Tuesday, February 21, 2017

100 WRITERS _____ Simon Chesterman's RAISING ARCADIA trilogy is about a clever girl tackling the greatest mystery of all: Who am I?

Note: This post is part of my 100 WRITERS project.

Many fiction writers have a happy and productive day job. They write stories not for work but rather to express their personal creative talent and connect with the greater story community. Simon Chesterman is a law professor who's also in the process of publishing the third book in his YA mystery thriller series, RAISING ARCADIA. We share the same editor at Marshall Cavendish. The law professor bit might explain his writing approach: carefully plotted, engaging and filled with intellectual teasers. If you've also been juggling a day job and a personal story project, and you'd like to get some inspiration, check out his website here. Thanks to Simon for doing this interview.

— D


Please introduce yourself and your Raising Arcadia book series.
By day I’m a law professor, writing books on the United Nations and helping our students hone their critical and analytical skills. I studied law in Australia and England, but have been based in Singapore for a decade.

As a teenager, I toyed with the idea of writing fiction and actually completed two (unpublished) novels. They were fun to write, but I look on them now as a kind of diary – a window into my mind at that point in my life.

Now I have my own children, who love to read, and the oldest is about to become a teenager. So I thought that maybe it was time to try to write something for them, and young adults like them (as well as young adults at heart).

The result was the Raising Arcadia trilogy – a coming-of-age-detective-mystery-thriller about a sixteen year old girl, Arcadia Greentree, who has an exceptional mind and must use it to find out who she really is.

What inspired you to develop this particular series?
Having children and watching them grow has caused me to reflect on the impact of nature and nurture on our development. How much of their identity is due to genetics, and how much to the environment? I teach at a university with amazing students, but are their talents due to biology, pedagogy, or something else? These are some of the questions that Arcadia confronts when she discovers that her very existence is bound up in some kind of experiment. Over the course of the trilogy, we accompany her on the journey to work out her place in the world and the competing forces that shape her as a person.

What’s your story development and writing process like?
I’m a fairly methodical person, so I planned out most of the trilogy in advance and have elaborate notes so that I keep hold of the various threads. But when I actually write, it’s more like doing a jigsaw puzzle. No one does a jigsaw starting in the top left corner and then working your way down. You do the easy bits first: the border, distinctive sections that stand out, pieces that clearly fit together. So I will jump around a fair bit, but all with an eye to getting a draft that I can then edit and re-edit. I think for the first book I ended up on version 66.

What’s the most interesting experience or realisation you had, in writing this series?
Despite being methodical, the most interesting aspect of the writing process was the extent to which the characters came alive. In the course of writing, I would start to get a sense of how the characters would sound, what they would do. And in one case, I got so attached to a character that I decided that I couldn’t go through with a plotline that saw that character die. So I revised the plot to keep the character alive through the series.

I hope people enjoy reading the books as much as I enjoyed writing them! Book three, which concludes the series, should be out by the end of this year.

Connect with Simon 

. . . . . . . . . .

MAGICIENNE is my recent YA novel
co-authored with celebrity magician and author Ning Cai
Published by Marshall Cavendish

Keen to learn about publishing your stories?
Check out my free PDF download 

Part of the 100 WRITERS project

Monday, February 20, 2017

MAGICIENNE _____ Here's a special #BuySingLit giveaway, you can win a voucher

Are you in the #BuySingLit mood yet?
You can win yourself an official BuySingLit voucher. It's easy, just check out my MAGICIENNE co-author Ning Cai's Instagram for details. Look for this photo.
But hurry, giveaway closes in 48 hours.
Happy shopping!

Link: https://www.instagram.com/ning.thing/

Read an excerpt from our MAGICIENNE collaboration, and find out how we wrote this YA thriller together. All this and more, here.

— D

Sunday, February 19, 2017

100 WRITERS _____ Meet Rachel Tey, author of TEA IN PAJAMAS, a lovely looking fantasy adventure that's also an inspiring self-published success

NOTE: This post is part of my 100 WRITERS project.

Maybe you found out about local author Rachel Tey through last year's Singapore Writers Festival. She was a featured speaker. Her self published novel TEA IN PAJAMAS might appear at first to be a children's fantasy adventure, but there's actually a lot more to it. Here's her explanation. It's definitely one of the more pretty and elegantly designed self published local books that I've seen, and this contributes nicely to setting the mood for the reading experience. Thanks to Rachel for this generous, insightful and also rousing interview below.

— D

Photo by Eadwine Lay of Plush Photography


Please introduce yourself!
Hi! I'm Rachel Tey, author of Tea in Pajamas, a middle-grade action adventure novel. Synopsis and book blurb below:
What if by doing something ordinary, you unlocked the gateway into a world of the extraordinary? For Belle Marie, having tea on Wednesday afternoons—barefoot and in her pajamas—mysteriously transports her from her home to the charming storybook land of Belzerac. Soon joined by her best friend, Tess, the girls enjoy weekly adventures in this wonderful new place of talking animals and a glittering blue forest. But one particular Wednesday, Tess suddenly vanishes and things go awry. Is Tess in danger and is it too late to save her? Belle is confronted with these frightening possibilities, coupled with the fact that she herself may be lost and beyond the point of return.
Writing is not all I do for a living—not primarily at least. For the most part, I'm an editorial consultant at a local university, though I also straddle adjunct work for a government agency and yet another university. I am also: a book fiend (getting a Kindle was the worst idea); English history nut (medieval monarchs float my boat); dog lover (despite being mauled by one at the age of six), Francophile, and closet shopaholic (see the oxymoron?). I live in Singapore with my husband (we celebrate our 10th anniversary this May), 9-year-old son (who talks like a teenager) and 4-year-old daughter (who is determined to remain in her terrible twos).

These days, I'm supposedly working on the sequel to Tea in Pajamas, tentatively titled Beyond Belzerac, for which—after having had the first-hand experience of self-publishing—I'm considering throwing myself at any shopping for a publisher. I try to blog often, and I have an ongoing web series, Everything Takes Forever, which chronicles my recovery from an eating disorder (and then some), and in the not-so-distant future, it's been a bit of a pipe dream to pen a volume of spiritual reflections.

Why are you so interested in writing fiction?
Fiction per se may be entirely make-believe, but for a story to be authentic and credible, it also needs to be rooted, in some degree, to the author's own real experiences. Tea in Pajamas is an allegorical description of my journey towards inner freedom, and I chose to present it as a children's story because I had a message for young readers: the importance of being self-aware and discerning, and to recognise that sometimes little actions grow into patterns of behavior than can in the long term do more harm than good. Being able to convey all this with a fictional storyline and characters showed me just how powerful fiction is, and can be.

How did you go about publishing this on your own?
I've been in publishing almost all my working life, and have almost 14 years' experience as an editor at various publishers spanning magazines to academic books and journals. Self-publishing appealed to me at the time because I already know the nuts and bolts of content management, and how to take a manuscript to final print and online publication. Moreover, the exciting new bits—building my own brand from scratch, establishing an online and social media presence, finding the right publishing platform, crafting my own marketing strategy—made the whole idea of learning to self-publish so intriguing to me. I would finally get a holistic view of publishing and know what it's like to be both author and publisher when I was previously only the latter.

God helps those who help themselves, as the saying goes, and much as I did most of the heavy-lifting, I cannot take all the credit for my maiden foray into self-publishing. For the production bits, I drew on my existing knowledge (I doubled up as both writer and copyeditor/proofreader; for layout, I engaged one of the many reliable book designers I know; and my husband (himself a illustrator and creative by profession) provided artwork for the cover and chapter visuals. The rest (and there is a lot more to it) I had to Google and read up on my own—to this end, I highly recommend to anyone interested in self-publishing Catherine Ryan Howard's Self-Printed: The Sane Person's Guide to Self-Publishing.

Tea in Pajamas first went on sale as a paperback on Amazon in December 2015, and shortly afterward I launched the ebook version on Amazon’s Kindle storeApple iBooksBarnes & NobleKoboBlio, and Smashwords. However, by 2016, paperback copies were stocked at local bookstores such as Booktique @ CityLink MallTango Mango @ Tanglin MallMy Imagination Kingdom (bookstore @ One KM Mall), and LocalBooks.sg. Additionally, every time I get invited to conduct a storytelling at a school or to be a speaker at a book event, I also manage to sell some copies.

Photo by Ken Koh
How has writing this book helped you grow as a writer?
When I first decided to write a book, and publish it as an independent author, I had low to zero expectations. The manuscript was completed in 2013, though it wasn't until sometime in 2014 that I worked up the courage to publish it. At the time, I was most afraid of scathing reviews, and it was a scary thought to open myself up to that sort of vulnerability. However, once I threw myself into the process, I realized that I really enjoyed it, however exhausting and enervating at times. I was "in the trenches", teaching myself how to do something an entire organization's supposed to be able to do, and it got to a point where I thought, I don't care if this book sells or not, because the experience has been immensely rewarding and so much fun. This may sound slightly macabre, but I like to imagine my deathbed scene, and I know that moments from dying, I'd feel prouder to have dared to try, than to have been held back by the prospect of reading bitchy reviews. (Thankfully, they've been none thus far.) In the past, whenever I encountered a setback and felt like giving up, I'd tell myself, "Come on, if you could give birth to two children, this is nothing!"—lately, however, I say, "You [expletive] wrote a book, so don't tell me this is difficult!"

Visit Rachel Tey's website

. . . . . . . . . .

MAGICIENNE is my recent YA novel
co-authored with celebrity magician and author Ning Cai
Published by Marshall Cavendish

by Don Bosco
Published by Marshall Cavendish

Friday, February 17, 2017

100 WRITERS _____ If you have a story, you really need to share it, and so here's a little help ... an update for 2017

When Super Cool Books started in 2011, I was keen to explore all the new tools that were making self publishing possible and also profitable for fiction writers. Within three years we had put out a few paperbacks through our Super Cool Books imprint, and developed an extensive digital publishing catalogue, including Singapore’s first and only children's fiction ebookstore app in partnership with Tusitala

There was enough attention that people started to contact me with questions about the process. Some were authors, some were publishing professionals, some were digital publishing entrepreneurs. I even did a session at the Singapore Writers Festival in 2013 about self publishing. I made it a point to answer every email, and often I would even head out to meet people so I could share what I knew.

This grew and grew and then it got overwhelming for me. So I started the 100 WRITERS project in 2015, which is basically an informal community with a shared interest in finding ways to get your stories published, even against difficult odds. I announced this at a Matchbox Mayhem event and word got out. There was no turning back after that.

If this sounds like something you'd like to explore, do start with these resources.

My simple PDF guide to creating and marketing your own ebooks. It's free. Get it here.

A creative writing framework for fleshing out your story concept, based on the basics of dramatic structure and creative journalling. Also a free PDF. Get it here.


Hosted by StoryCode Singapore. Read about some of our sessions here and here.

I make it a point to promote as many fellow writers as I can, and help connect you so you can reach out and learn from them. Check out the interview archive here, it has grown considerably.

This is the insider story of how my SHERLOCK HONG ADVENTURES series developed from concept to self published paperback series, before it was acquired by Marshall Cavendish for worldwide distribution. Feel free to use these ideas yourself, and let me know your experiences. I'd be thrilled to feature your books too. Read it here.

After repeated requests, I compiled all the blog posts and talks and handouts I had created and turned these into a full story writing virtual workshop, so that you can use this too. It was recently published by Marshall Cavendish. Check out the book and some excerpts here.

I'm working on this. As you can see in the photo at the top. It'll be a good way to keep things moving this year. More information soon.

Thanks to everyone who played a part in making this happen. I've made lots of new friends and basically enjoyed a front row seat following the thrilling developments in self publishing and digital publishing.

If you have a story, you can make it happen now.

Happy writing!

— D


. . . . . . . . . .

Join my BuySingLit 2017 story workshop

by Don Bosco 
Published by Marshall Cavendish