and taking the slow route, backpacking nine months until I got dysentery),

after writing “Mat Salleh”, a short story about meeting my Malaysian-in-laws, later published in the UK, and completing the first draft of a terrible novel to prove that I could at least stick with it. As a footnote, that “Mat Salleh” story attracted the attention of Ohio University (USA) twenty years later who wanted to film it; instead they opted to film another story of mine, “Home for Hari Raya” in Malaysia.

3. How long were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one?
That’s a tricky question. I was a part time writer for a few years in the US but chose to move to Malaysia in order to write full time, though I was mostly living off savings. Once that money ran out, I went back to working/teaching full time and writing part-time for another twenty years.

Although I write full time now, I’m also a house husband looking after two boys, age 10 and 13.

For now, I’m not making enough to support myself full time, but that is a trade off we made….Living in Malaysia, in Borneo, as a writer is a lot cheaper than living in the US or the UK. Now and then, when my wife has a really bad day, she’ll ask me for a progress report to keep me honest…Luckily, one of the perks for her job is travelling every year to Germany and then taking an extra week to travel in Europe while I stay home with the kids…

4. How many hours a day do you write? Tell us about your day.

Writing full time when you have children rarely means writing full time.

Since my elder son started to attend afternoon school my day has become topsy-turvy. On school days I’m up by 5:30 and by 6:00 the children are en route to school and I’m free to write until about 10:15. Then I have to cook and feed my elder son and take him to school and pick up my younger son and feed us both lunch. By 2:30, I’m back to writing. On the evenings that I cook, I stop around 6:00 and if I’m lucky, I can get back to work by 8:45. By 10:00 I’m usually in bed. The days I don’t cook dinner, I can work from 2:30 until about 7:45 and be back to work by 8:30 until 10:00. Of course not all of that is sole writing time, since I do have children,

but when I’m pushing a self-imposed or a real deadline, I’m surprised by how much work I can get done when I focus on the work and ignore distractions, including my children, who naturally take advantage of me….

Weekends depend if they have any school activities (swimming) on Saturday morning or tuition in the afternoon and our plans to watch a movie or go out for dinner. Sundays, after cooking brunch, I usually write all afternoon, often into the evening, especially when pushing a deadline.

5. What advice would you give writers who are facing only rejections?

If you are getting rejections that means you are writing and submitting your work and that is good.

No rejections, usually translates into not writing or not submitting your work. It’s all about perseverance and writing better stories and revising and outlasting those rejections. They say you only fail as a writer when you stop writing, so don’t stop writing! Remember that every best-selling author, every published writer started out getting rejected again and again! They didn’t give up; they persevered. The question you have to ask yourself: will you give up or will you persevere? Also read widely and read successful books you would not normally read to see what makes them successful. Read, learn and apply what you have learned to your writing. Self-help books do help!

6. Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?

Rarely do I read any book that doesn’t make me think differently about fiction.

When I read good non-fiction it can read like fiction, if it has a good story to tell in an interesting way. This used to surprise me, but good fiction can also read like non-fiction (think memoir—James Frey, anyone?) if your characters and setting and all the details ring true and seem real to the reader, even if you’re making most of it up, so long as the story is good.

7. What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Other than financial, it is patience and knowing when your work is ready for publication and not just because you are tired of monkeying around with it and can’t wait to become rich and famous. It’s having the courage to accept that maybe it’s not the best it could be and then rolling up your sleeves and revising it yet again.

Having gone through it again, if done earnestly, you’re often glad that you did, surprised by how much you were able to improve the manuscript on nearly every single page!

So keep doing that! I now go through each chapter three times whether it’s my 5th, 10th or 20th draft, after I’ve printed it out and line edited it, and the changes I keep making are immense….And I thought it was already good, ready to be published! So you can either blame the agents and the publishers or get back to work and find out what’s missing or what could be fixed or improved.

8. What are you working on now and what are you planning on writing next? Tell us about your next project.

I have sequels planned for three novels that I wrote, including one set in Penang, which will be sandwiched between two other novels, part of a trilogy.

Originally I hadn’t planned a trilogy, or even a sequel, but when I realized both novels could be related, I changed the character in the second book to match that in a much earlier novel, and reconciled the dates, the back-stories; but then I realized that I had always planned to write a third novel set in Penang based on an incident that happened to me and I thought, this might work between the other two books, involving the same character. Since I had purposely introduced a new character at the end of the first book who would be one of the main characters in that now third book, she could be in the second book, too, along with several upcoming characters. So that second book is starting to feel like a prequel to that third book. Also, I had written a novel set in the US about a shooting incident involving a child, and I have two novels planned as sequels. Then last year I adapted a screenplay into a humorous novel about a hapless spirit helping a boy find a new mother. Of course, I have a sequel planned for that….In fact, I was itching to start either that or the other set in the US by mid-July while waiting for the results of the Faulkner-Wisdom contest where I have submitted five novels.

But two weeks ago, while showering, I suddenly found a way to begin another novel idea that I had been collecting notes on that I felt was more marketable, so I put everything else on hold.

Since I’m still in the early stages of writing the first draft, I don’t want to let the genie out of the bottle before I finish writing it. Based on past experience, the drive to write the story is gone once you start talking about the story. You can talk the story right out of your system. Write it first, talk about it later when the story is written or it’ll always be just another idea that you never got around to write. I figured if never got another new idea for another novel, I could spend the rest of my life happily writing sequels based on the notes I already typed into my computer (dozens of pages for most, others a whole lot more) and that’s not a bad feeling….I admit, at times, I do feel like that donkey that starves to death because it can’t decide between two stacks of hay. So finding a third stack can be a real life saver…

9. If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
Edit…which I do now and then. Having taught creative writing for thirteen years at two universities and having line edited about a thousand manuscripts, I know I can help other writers because I can see what they are missing. Of course, it’s always easier to see the flaws in someone else’s work than your own, but after a while, you see similar flaws in your own work and because you were able to fix their work, you can now fix yours….

And if you had stopped writing for any reason, you would think, hell I can write better
than that, and this would lead you back into your own writing and editing your own
work…

-Interview ends-

Thank you so much Robert for the incredible interview! I can’t wait to hear the results of the Faulkner-Wisdom Competition and please join me in wishing him every success. I hope he starts on the seeds of his new novel imminently. Find him at www.borneoexpatwriter.com. Read his entertaining and insightful blog here.

About Robert Raymer:

After graduating from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, he was a regional manager for Kinko,[1] in charge of 11 stores in three states before moving to Penang, Malaysia where he lived for 21 years and taught creative writing at Universiti Sains Malaysia. He also taught creative writing at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak. He is the author of a collection of short stories set in Malaysia (Lovers and Strangers Revisited, MPH Group, 2008), a collection of creative nonfiction (Tropical Affairs, MPH, 2009), and a travel book (Spirit of Malaysia, Editions Didier Millet, 2011).

Named as one of the “50 Expats You Should Know in Malaysia” by Expatriate Lifestyle magazine (January 2010),[2] Robert Raymer’s short stories and articles have appeared in many publications including The Literary Review, London Magazine, Thema, Descant, The Writer and Reader’s Digest. One story from Lovers and Strangers Revisited has been used for the Cambridge International Examinations and others have been taught in Malaysian universities, private colleges and Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia literature in secondary schools,[3] as well as in a high school in Canada. He was the editor of Silverfish New Writing 4. Three of his novels have been “short-list” finalists in the 2009 and 2011 Faulkner-Wisdom Novel Competition.