Published on 21 October 2017

By Melanie Lee

36-year-old Malaysian author Felicia Yap is considered one of the bright new stars in the publishing world. She received a six-figure deal for her debut thriller novel Yesterday which was released this August, and she is currently working on her second novel, a prequel titled Today.

Yap will be at Singapore Writers Festival this year, and looks forward to reuniting with her ex-classmates from Hwa Chong Junior College and ex-colleagues from Singapore Press Holdings (where she used to write arts stories for The Business Times). While she is something of a polymath who has also been a radioactive-cell biologist, a war historian, a Cambridge lecturer, a competitive ballroom dancer and a catwalk model, she tells The A-List that writing is her ultimate calling.

As someone who is an expert in several domains, what drew you to writing a thriller novel?

I have always wanted to write a novel. When you read lots of delicious stories as a child, you begin to wish you could tell the same delicious stories yourself. When the idea for Yesterday came to me (on my way to a dance studio in Cambridge) in late 2014, I went for it. I began writing the next day.

Everything is relevant when one is writing a novel, especially when one is attempting to construct a varied cast of characters. I’m immensely lucky to have an eclectic professional background. My scientific and artistic sides certainly collided when I was writing YESTERDAY.

How was your time working in Singapore at The Business Times?

That was back in 2000. I wrote numerous reviews of theatre performances and other feature stories about the arts in Singapore. I learnt a lot about what makes a good concise story, what makes all sorts of people tick, and what motivates them (or keeps them going).  One of the highlights of my job was travelling from Singapore to Dublin to review a performance of Riverdance. The trip sparked a desire to see more of Europe and the world, and to collect more exciting experiences.

How is your second novel Today going?

I have written most of the first draft and can’t wait to get to the end. That said, the first draft is merely the beginning of a very long journey. I did at least fourteen major edits on Yesterday before sending the manuscript out to agents, and I’m prepared to do just as many edits on Today (if not more).

What is your writing routine like?

I write whenever I can, whenever I can squeeze some words in. That said, I mainly write on the move, especially on trains, buses and airplanes. I’m currently answering these questions on a flight from Kiev to London. I travel a lot – I have visited 121 countries in my lifetime. I strongly believe that inspiration is the alchemic response to the unexpected and unfamiliar. I also write well in hotel rooms where there are fewer distractions.

What advice would you give to people who are interested in becoming a writer, but also have to deal with livelihood issues?

I would say that they should still try to write whenever they can. Writing is like using a muscle – muscles atrophy when not deployed regularly. Try to squeeze in writing between jobs, perhaps. Even if one manages about 200 words a day between work commitments, one will eventually get to the end of a 70,000-word book after several months. Also, people who are merely ‘interested’ in becoming writers are unlikely to get very far. Writers write. They just do. They get up early in the morning (or stay up late at night) to write. Writers write because they can’t live without doing so, because nothing makes them happier.

Felicia Yap will be featured in two Festival Pass Events at the Singapore Writers Festival:

Writing a Well-Paced Novel
Sat, 4 Nov 2017, 3.30pm – 4.30pm
The Arts House, Play Den

Sophomore Blues: The Challenge of the Second Novel
Sun, 5 Nov 2017, 3.30pm – 4.30pm
The Arts House, Living Room

Click here for more information.

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