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 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