Monday, October 24, 2011

Wolves of Singapore, a meeting with J Damask

J Damask and I have walked a long path already. She was one of those rare finds I saw glistening in the slush pile and when I read the opening lines of her debut novel, Wolf at the Door, I just knew this was an author whose voice was special, who was able to bring the magic of dreams to life in her prose. Well, we've just completed work on her second in her Jan Xu Adventures, Obsidian Moon, Obsidian Eye, and the story is every bit as magical as book one.

Today I welcome J Damask to my world, to share a little more of hers.

Tell us a little more about the Myriad of Singapore. How did this setting come about? And why wolves?

The Myriad of Singapore are basically non-human types, the "other kind". They comprise mostly of the types we tend to see in fantasy or urban fantasy: elves, fae, dragons, phoenixes and were-animals. Likewise, Singapore being right smack in the middle of Southeast Asia, the Myriad also includes the existing non-human types from this region. The term is an umbrella term for this non-homogenous group (or groups) of beings.

Singapore is a cosmopolitan island-state, straddling both East and West. Her culture is a mishmash of cultures, both merged and distinct. The setting itself Рboth East and West, a m̩lange of cultures Рis perfect for urban fantasy.

Post-colonial themes are strong themes in your writing. Can you tell us more about how your culture influences your fiction?

My grandparents came directly from China (Shanghai, Fujian and Guanzhou) and settled in Singapore who was then under British colonial rule. So my education is pretty much Anglo-Saxon and for a while, I struggled with the dichotomy of trying to speak Queen’s English (or Standard English) and coping with Chinese dialects at home. As a family, we keep to our traditions and celebrate the major festivals like Chinese New Year, Duan Wu, Midautumn Festival and Winter Solstice. This observance of festivals comes through strongly in my stories, because I feel that we need to hold onto our culture as it forms our intrinsic identity.

I love the festivals, not only because of its food(!), but by the fact that it is also family.

How do you go about balancing your day job as a teacher with your writing?

Like juggling spinning plates. No, really, I am serious. My weekdays are spent planning, marking and teaching – my creative energies – most of them! – go into all these aspects. So when it comes to writing, I have to plan… wisely. I tend to write at nights (but then, I have my kids to wrangle). I also find time to write. During examination periods and marking phases, my writing tends to dip – which is fine with me. ;)

Is the ebook revolution happening where you live? How do you go about marketing yourself to your potential readers?

My personal observation: not really. People are still fixated on print books. There is a small group of people who are also publishing ebooks, but on the whole, the big publishers here in Singapore are still print book focused.

I make use of social media (Twitter and blogs). I also use Smashwords which is – so far – a good platform for ebook publishing.

I have had to choose: obscurity or nothing.

How do you go about crafting your stories? Do you write an overview or do you just get stuck into chapter one and go from there?

Hmm. I sometimes plan. That’s right – sometimes. I write an outline, follow it and sometimes discard it, because the characters end up taking charge. I also write snippets as ideas come off and on in my head and merge them later into the story or expand them into individual stories.

J. Damask is on Twitter as @jolantru and she maintains her writerly blog at A Wolf's Tale:

Her urban fantasy novels at Lyrical Press
The Jan Xu Adventures:
Obsidian Moon, Obsidian Eye (due to be released on the November 7)

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