Born in the Pearl of the Orient, grew up in the ex mining capital of the world, I now spend most of my time in the city that houses the tallest twin towers in the world.
Writing is a love I developed over the years. Deathrow High is my first book.
Written in 2001, it’s a contemporary Malaysian tale (in English and Manglish – Malaysian English) revolving around the relationship between the narrator and his best friend on death row, Frank. Wrought in love and guilt, Deathrow High deals with a religious upbringing the narrator tries to shake off, a new love of his life and an old one he can’t forget, and his gradual but in-mollifiable loss of respect for Frank as the man deteriorates in his cell wanting nothing more than to be reconciled with his wife before the date of his demise. O’ yes, and the narrator discovers the joy and liberation of dance.
I was not happy with it for a long time; but I think I have improved as a writer over the decade. Deathrow High was published in 2007. But the deal was rushed and I was inexperienced and glaring grammatical errors came rushing out of the pages. In retrospect, it was premature to have the book out; I’d not matured as a writer. Ecstasy overtook rationality when the manuscript was wanted. I was given free rein, the publisher trusted me, and I did my best. But it wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t ready. Thankfully Deathrow High was only released in Malaysia, and soon it set sail into silent obscurity. Perhaps I can blame local reading habits or my risqué content or even bad marketing, but I’m glad it didn’t make a splash and instead, died a quiet death. However, I’m looking forward to its resurrection having recently reedited its body. I’m proud of it; don’t get me wrong, the prose needed tinkering, that’s all. The mistakes, unless intentional, have been obliterated. Story wise, it remains the same.
In tandem, God of the Game is an abstract continuation of Deathrow High set in the afterlife. To surmise the two, Deathrow High gives insight of the narrator as a man, and God of the Game after, when he is god – how would (everlasting) life be if anything and everything was possible?
They’re both part of the Dreamstate Series – a collection looped round life on Earth and slung-shot across infinity and eternity to return to the Third Rock once again, culminating, or rather coinciding, with the Second Coming (whatever that may be).
Currently, I am more than halfway through my third novel. Hope to see it out in 2014, or latest, I promise, by 2015.
What inspires you to write?
That storyteller in my head
Tell us about your writing process.
I confess I’m not a natural writer. I can’t sit in front of my laptop and automatically pump out the words. The first hour I try to write I end up mulling around, picking at the internet doing unfruitful stuff. And then, all of a sudden, it comes and I write my page or two within the hour or less, usually averaging between 500-1000 words depending on mood and flow.
Oh ya, I write without a plot. I’m the first person to discover and read the story, and that’s one of the main reasons why I love writing. Often, I’d been surprised by the twisting and turning of the tale. For example, I never expected two characters to fall in love, or one to die, but the prose, somehow, led to that outcome quite naturally.
I do have a rough concept of the book when I start, but it’s fluid and the idea can change. When I reach a particular scene, the following one sometimes falls on me and i realize the fate of the character; yet at times, while pursuing his or her destiny, the marriage of words changes everything.
And I drink lots of thick black coffee. Sometimes I think it is the caffeine writing through me.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
Listen. Not talk. They’re telling me their story. I’m watching them in a movie. There is a dimensional screen separating us, though I feel myself in them.
What advice would you give other writers?
Listen to that voice in your head
How did you decide how to publish your books?
The real challenge came after what I thought was the final draft. Looking for a literary agent had been a difficult and humbling affair, and after a possible 100 rejections – avoiding drowning and managing to come up for air after each paddle to the head – I realized destiny’s way was to dig with my own hands the path ahead.
I thank God however for the invaluable encouragements and advice the agents gave that’d led to countless hours of revisions and editing; and finally, I have something in my hands I’m proud of.
I was not literary trained. I just have a stupendous imagination. Grammar was based on what sounded nice, not right, and I often confused words that sounded alike, not to mention my atrocious spelling. Thank the heavens for spellcheck! I think I would not have started writing if I was left with the typewriter and my own handwriting. Too many changes and corrections. Technology brings out talents in us, but the rest is hard work and the determination to improve and see things through. Bringing a novel to your hands was the journey, my journey, a journey that went beyond just a story, or the right words, but into the night of little details, discovering my own lack, carelessness, at times ignorance, and fixing them. A good book to me has to tickle your feet, agitate your groin, grab at the gut, wrench the heart, open up the mind and liberate fantasy. I hope mine does yours.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
A mix between traditional forms and digital. Technology has allowed more writers to come to the fore, which paradoxically, creates clutter. Mainstream publishers still have most power to make an international bestseller, and it will be less risk since they can gauge the (cult) following of any particular writing.
Digital distribution will continue to increase but I doubt it will replace paper completely, at least not in the near future, unless we head toward sudden dystopia. There is romance in holding an ‘old-fashion’ book in hand.
What genres do you write?
urban, fantasy, apocalypse, transgressive, utopia, satire
What formats are your books in?
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