Profile: Lin Xueling

Published on 27 September 2016

A familiar face on Channel NewsAsia, veteran journalist Lin Xueling says writing young adult fantasy fiction isn’t inconsistent with who she is.


AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH US PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA IS JUST ONE OF THE FEATHERS IN LIN XUELING’S CAP. Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Uniqlo’s founder/CEO Tadashi Yanai are among her other esteemed interviewees on Channel NewsAsia’s Conversation With, which she also helms as executive producer.


A journalist for 25 years, Lin — who holds a master’s degree in law from Cambridge University — has served as bureau chief of financial news agency, Dow Jones Newswires, where she was Scandinavian chief correspondent. She’s also published a non-fiction book on the global media industry, News for Sale, with Denmark’s largest business book publisher.


Her first foray into young adult fiction, The Island in the Caldera (published by Math Paper Press), is based heavily on Southeast Asian mythology and is the first of a trilogy. “This book is just as much a reflection of my personality as my interviewing the US Defence Secretary on complications in the South China Sea,” she says of the tale that traces the perilous journey of two sisters — Min Rui and Chloe — and a talking cat, as they face dangers from ferocious tree dragons to a stinky giant. “The girls will have to make some not-so-pleasant choices. There will be moral dilemmas.”


The idea did not start off as a book. As a volunteer with the National Library Board’s kidsREAD programme for five years, Lin resorted to writing and reading her own stories to her class of four- to six-year-olds when she realised there were not enough Asian stories represented.


Her own travels have also inspired her. The caldera in her book is based largely on Lake Toba in Sumatra, with hints of Kintamani in Bali and Taal in the Philippines. “I’m a real magpie. I pick up shiny little things along the way, and then string them together,” she laughs. “As a poet once wrote, ‘I gather a posy of other men’s flowers and only the string that binds them is my own.’ ”


Of her creative process, Lin half-jokes, “I’m a journalist. I have no imagination! Well, it starts with the triggering of an idea. Being the journalist that I am, I never wait. I rush out and start researching, and that triggers a whole series of ideas to play with. Everything in the book — from kris mythology to an ancient wind-powered iron smelting technology from Sri Lanka — is completely accurate!”

On what she hopes her writing will achieve, Lin reflects, “If I can get one person to be a bit more amazed about where he or she lives — that is, here in Asia — I’d be tickled pink! That’s all it is, to communicate my own amazement with the incredible things we have here.”


The Island in the Caldera is available at BooksActually, Kinokuniya, K+ Curatorial Space, and the book vending machines at the National Museum Singapore, Singapore Visitor Centre at Orchard, and Goodman Arts Centre.

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