Joyce Chng is a Singaporean author of speculative fiction, with works ranging from urban fantasy to steam punk to Sci Fi. With daring heroines and tumbling prose, Chng’s adventurous style sweeps us through alternate worlds of vivid imagination. We spoke briefly with the author about her work, as well as her thoughts on the writing scene in Singapore, and the industry in general.
Ed: You’ve written several books on Smashwords.com. Tell us a bit about them, and what sort of reader might find them interesting.
JC: The books and stories on Smashwords are targeted at young adults and general readers. The Basics of Flight, Oysters, Pearls & Magic and Winged are YA speculative fiction novellas whereas Rebirth is a short story centring on the Lung, the Chinese dragons in my urban fantasy novels.
The Basics of Flight is a steam punk YA taking place in an alternate England where dashing pilots pilot leo-fins, a type of airship.
Oysters, Pearls & Magic first took form as a web serial before becoming an eBook. It is more science fiction in nature; descendants of Earth colonists trying to survive on a planet.
Winged is my first attempt at self-publishing YA: it is two books in one with the second book about a phoenix princess trying to find herself. The novellas have girls as main characters. So, I hope more girls would read them and spread the word as well.
Ed: Tell us a bit about the scene in Singapore. What writers should we be looking out for, what sort of fiction is doing well over there right now.
JC: Generally, the scene in Singapore is pretty much skewed towards literary fiction, poetry and an inordinate number of cookbooks, self-help manuals and assessment books (books created for the results-mad educational system). The only type of genre fiction doing well is horror. Even non-fiction with a dose of humour is more welcomed than locally written science fiction.
However, 2012 seems to be the year where Singaporean SF&F is finally taking off. We have anthologies like The Ayam Curtain and Fish Eats Lion being launched at the Singapore Writers’ Festival, LONTAR (a journal of South East Asian speculative fiction) and other smaller initiatives taking place. Independent book stores like Books Actually and Ethos are keen to publish local writers.
Gosh, there are so many talented writers. Dave Chua, Ander Brinks and Wena Poon to name a few.Alvin Pang, Cyril Wong and Ng Yi-Sheng are poets who are also good with prose. Hopefully, we can sustain the momentum for Singaporean SF&F…
Ed: Hundreds of thousands of books are being self published every year. What sort of changes would you like to see in the industry so that readers and writers can better connect.
JC: Less focus on the glamour of traditional publishing as – come on! – many of us are hybrids. Less “us versus them”, because we are authors and readers at the same time, and constant quibbling is tiring and energy sapping.
More transparency, I guess – publishing isn’t a walled city (though some insist it is).
Ed: What about your influences. Film, books, television, people. Where do you draw from.
JC: My influences are SF&F authors, botany and zoology, and assorted places. I grew up reading Anne McCaffery, Frank Herbert and Isaac Asimov. I also read a lot of non-fiction, primarily in the fields of botany and zoology. I do a fair bit of gardening, so in a way, nature is a major influence. World-
building reminds me so much of gardening.
Ed: You have produced a number of works in a short space of time. Any advice on writing, or on your method?
Advice? Each author/writer has his or her own rhythm. Main thing: writing is NOT a competition.
Write it down and put it in front of you when you write.
That being said, it’s not easy with two kids (two girls who are as stubborn and articulate as me, so imagine the arguments!). I tend to write when I have time (morning and late night). I also carry a notebook (I also use a smartphone) with me, so that I write down bits and pieces when I am inspired. I have found that writing exhausted isn’t exactly the way to go. You burn out faster. Write in spurts. Know your own rhythm. Repeat the mantra “Writing is not a competition”.
You can follow Joyce on [email protected]