In my literary or short fiction, I write of things that have moved me, and I hope that these same things will move my readers.
Tell us a little about your background – what did you study and what path led you to what you are doing today?
My undergraduate degree is in politics and Bahasa Indonesia, as part of a degree in Modern Asian Studies at Griffith University. My father is Indonesian-Chinese, but we never learnt to speak Indonesian at home, so I was keen to learn about the area and the language at university. As part of this degree, I spent six months at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta in Indonesia. Later, when I decided I’d like to be a writer, I completed a Graduate Certificate in Creative Writing, which led into a Masters of Research, in which I researched Indonesian crime fiction and wrote a crime novel set in Indonesia. I have also completed a PhD in Creative Writing and Literary Studies. The thesis was to do with neo-Victorian fiction, crime fiction and the ‘sinister Oriental’. As part of my PhD work I wrote a crime novel, which became my first published novel – She be Damned. The second in the series was released this year, and the third will be published in 2019. I have also written a novella, The Fish Girl, and am working on a novel set in the gold rush period, north Queensland.
Where do you derive your inspiration from?
The initial inspiration for my work is probably to do with what is of personal interest to me – being Eurasian, I like to write of those who are culturally hybridized or marginalized, and I also like to write of women and feminist issues. I can then combine these ideas with the type of inspiration derived from what I might read or see or research.
What have been one or two favourite recent projects?
I have loved the research and writing that is involved in writing my gold rush novel. My main characters are Chinese siblings who come to Australia to dig for gold, and at the moment I am in Shanghai on an Asialink residency with the Shanghai Writers Association in order to further research their background. I also visited the Palmer River to experience the area in which they lived while digging for gold.
Describe your process. Do you work from life, references or a combination of both?
Definitely both. Obviously, in historical fiction a lot of research is involved, but I think in any writing, even if it’s not directly inspired by the author’s own life or life-stories, the work is imbued with events or thoughts experienced by the author. Primarily, in my historical fiction, I research ‘facts’, and then while fictionalizing what I find of interest or pertinent to my novel I might add ideas or memories of my own.
What do you want the reader to experience when they’re engaging with your work?
In my literary or short fiction, I write of things that have moved me, and I hope that these same things will move my readers. For example, I was a little outraged by the tone of a Somerset Maugham short story, and decided to write my novella, The Fish Girl, from the woman’s point of view. I wanted the reader to also recognize, and be angered by, the injustice and colonialist sexism of the original piece. In my short fiction I often write of being a woman or mother and the position of the immigrant. I guess through writing these stories I hope my readers might also empathise with the experiences of these characters who people my work. In my crime fiction, although I do still like to refer to racist or feminist issues, I primarily want my reader to enjoy a pacy romp of a read while trying to crack the mystery.