Sunday, July 29, 2007

Tinling and Kam for Breakfast

The Litbloggers Breakfast this month featured FireWife author Tinling Choong and Kam Raslan (Confessions of an Old Boy) who both turned up to field questions about their writing and their experiences of being published.

Tinling describes herself as an author who writes:
... far from the centre of things
and says that this feeling of not quite belonging, of living between cultures, of what she describes as "multi-rootedness", is what has fuelled her writing. She is considered an Asian-American author in the States but sees herself more as a voice of the Chinese diaspora. Born in Malaysia (she is from Penang but went to a convent school in Ipoh, and then moved to the US to attend Wellesley College) she now lives in Vermont and describes herself as:
... a tropical city girl who lives among the snowy mountains.
She is now working towards a PhD in Chinese Literature at Yale as well as juggling life as a new mum and working on her second novel, Yuyu and the Banyan Tree which is due to be published by Nan Talase/Doubleday in 2009.

FireWife she says was fuelled by the image of a woman letting her naked body be used as a plate for sushi (a practice known in Japan as Nyotaimori. ... Now don't go trying this one at home!) while a group of four men sat around her with chopsticks eating the food. She says that she felt so angry that she went home and wrote the woman's story as if she were right inside her skin. The story of this woman became one of the eight in the novel.

In 1992 she got a Wellesley College Stevens Traveling Fellowship to travel to Asia to further develop the book, and went from country to country gathering material. She decided to link the stories of the different women through the character of Nin, who takes time out of her normal life to complete a personal photography project, also called FireWife.

The book is about the gap between knowing and actually living your true self, says Tinling, and there's much more about the writing of it on her website.

Kam says that he also feels that he writes from the periphery.
You can be Muslim and Malay and still outside the centre.

5,000 copies of the book havve now been sold and it is still on Kinokuniya's best selling list

Kam says that he deliberately chose to write for the Malaysian market, an audience which would get the in-jokes and references which a wider audience wouldn't. But the book certainly isn't going to make him very rich. He reckons his royalty check will be somewhere in the region of RM12, 000 which isn't a lot considering that 7 years work went into the book.

But, he says, he did find writing very enjoyable, creating:
... a world that's bigger than the one you live in.
He is, though, now looking for an overseas publisher for the book.

Tinling described the elation she felt when she heard that a publisher wanted to take on her book and said she had to pinch herself:
I got really lucky. The sun, moon, everything aligned!
The book is a bit expensive here at the moment, she says, as it is still in hardback. Her dad worked out that it costs 70 bowls of hokkien mee! (This is the kind of exchange rate I think in too!)


This article about Tinling appeared in the Star's northern edition (click to enlarge):


Amir said...

>The book is a bit expensive here at >the moment, she says, as it is still >in paperback.

Erm, what other format will be cheaper than paperback?

bibliobibuli said...

ye gods typo again. hardback i meant lah. thanks you for picking up my embarrassing bloopers amir dear!

bibliobibuli said...

i have a strange gremlin in my blog today. some lines of text from a previous post are sitting in the middle of this post and they aren't there in the draft version or in the template. i don't know if it's just my computer playing tricks on me or whether you can see it too. if there is a problem does anyone know why??

lil ms d said...

congratulations kam! at least you know how many of your books have been sold :) me? distributor still has not come back with the numbers etc yet...

what gremlin? everything looks well here sharon!

tinling's website is really really nice...

Madcap Machinist said...

"have a strange gremlin in my blog today. some lines of text from a previous post are sitting in the middle of this post and they aren't there in the draft version or in the template."

i see it too, don't know what. I reckon it's the 44 Cemetery Road effect...

kam raslan said...

The figure of 5000 is a guesstimate based the scientific equation of how many copies printed + wishful thinking = 5000. Actually that's what the publisher told me.

I really enjoyed the litbloggers event. Well done to Kenny, Eric and Sharon. I especially enjoyed meeting Tinling but I think everyone was a bit to shy to ask her about the naughty bits in her book that won the Henry Miller award for naughty bits.

Madcap Machinist said...

I found the gremlin.

There is some 'alien' html in the Man Asian post that probably got there when you copied & pasted the info for the post.

Go back to edit the post in HTML editing mode and you will see a section, right after the last sentence in the first paragraph-- "the* shortlist will be announced in October, and the winner on November 10th, 2007"--that looks like this:

<div style="position: absolute; top: 875px; left: 99px;"><nobr>a shortlist of works in October 2007. The winner will be announced </nobr></div><div style="position: absolute; top: 893px; left: 99px;"><nobr>on Saturday, 10 November at an awards ceremony in Hong Kong.</nobr></div>

It is a duplicate of the sentence; delete this section and that should fix it.

* typo!

bibliobibuli said...

very many thanks machinist! (we can't blame tunku halim for everything!)

kam - i linked to tinling's naughty bit (haha) in a previous post. (but here 'tis again!) actually it is tasteful and sensual more than rauncy.

i forgot to ask her y'know and i meant to!

Chet said...

Please tell me where I can get a bowl of hokkien mee for RM1 a bowl. Spiffy and I reckoned a plate of hokkien mee costs about RM4 so the price of the book will give seventeen-and-a-half plates.

Chet said...

Hope you don't mind but we're using your picture of Kam to put on the front page of his website, with photo credit and link back to this blog entry. Thanks.

bibliobibuli said...

please go ahead, chet

Chet said...

Done. Thanks!