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!
My adventures with in urban speculative fiction.