Who are you?
I am a writer, reader, editor and teacher from the East End of London. Born to a Chinese-Malaysian mother and English father, I grew up in Hackney during the years before it was cool. Now I live in the seaside town of Margate where, when I am not writing for myself or local paper the Margate Mercury, I spend my time engaged in a staring match with the seagulls which land on my Brutalist windowsill.
I exist at the collision of East and West and stalk the tension between self and other. In other words I am i) mixed race, and ii) an introvert. These things are not necessarily related.
What do you write?
Mainly literary fiction and creative non-fiction. I would argue that the line between the two is both fine and arbitrary. As such, I am interested in side-stepping formal genre boundaries in order to present content in an intimate and urgent way.
Voice- rather than plot-driven, my work tends to unfold in a series of stories and short fragments. Some, therefore, would call it ‘experimental’. Others would call it ‘poetic’. I do not feel a pressing need to call my writing anything.
I am not against the chapter, but so far I seem to have done fine without it.
My writing does what it does – and it comes from a place of necessity.
Are there any themes to your creative writing?
I am interested in power, control, and what happens when humans repress their shadows.
I am interested in abuse in all its guises – and in its outfall.
I am interested in addiction and trauma, and in how these manifest in the real time of people’s lived lives.
I am interested in recovery – especially when that recovery is from something nebulous, ill-defined, unremembered, and/or generally unrecognised by traditional categories.
You cannot destroy a ruin.Elizabeth Hardwick, Sleepless Nights
Can you name any influences on your writing?
In no particular order: Eimear Mcbride, Anna Burns, Olga Tokarczuk, Javier Marias, Maggie Nelson, Samuel Beckett, Jon Fosse, Sartre, Nietzsche, Henry Miller, Anais Nin, Doris Lessing, Salman Rushdie, TS Eliot, Damon Galgut, Lydia Davis, Anne Carson, Natalia Ginzburg, Renata Adler…
And the Tao te Ching, which collapses understanding into not-understanding and then back again, sense into non-sense and back again…such that all that remains is one’s relationship with the text. That in-between place is the only space you can reside in.
And my mother, who reminds me that the more spacious the work for interpretation, the larger and deeper its gift.
What’s your educational background?
I fled Hackney for Nottingham in 2002, where I studied towards my BA in Philosophy and spent a year abroad, studying at the Humboldt University in Berlin. Graduating in 2005, I subsequently studied International Relations at King’s College London. So began the years-long journey towards, away from, around, and once again back towards, writing.
Amongst other things, I am a qualified TESOL teacher, and spent eight years teaching Language and Literature to secondary students in Penang, Malaysia. Read about why the combination of being mixed-race and teaching English in Asia is tricky one, here.
Can I read samples of your work?
Yes. Have a look here.
Presently I am working on a novel set in Berlin in the early 00’s.
Do you have a blog?
Yes! At The No Normal you’ll find my thoughts on mental and emotional health, living an authentic life, and just how to live with those demons which want, at all moments, to pull you back from daring your creativity.
Exposure is uncomfortable. I write about such things in the hope, however, that some people might find in it a little bit resonance, and feel a little less weird, and a little less like a failure.
This all sounds a bit intense. Tell me: just what was your childhood like?!
Odd. I grew up in a Buddhist cult. Maybe one day I’ll write about it.
Anything more to say?
I am Myers-Briggs type INFJ, Gemini with Libra rising, Enneagram 4 with a 5 wing.
I have lived for extended periods in Berlin, Beijing, and Penang, Malaysia.
I used to like travelling. Then I got old and decided I prefer to stay at home instead.
I am a fan of contemporary art. I believe that nothing is as capable of changing one’s emotional state so well as art is.
Politics is important to me. Most of the time, however, it is hard not to feel that it is all just noise.
I don’t often listen to music, but when I do, it makes me cry.
I ride a pink bicycle.
I am not good in the mornings.
When I say I am not good in the mornings, that means I am writing and I don’t want to talk to you.
I am over apologising for any the above.
Are you on social media?
Not much. A bit. Grudgingly.
What is most important to you?
To be as you are.
Are you happy?
Define your terms.