Reviews & Interviews

I am taking a break from my studies, so I figured that I'd put up some very kind reviews that I've been receiving for my short story 'Night in a Garden in Ipoh', published by the remarkable Fixi Novo. For starters there's one by Mrs Giggles, which I will copy-and-paste below.

'William Tham Wai Ling’s Night in a Garden in Ipoh is another tale revolving around lonely souls and fragile hearts, and it’s also one of the better entries here. A ghostwriter travels to Ipoh to find some closure to her family history while trying to figure out her life – she’s at a crossroads of sorts, you see. This one manages to tie in the very nature of ghostwriting with observing and recording things from the sidelines, never being recognized for one’s work or capability. The whole thing can be pretentious in the wrong hands, but here, the tale is haunting and bittersweet, with just the right touch of ambiguity to make the heart hurt a little by the time the last page rolls in'

Another one comes courtesy of the writer Fadzlishah Johanabas:

This story. Wow. This story is steeped in Ipoh like a strong cup of tea in a porcelain cup. The descriptions of the settings, the descriptions of the people, the breath of the story itself, they transport me back to the city. Wow. Take this description for instance: “…old men in singlets and Pagoda shorts who stirred their nostalgic coffee…” Such a beautiful, evocative description. I especially love “nostalgic coffee”. A beautiful read. Reminds me of Eeleen Lee’s style of writing.

It's very heartening to receive these reviews, so I hope to write more stories like this one!

Some time ago, when I was away in China on co-op, and Kris Williamson's Anak Sastra featured me as its featured author for its 20th issue, which I will publish below:

Q. Why do you write? What are some of your motivations?
I write to express things that I don't normally say, which allows me a certain flexibility in getting
messages or topics across without the awkwardness or reservations that normally accompany
conversations. My primary motivation for writing is simply my desire to have something
published and made public for readers to explore and question, and to a lesser extent, it's the
thrill of seeing my name in print.

Q. What is your writing process like? Do have any quirky writing habits?
When writing, I usually go between two extremes. Sometimes I get struck by ideas, more often
than not regarding people in out-of-place situations, like a diplomat being recalled over
seditious remarks, or a ghostwriter searching for her equally ghostly past. I spend some time
letting those ideas simmer in my mind for a bit before getting down to the actual writing
process, where I will usually write or type agonisingly slowly before losing interest. One day
that spark of inspiration will come back, and I will simply sit down and write all day without a
break--the adrenaline is enough to keep me going to the end.

Q. You work as a biochemical laboratory analyst and have also made short films. How do
either of these tie in with your writing? Or do they reside in completely separate realms in
your life?
I briefly worked in biochemical analysis in Interior BC as part of my co-op or internship year, and
right now I'm on a work placement in China for some reason. I did dabble in making short films
for some time a few years back, but that's mostly just a hobby now. They don't tie in to my
writing per se, but I have certainly met some interesting people and heard interesting stories
through them--so in that sense, life inspires art.

Q. You were raised in an urban setting in Malaysia but now live in rural Western Canada. In
what ways has this contrast in physical environment (and cultures) aided your writing?
I grew up in KL for some time before moving to nearby Petaling Jaya, and then I suddenly found
myself as a student in Canada without totally comprehending how I ended up there. I live in the
Greater Vancouver area in British Columbia, so definitely not rural--although I have spent some
time in a small Canadian town in the Okanagan Valley and served eight months in Edmonton--a
quiet and sometimes almost lifeless city right on the edge of the prairies. By moving from one
edge of the Pacific to the other, the shifts in perspectives have been huge, I really grew up after
running into all sorts of situations in my four years on the West Coast, and this newfound
maturity really helped me out as a writer. I was particularly entranced by the spread of the
Malaysian Diaspora in Canada--the old guy playing badminton in Richmond was formerly a
middle-aged uncle from Cheras, while the wife of a retired major in the Reserves also hailed
from the Peninsula. These stories of suddenly-displaced people sometimes find their way into
my fiction, since I am in the same situation myself.

Q. What is your most vivid memory about having lived or traveled in Southeast Asia?
In the middle of the summer of my first year, I jumped on a train at the old KL station that took
me south. I hopped off at Kluang where the Sultan would sometimes eagerly take the train to
the cafeteria for its famous coffee, and then slept on the rickety Jungle Railway to end up in
Tumpat, waking up in the gangway and watching the rolling flatlands and distant mountains of
the East Coast rolling past, before stumbling over to Georgetown and back home again. I had
never traveled through Malaysia on my own before and my appetite for adventure had been
ignited by my adventures as a freshman. It was a glorious week on the road, being a traveler in
a country that I had left behind.

Here's a picture from my travels in Shanghai. Enjoy!