I wanted to write very soon after I learned to read as a child. I loved that I could experience new worlds through an author’s eyes. I wanted to create my own characters and adventures.
I started by writing short poems about cats and dogs, because the words were easy to spell and rhyme. As I got older, the poems became stories, and the stories got longer and more involved. I don’t think I ever finished any of the longer stories.
Then life intervened. I got distracted and my writing (other than school assignments) got shoved aside.
But I never forgot how much I loved to write. I became a journalist (lots of reading and writing there) but I always knew I would one day return to writing fiction.
I grew up in Singapore, where everyone has a ghost story to tell. For many Singaporeans, folklore and superstition are part and parcel of their lives. That’s what spurred my love for the horror and urban fantasy genres.
As to my book specifically, The Geomancer’s Apprentice is set in Chinatown in Washington, D.C. One of the inspirations for the book is the Friendship Archway. It’s a ceremonial Chinese arch that marks the entrance of Chinatown.
The arch is large and pretty eye-catching with its gold and green colors. It’s also inscribed and adorned with dragons. I used to pass it when I was a reporter covering events in D.C. and I thought it would make a fantastic location for an urban fantasy.
Once I had the location in mind, things started to come together—what would be the magic system? I wanted something Asian and I decided on feng shui, which is an ancient practice of choosing auspicious sites that originated in China.
Who were the main characters? I also wanted the book to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek. I thought it would make for a good story to pair a young woman and an older man who saw themselves as losers, and have them face situations of extreme danger.
The internet is a boon for writers. Everything you could possibly want to know, at your fingertips. I use it for most of my research. I also am familiar with feng shui, having friends and relatives for whom it’s a big deal.
I’d heard about the difficulty of landing a good agent from writer friends, so I decided to bypass agents. I sent a few manuscripts and short stories directly to publishers who accept unsolicited submissions. It took months before I heard back from them, and the answer was: “It’s not for us.”
I understand that it may take quite a few rejections before you find the right publisher for your work, but I didn’t want to wait that long. I’d already waited long enough, in my mind.
In addition, I saw the book publishing industry was undergoing transformative change. The internet, technological advances and social media have made indie publishing not only possible, but feasible.
So I went for it. That’s doesn’t mean I won’t give traditional publishing a try sometime in the future, but I’m committed to indie publishing for the time being.
That’s a good question. I always thought I could write well, and people have told me that I do. As a journalist, it was my job to communicate in clear, concise and accurate language. When I became an editor, I dealt regularly with punctuation and other grammatical requirements.
However, writing and plotting a book involves more than good writing and good journalistic practices. I would say I’m always learning. The best way to learn how to write a book is to read other books, especially books in your genre.
If I’ve learned anything during the writing and publishing of my book, it’s that you should read, read, and read some more.
Sheer obstinacy. Seriously though, I’ve only just started on my publishing journey. It’s been a great ride so far. I’m still psyched when I see my book on Amazon and the other sales platforms. I’m going to keep doing it as long as I can.