Dreams can be Made

I’m thrilled to tell you that my novel – The Woman who Breathed Two Worlds – will be launched on November 1, 2016 in three formats: in print, as a Kindle e-book and also as an audio book.

Below is what the cover will look like. I love the artwork, I think it’s amazing – and I’m not just saying this because it happens to be my book.

The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds (The Malayan Series) by [Siak Chin Yoke, Selina]

If you’ve been waiting for my novel, the good news is that it’s now available to pre-order! Here are some of the stores which will stock it: Kinokuniya in Malaysia ; Kinokuniya in Singapore; Waterstones in the UK; Barnes & Noble in the USA and of course Amazon.

I mentioned before that I was stunned by how much work goes into a published book. I had expected the text to be scrutinised; this, after all, is the heart of a book, but I never imagined I would be taught the fine points of English grammar in the process!

For instance, I was told that I used the “subjunctive were” a lot (one of the copy editor’s comments). Funnily enough, I did not know what a “subjunctive were” was: I had to look it up on Google. It’s a relief to know that there are still people on this planet who understand the rules of English grammar. When I see the types of grammatical mistakes being made nowadays, I have to conclude that such people are a dying breed. So I’m really glad to find them in publishing!

At the outset, I was asked whether I wanted to be consulted about my book cover. Of course I said yes, and I’m glad I did – because it has allowed me to appreciate the amount of thought which designers put into book covers. Everyone sort of knows that book covers are important, but how much attention do you really give them beyond whether they are “nice” or not?

I was flabbergasted when my publisher began to articulate the different elements they felt that our cover had to convey. First, geography – so that it evoked at a glance not just Asia but South East Asia; secondly, the era – vintage yet somehow also timeless; and finally the sense of story, of how central the female protagonist is. I’m really proud of what was achieved even though I did not participate actively in the creative process. I only watched from afar, lobbing ideas when asked and making the odd irritating comment, like “too much yellow, could we have more blue please”. The artist, David Drummond, has featured the work on his own blog, where he describes it as being a “fun cover” to work on. I’m glad he thinks so, because there must have been goodness-knows-how-many iterations! (I don’t actually know how many there were – my editor did a wonderful job in shielding me from the (no doubt) heated discussions.)

I don’t suppose that many authors have much involvement with the creation of their audio books. Because of the peppering of Malay and Chinese dialect words in my novel, I had offered pronunciation assistance to the narrator, a British actress by the name of Christine Rendel. I did not know whether Christine would take my offer up, and was impressed when she not only did but came prepared with an array of of questions. I had to explain how to say “ai-yahh” and “lah” and “ngi cho ma kai-ah”, among other things. And now I can’t wait to hear what she has done with these expressions!

Finally, a word about my publisher Amazon Crossing – Amazon Publishing’s translated works imprint. In line with its remit Amazon Crossing has to date mainly published works written in other languages and translated into English. I’m pleased to be among the handful of authors writing in English whom they have chosen to publish, and especially honoured that they selected my debut novel. I must thank the whole team in Seattle, most of whom I have not met, many whose names I don’t even know, for being so pro-active and re-active and patient with the questions I’ve asked. My editor, Elizabeth DeNoma, has been exemplary. Her job, apart from managing various strands of the book production process, has included holding my hand, especially as publication day creeps ever closer.

Because, with less than two months to go, my emotions are starting to cause havoc. This may sound counter-intuitive but I’ve become increasingly nervous; what if people hate my book? To be honest, I’m having trouble sleeping properly. I fear I may be a wreck by November.

Thank goodness I’ll be visiting Malaysia before then – I’ll certainly need doses of petai and Nyonya kueh to calm those nerves! If any of you are in Malaysia in October, please come and hear me read an excerpt from The Woman who Breathed Two Worlds. I will be at The Sharpened Word in Ipoh, my hometown, on Saturday, October 15, 2016 and then at Seksan, Bangsar Village in Kuala Lumpur a fortnight later on Saturday, October 29, 2016. Details will be posted here in due course.

Meanwhile I’ve been asked for an interview. Part of me cannot believe this is actually happening… For so long I dreamt about having a novel published. But I had other interests too and I pursued these first. If I had not had cancer when I did, I would probably only have started writing seriously much later. Which goes to show that positive things can rise out of the ashes of personal difficulty.

Taking this novel from concept to publication has taken longer than I ever imagined it would. Nearly six years, to be precise : two months of research, two years of writing, another year to secure an agent, nearly two years for him to find a publisher and then the months Amazon Crossing has spent turning my raw manuscript into a printed book. Now it feels as if I’m standing on the threshold of something new, a different stage in my writing journey, when I can look back on the hard slog and think that, no matter what happens next, it has all been worth it. Sometimes, dreams do come true.


Filed under Malaysia, Novel, Publishing, Writing

24 responses to “Dreams can be Made

  1. Zoe

    So delighted Selina – it’s been a long wait but it will have been worth it! And it is indeed a beautiful cover. Huge congratulations, this is a massive accomplishment x

  2. Eddy Chin

    The premise– a strange one– of ‘The impossible dream’ is to reach for the stars and accomplish beyond our own expectations. Well done Selina!
    I’m sure you’ll know how to fly!

    Eddy Chin

  3. Dominic Roberts

    Wow!!! Well done Selina! Great to see all your hard work and dedication paying off. I shall order a hard back copy.

  4. So proud of you and feel so privileged to be a witness and a participant on this journey. I learned a lot together with you. I will do my best to help you with the nerves.

  5. S Vallance

    Fantastic work! Thrilled for you!!

    Sent from my iPhone

  6. The thing about dreams coming true is a bit like luck – one makes one’s own dreams come true and one makes one’s own luck.

    Yes, there are the added advantages of educational and money privilege and yes, there are good genes but there is also hard work, determination, persistence, one’s own creative mind and basically the willingness to sit that derriere down on the chair and stay there until the job is done.

    This discipline is what I consider to be the greatest gift your Chinese and Thai heritage bestowed upon you.

    Once more, I take my hat off to you, my dear friend. Well done.

  7. This is wonderful news Selina – huge, huge congratulations! I knew it was coming, of course, but actually seeing the cover and having a publication date is incredibly exciting. Will you have a lunch in London too? And no need for nerves – everything I’ve seen of your novel is wonderful, and I can’t wait to read the rest. Well done!


  8. Sheema Abdul Aziz

    Hi Selina,

    I’m so so super excited about this, I can hardly wait to get my hands on it!!! Congratulations, and the cover is absolutely luscious 🙂

    Very sad though that I can’t make it to the readings in October, as I’m now in Paris until end November, finishing up my PhD 😦

  9. Diana

    I am already at 26% of finishing your book on my Kindle, which I guess I would finish reading before next weekend (I’m addicted!). I greatly enjoy your work. It is amazing that by reading it I imagine myself sitting in front of Chye Hoon herself and listening to her stories. The description of the era is so vivid that I can smell the pandan leaves cooked together with the coconut milk, and the rotten smell of Ipoh town when Chye Hoon first entered the town. I can’t wait to see her progression into another world (please no spoilers!). Many congratulations for your publication!

  10. Denise Lehman

    I just finished reading “The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds”.
    What a beautiful job you did weaving the evolution of tradition, cultures and family dynamics. Yours is one of those rare finds that touched me to my very soul. I was immersed in Chye Hoon’s world from the very beginning and did not want her story to end. I hope all generations, young and old, will read this book. They will leave it forever changed.

    Thank you for this experience. I so look forward to your next works!

    Wishing you continued good health.

  11. Malcolm Wiseman Jr

    Ms. Chin Yoke,
    I like your usage of the subjunctive! Also, the structure of your dialog suggests to me that rules for order of words in Malay sentences are not strict as in English but are more flexible like Spanish. Is this correct?
    Thanks for taking me to Malaysia!
    Malcolm Wiseman, Washington DC USA

    • Hello Malcolm,

      Thanks for your message! I’m only starting to learn Spanish, therefore cannot comment on similarities or otherwise except to say that there is some flexibility in word order in Malay but like Chinese, its grammar is structurally simple. Verbs are not conjugated, for instance, nor do nouns have gender. And I don’t believe there are subjunctives!

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