Read Part One here.
Read Part Two here.
Airship Ambassador: What do you consider your first real writing or editing experience? Was it at school or something you just did on your own?
Joyce Chng: Define ‘real’ writing. Do you mean real as being published? Then if this were so, I was published in my school newsletter. The story was about dragons. I was heavily influenced by Jane Yolen.
Then in 2000, I had a story in Fang, Claw and Steel. It was fun writing it, because it was a short story about female werewolves who went around beating up domestic abusers.
My first (semi-pro) story was published by Crossed Genres. It is a steampunk/alt-history tale about Imperial China, woman captains and ships that could fly.
All these writing experiences have always felt as if they were the first for me, because I learned something new in each experience.
AA: How have you and your work grown and changed over time?
JC: I am 41, about to turn 42. So, physically, I am definitely older than my idealistic 25 year old self. Writing-wise, my style has become more sparse, less overkill. Now it’s basically every word counts. No need for long info-dumps or paragraphs filled with adjectives or descriptions: a simple word or phrase will punch and mean more than a lengthy monologue.
AA: It like that comment often heard from all kinds of designers – less is more. Knowing when to edit out is a valuable skill. What are some of your methods to stay motivated and creative?
JC: Enjoy life, observe things, people-watch, do a bit of photography, make bread, exercise (swordwork).
AA: If you weren’t an editor and author, what else would you be doing now?
JC: Teaching. Looking after my kids. Doing artwork, reading up on medieval history.
AA: Most of the authors I’ve talked with have some type of day job and that writing is their other job. What has that situation been for you?
JC: My dayjob is (adjunct) teaching. I used to teach full-time in Singapore. Teaching is part of the civil service. Then I left the teaching service, and returned to it later on adjunct/part-time basis. So, basically, yes, I am balancing day job and writing. It is not a bad thing to have a day job. It is not a bad thing because it pays the bills. And it is not a bad thing to have a day job because full-time writing is not for all. Of course, if the world is perfect, everybody would be writing full-time. Unless you have sufficient savings, an understanding spouse, or an extreme successful writing career, having a day job is not a bad thing.
So, in my case, I might not have privilege nor access to attend conventions or conferences. ICFA this year was a miracle for me, since it fell within a school holiday week, and I had help from Con Or Bust (and for which I am immensely, immensely grateful).
Likewise, as I did mention above, I write at night, so… it is not a hindrance per se. Hopefully, I might take a break in 2017… to re-charge and – perhaps – to write…
AA: Looking beyond steampunk, writing and working, what other interests fill your time?
JC: Photography, gardening, swordwork, and baking.
AA: We could talk plants sometime! How do those interests influence your work?
JC: Photography is visual story-telling. Things like light, composition and framing… remind me all the time about settings and environments. I am a visual person, so being out with my camera (when I have the time!) is a good thing.
AA: There’s only so much time in a day – what interests don’t you have time for?
JC: I would like to have an allotment or a small garden where I could grow local greens and herbs. Likewise, I would like to focus on researching more on Joan of Arc and female knights/warriors.
AA: What other fandoms are you part of?
JC: Star Trek (mainly), a bit of Star Wars. I am pretty much eclectic, with everything in between, because I have always assumed science fiction and fantasy is just science fiction and fantasy.
AA: Are there people you consider an inspiration, role model, or other motivating influence?
JC: The late Professor Philippa Maddern, who was my MA thesis supervisor. She gave me a book about Wiscon as my MA graduation gift.
AA: What is the best advice you’ve been given?
JC: “Stop the over-kill.”
AA: Any final thoughts to share with our readers
JC: Go forth and create!
Thanks, Joyce, for joining us for this interview and for sharing all of your thoughts. We look forward to hearing about your next projects!
You can support Joyce and our community by getting your copy of The Sea Is Ours here.