This is a piece I asked Han to guest blog for us:
I am always fazed by the huge volume of books when I walk into a bookshop. The talent out there is tremendous. Will people ever notice my book? And if international bestsellers (English) only sell 10,000 copies in Malaysia, can I earn a living as a writer?(Note from Sharon - My payment for sticking this piece up on my blog is 10% of all those thosai bawang at the kedai makan of my choice.)
Of course, I never dreamed of getting this far. In Standard Four, I submitted a funny poem (about a caterpillar’s struggles before it turned into a beautiful butterfly) for the school magazine. My English teacher didn’t believe that I had written it and it was not published.
I loved reading but never thought of writing as a career. But one day, I thought how wonderful it would be if I could write stories that were as entertaining as the books I had read. However, I didn’t have the time to write as I often left office late at night. I scribbled short paragraphs or mere sentences but never got beyond that.
Then, in 2003, I heard Gary or Nigel of RTM’s Radio 4 announcing the Commonwealth Short Story Competition. I submitted my entry. After several months of checking the mailbox, I thought it didn’t make the cut. One day, I received a UK postmarked envelope bearing the good news. My entry I, Fridge Horror was Highly Commended. It was a great feeling being interviewed on RTM’s Radio4 and a UK-Cyprus Island radio station.
It gave me the confidence to expand I, Fridge Horror into a full-length novel. The win also made me do something “stupid”. I was so gung-ho about the story that I quit my full-time job. I thought that I could do better if I wrote “full time”.
I had writers’ block in the first month and freelance work wasn’t generating adequate funds. I felt the pressure of being “jobless”. Then, an idea for another book came along and I hammered out 300 pages in the next two months or so. But I felt it wasn’t good enough. I tried to return to I, Fridge Horror but it didn’t progress satisfactorily, so I returned to “real” work.
Then, Silverfish sent an email regarding Utusan Group’s literary competition. It seemed only natural to try to complete I, Fridge Horror. Waking up at 5 a.m. or other odd hours in the morning to write, I submitted my entry one day before the deadline. The months passed by and I forced myself to forget about it, trying again not to check the mailbox everyday. Perhaps the first win was a fluke.
Then, I got a phone call from Utusan saying that I had won the Group Literary Prize. I was so excited that I forgot to ask which prize! I couldn’t belief it still, so I fidgeted for several weeks waiting for the confirmation letter.
A publishing contract came with the prize. It took more than a year after the prize-giving ceremony for my book, Trumation Nation (formerly titled I, Fridge Horror) to see print. From an aspiring writer going for talks on how to get published, I had suddenly become a published writer.
I shared my experience on 20-10-2007 at The MySciFiFan Outpost, Cineleisure Damansara, Petaling Jaya, so that aspiring authors will have a better idea of the challenges they may face.
Trumation Nation is a humorous thriller that takes a serious look at how true automation (trumation) may play a role in the wellbeing of the world in the not-too-distant-future. Who are the Trumations, how did they obtain such hi-tech machines, and what are their true intentions? (it isn’t about machines taking over the world)
It can be found in MPH bookstores nationwide in the Malaysian Writers’ / Interests sections although several branches accidentally placed them in the Malay section. If you can’t find it, please enquire at the counter and they will help to search for it. (You can find the book online here.)
Do pick up Trumation Nation when you are at the bookstore. And if you like it, buy it! I only earn enough for a thosai bawang (onion thosai) at the mamak stall for each book sold, so I need all the support I can get! Please email or speak to your friends about it. Your recommendations are the best advertisement.
I hope you Tru-ly enjoy the book.
Ti Chin Han