Since dropping out of medical school, Ovidia Yu has been a copywriter and one of Singapore’s most popular playwrights (thirty plays and slightly fewer awards) with short stories, novellas, and one volume of children’s fiction published in Singapore, Malaysia, and India. AUNTY LEE’S DELIGHTS, her first mystery featuring busybody widow Rosie “Aunty” Lee, was published to good reviews in the United States last year and the next book, AUNTY LEE’S DEADLY SPECIALS will be available from 30 September 2014.
What is the best thing about being a mystery writer?
You get to read mystery books and tell yourself that you’re working. In the name of research, you get to ask people questions that would normally get them mad at you (“What’s the one that that makes you really angry with your husband?” and “If your girlfriend killed your sister by accident what would you do with the body?”). You get to meet all kinds of people you wouldn’t normally—like I was speaking to private investigators to find out what their work is really like. “It’s like going fishing,” one told me. “Only the scenery is not so peaceful. Most of the time you are sitting there for hours doing meditation with your eyes open.”
Apparently in Singapore the police and the PIs get along better than they do in most mystery books. There’s a course you have a take to become a private investigator and part of it covers how to collect and record evidence that can be used. I’m thinking of signing up for the course myself—once I’ve finished the current book. In fact, it could lead to a new job; they told me that if “this book business doesn’t work out you can try working for us” because they need more women. Apparently, one or men look suspicious following people, but a woman or a couple draws no attention.
And another big plus is getting to go to mystery conventions like Bouchercon and Crimefest and talking to other people who love books and reading and writing. And, of course, you can collect more books!
What’s the worst part?
The not-writing when I’m supposed to be writing. There’s no time to read all the lovely books I’m getting. And then when I do get to sit down and really get into a book my mind snaps up lovely little nuggets that I can’t let go of and just want to use. Usually, they don’t quite fit into the current book so I just scribble down an idea for another time. Or worse, it throws light on why something’s not working in my current effort. Like I’ve just got to 90,000 words on the third draft of my next Aunty Lee book (COLD RELISH, hopefully for 2015) and while I was reading WATCHMEN over lunch today I realized It’s Not Working—there’s a motivational problem there and I’ve got to go back and chop and change. Bleah. But thank goodness for Scrivener.
You use Scrivener? What other writing aids do you use?
Yes, I tried Scrivener during a NaNoWriMo some years back and it was love at first sight. I also really like doing NaNoWriMo for first drafts. I think having an almost impossible deadline allows me to put words down on the page without censoring myself. And then once the words are down I’ve got something to work with. I also use Kanban Flow both to keep me on track while editing (and from wandering off to Facebook or my email app). I try to do a couple of sun salutations during my breaks but I’m more likely to check my email.
When I’m writing I get very unsociable, so I get most of my writing support online. Logging into the Magic Spreadsheet really helped me during the writing of DEADLY SPECIALS and I use Lift Habits to remind me to keep up with daily lift stuff like laundry and watering the plants and walking the dogs. Oh and I start my writing day at 750 words, where I usually write about what I hope to write/edit that day. And if I’m lucky I get down stuff that I can cut-paste into my work file.
Did it take much longer to complete your second book compared to the first?
Things went much faster because AUNTY LEE’S DELIGHTS took me about seven years and several major rewrites, submissions, and rejections before it found a home with William Morrow. I thought I would spend a month or two getting over the “It’s published!” high and catching up on reading, but when I went to New York for the launch they said, “We’re ready to see the next one.” Thank goodness it’s almost twenty hours from New York City to Singapore because I outlined the whole of DEADLY SPECIALS on the flight back, and they agreed to publish it based on the outline—and that’s when I got hooked on all the online life support sites!
Singaporean writer Ovidia Yu has had over thirty plays produced in Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, including ‘3 Fat Virgins’, ‘The Woman In A Tree On The Hill’ (Edinburgh Fringe First) and ‘Hitting (On) Women’ (Singapore Audience Award, Singapore Life! Theatre Awards Best Original Script). Her children’s book THE MUDSKIPPER (Scholastic, 2012) was runner up for the Scholastic Asian Book Award. Her Singaporean Murder Mystery series (AUNTY LEE’S DELIGHTS 2013 and AUNTY LEE’S SPECIAL POISONS, 2014) is published by William Morrow/ Harper Collins.
To learn more about Ovidia, please visit her author page on Harper Collins official website.