I knew Joyce from the Singapore chapter of the National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo), and she was probably one of the first authors of what I’d like to call mainstream pop fiction in Singapore - books you read for the adventure, fun, and speculative worlds. Now an author to various novel series, picture books, and a number of RPGs, she continues to show how we can tell the stories we want, but also not worry about the “local flavour” of our work.
Without further ado, Joyce Chng.
You have a variety of works - Rider, Oysters, Pearls, & Magic, Starfang, Wolf at the Door - and those are just your novel series. Which, do you think, continues to speak to you deeply?
Oysters, Pearls & Magic continues to speak to me deeply, soul-level. The story is an individual’s path to self-discovery which takes the form of a long and unforgiving journey. At the end, the protagonist finds themselves or continues to find themselves… which is life, isn’t it? Oysters, Pearls & Magic was originally written as a web-serial aimed at an YA audience, but the story motifs are universal.
My first encounter with your works started with Wolf at the Door and the Rider series - both of which told the story of ethnic Chinese ladies adapting to their environments. How much of yourself do you see yourself in your characters? Why?
I tend to write a bit of myself into my characters. Jan Xu, the werewolf protagonist in Wolf at the Door, is a mother - and I often wonder if there are mothers in urban fantasy. I wrote it to challenge or counter the stereotype of the leather-wearing hero(ine). Where are all the mothers? Or, better, are heroines still heroines when they become mothers with children and households to manage? Lifang, the teenager in the Rider series, is the teenager I was a long time ago. Impetuous, impulsive, idealistic, but hampered by circumstances (sometimes of her own making!).
Which one of your protagonists do you still want to have tea with today and what would you talk about?
Jan Xu. We would probably complain about our spouses and our children.
You have novels, picture books, children’s books, and now game books (RPG Manuals) out in the world - which medium do you find yourself gravitating to these days?
I find myself shifting towards visual storytelling like picture or graphic novel/comics books. I am also leaning towards more game design or RPG narrative writing.
Many writers who are parents tend to say that they write to leave stories to their children - What lessons or stories do you want yours to take away from your work?
That the sky is the limit if they believe in themselves.
And always believe that you have support, no matter what.
Don’t be afraid to seek help if you need it.
The Wolf, the Bear, the Phoenix, or the Dragon? Why?
Even the Wolf has always been a motif/metaphor/personal symbol for me, I would say the Phoenix, because my life has been a series of deaths and rebirths. Also the fire can be both creative and destructive at the same time (for the Western Phoenix). The Eastern Phoenix (feng huang) is a symbol of balance and harmony - which I hope to achieve in my lifetime.
What’s next for you?
I will have a YA fantasy out under Scholastic Asia. The novel is titled Fire Heart. That reminds me… I need to write the second book!
I have 50 words for you to go and promote yourself - Go!
I write science fiction and things in between. Here’s my wolfy blog: http://awolfstale.wordpress.com, if you want to know more about me and the things I do. If you are on social media, I could be found at @jolantru (Twitter). Psst, buy my stuff.
Joyce Chng lives in Singapore. Their fiction has appeared in The Apex Book of World SF II, We See A Different Frontier, Cranky Ladies of History, and Accessing The Future. Joyce also co-edited THE SEA IS OURS: Tales of Steampunk Southeast Asia with Jaymee Goh. Their recent space opera novels deal with wolf clans (Starfang: Rise of the Clan) and vineyards (Water into Wine)respectively. They also write speculative poetry with recent ones in Rambutan Literary and Uncanny Magazine. Occasionally, they wrangle article editing at Strange Horizons and manages Umbel & Panicle, a poetry journal and ezine about and for plants and botany (which they also founded). Alter-ego J. Damask writes about werewolves in Singapore. You can find them at http://awolfstale.wordpress.com and @jolantru on Twitter. (Pronouns: she/her, they/their). Fire Heart, a YA fantasy, will be published by Scholastic Asia.
Before we head off and wait for November’s profile… Happy Halloween!
It has been out for a month! While I do hope that our readers and supporters have managed to get their copy, here’s a glimpse at the introduction for Issue #4: This is a Test:
Keeping the Crust...
In a fast-paced world, it’s very easy to engage in self-criticism in order to keep ahead of the curve. For some people, failure is disappointment. For others, failure is their learning point. And for a few, failure is only the beginning.
Not many of us get a second chance, or a third. The first of our three guest authors, Esther Soh, tells her tale, 'Again', where Eric lands himself in his 39th or 40th chance of a day — stuck in an eternal situation without any sign of a way out. At least, unless he tries it the next… or same day.
Humanity has disappointed time and again, though often coming out with many lessons learnt once the dust settled. That being said, Ganaesh’s story brings up the idea that sometimes, the bandages we wrap around our festering wounds are just 'Never Enough'.
New editor Wayne’s advice rings common in many storytellers’ guidebooks. While his story is titled, 'Kill Your Darlings', you might want to sit tight on this piece for a bit.
In 'The Hole', guest author Kane Wheatley-Holder reminisces on an older man’s failure in life, and a chance to make everything right through a universe-tearing portal found in his own home. Will Sunny get his chance again?
Before we put our pens down though, get your treatment plans in check. D. M. Jewelle uncovered the files of a possibly, deranged mind, leading to what seemed to be 'The Most Arresting Infection'.
Keep safe, and remember that it’s still in its testing stage. That being said, we can assure you — this issue is not a test, and even if it is, you’ve done your homework and studied, right?
Thank you, and your time starts now.
Keep your crusts on!
For those who have already bought your copy of Pulp Toast / Roti Bakar #4: This is a Test, or any Pulp Toast titles for the matter, thank you all once again for your support! Find out more about Pulp Toast or get our other issues here. You can also get copies of Pulp Toast / Roti Bakar #4: This is a Test here.
Most stories don’t happen in one place, so this challenge was straightforward enough. That being said, I don’t know if I can stop this challenge just after one transition written in.
Prompts: When we were kids, What once was lost
“Gao,” she lowered her tiles on the green-felted tables.
The rest of the players lay back against their seats, one in frustration and the other two in resignation. All three looked like they would have to walk out of the place with bags over their heads just to maintain a shrivel of dignity. The wrinkled uncle on her right peered over, his forehead lined with both disbelief and anger.
Four sets of the directional tiles and a pair of Red Dragon tiles stared back like opulent gravestones. All of a sudden, she could see the relief in one of her other opponent’s shoulders.
Thank goodness we agreed on a winnings cap, she projected with a smile.
“Dai Sei Hei,” Resonance Wong said, “Maximum.”
The hesitant shifts in the other seats preceded the grudging clinks of point chips across the mahjong table. That sequence of events then preceded the next show of frustration.
“Okay,” the auntie in her bright flannel top and translucent jade bangle said before she rose from her seat, “That’s it for me, need to be up early tomorrow.”
The second auntie at the table did the same, albeit with a preferable sneer over the saccharine diplomacy from the first auntie counterpart. The last person to leave did so with an unnecessary comment.
“One day, you will see why you need to respect your elders,” the uncle spat at her foot.
Left alone with a table of washed up mahjong tiles, Resonance shrugged and started stacking the tiles back into the Hub’s crocodile skin suitcase. A few stacks in, she lifted her head to a sound she hasn’t heard in a while.
The footsteps stopped, and she slowly lifted her head.
Wilhelm was there, doing that annoying balancing trick he liked to do with the roulette ball on his left hand, holding a folded envelope in his right.
“Something happened,” Resonance said.
He dropped the ball back into his left hand, then handed her the envelope. It was already torn open.
She took the letter out and her eyes darted across the paper. Gradually, she put the piece of paper down, inhaling through her nose in an attempt to keep her eyes steely and unwavering.
“We cremated her yesterday,” Wilhelm said.
“So why are you here?”
“Care for a ride?”
There needed to be a term to describe the smell of the night breeze, Resonance thought to herself. She was named after the inkling of good things to follow - something her birth mother would look for, and get, while she was still pregnant with Resonance.
The view from the Terrace Gardens, atop Mount Faber, was postcard-worthy, but both Resonance and Wilhelm knew they weren’t there to enjoy any kind of view.
“What are you doing here?” Resonance asked, after Wilhelm locked his car and followed her to the closest railing.
“You correctly guess Mum’s death,” Wilhelm said, “Surely you can guess this.”
“I don’t guess,” she replied, “Your mother taught me not to.”
Wilhelm sighed, his breath exhaling through his nose.
“Rez,” he said, “Something happened.”
“Mum didn’t go because of age or sickness,” he continued.
Resonance got up from the railing.
“What did this contender leave?” she asked.
And that’s it from me this month! See you all next month for another Writing Challenge!
My adventures with in urban speculative fiction.