Thanks for agreeing to doing the interview for AMWC. Wow, it’s been only a year and you guys are out with your second book already! How did you guys do it?
Rosemary: The novel idea came before the short stories idea but as it turned out the novel was a lot more work because of the collaboratively element so it took longer to do. In effect it was 18 months rather than the initial six months we’d anticipated but it was definitely worth taking the time to do it well.
Sarah Coldheart: With a lot of time. Technically the book was written when Happiness at the End of the World was being done too. We just spent more time on refining the storyline and ending. The time most used for Bubble G.U.M was for fixing up the ending. Everything else was relatively “easy” once we went past that hurdle.
Raven Silvers: With a lot of prodding from our editor, hah. We actually started on Bubble GUM first, but with editing and everything, Happiness at the End of the World came out first because it was easier to edit, proofread and critique. After that we kind of lost steam, but our editor prodded us along and eventually we finished Bubble GUM properly.
Lina: A lot of effort and time. The writing process didn’t take that long actually but the editing part, that took the longest but in the end, it’s how much we wanted it to get done that pushed us to complete it.
Joelyn Alexandra: What Sarah said and loads of willpower. Just kidding. I think the synergy between the six of us works fantastically not only because we’re all genre writers but also because we work with a mindset that this should be stuff that local writers produce as well. So it’s not only just time management and what not, it’s also about a similar destination.
Notkieran (Yuen Xiang Hao): The net helped a lot. With one of us defining what was needed and wanted, it was easy for us to supply the parts needed to build a novel (although I think it would have ended up rather patchwork without some heroic editing work)
Happiness at the End of the World was a collaboration of short stories written by you guys, how does it feel to have a 6-people collaboration for a full-length story this time round? What was the process like? Is it more difficult to write as a group than as an individual writer?
Rosemary: It’s much more difficult to write as a group. Individual stories were easy to edit because each person was identified as the author of their own story. A collaborative work such as Bubble G.U.M. has six styles of writing, six different ideas of what should happen next and so on. Really it turned out to be a better novel because of that since characters developed strong personalities because of the input from so many people. The most difficult part, though, was keeping the three narrative voices distinct and consistent. The novel is told from the point of view of three characters and sometimes this slipped and had to be ironed out, re-written in places and sadly, in some instances, completely deleted. Overall, though, it came down to me as editor bringing it all together with a big red pen.
Sarah Coldheart: It was more interesting to me since it started out as a round robin and then it got refined into a draft by our editor and contributor Rosemary. I don’t know if it was more difficult but I know that with the 6 of us writing it, we had our own specialties such as romance, drama, weaponry etc. When combined, it turned out like a well read story… After edits of course.
Raven Silvers: It was a really a side project at first, but it grew into something really big. I’d say on hindsight, it was harder than the individual short stories because we all had to agree on plot points, characters, settings and stuff like that. But our editor and fellow writer Rosemary had the unenviable job of beating it into shape, in terms of style and punctuation since we all have very distinct styles.
Lina: I must say that it wasn’t easy but it was mightily fun. All six of us have different writing styles and with our own ideas on how the story should go. It started out being a round robin but after a few chapters, we just divvied out the different parts to each of us and we wrote what we’re good at; drama, romance, naughty bits and especially the fight sequences. After that, it was just editing everything into a smooth story line.
Joelyn Alexandra: Many people tell me that it’s not easy because of the different styles and the need to standardise the styles and make sure that everyone knows what’s going on. But many people also don’t realise that this is not a magazine or a reporting medium. It is a novel. And while everything needs to be standardised and stuff, everyone in the team knows the style of each other so that we can write accordingly while not compromising on our own style and still going with the story.
So what was the inspiration for this book? National Service for females seems…well…a little daunting in my opinion. =x Why that particular theme for Bubble G.U.M?
Rosemary: The inspiration was the idea that eventually a huge bubble will be built over Singapore so that the whole country can be air-conditioned. Next came bikinis. Bikinis were very high on the list of must-haves in the novel. After that the ideas just came out thick and fast (we’d had a lot of coffee by that stage) and then it just took on a life of its own.
Sarah Coldheart: Heh, the future was the inspiration and we figured why not? Everyone needs to do something to contribute to Singapore and we wondered how it would be like.
Raven Silvers: The NS inspiration came from an idea. I mean, you always hear guys complain that girls have it easy because we don’t spend two years doing NS. We wanted a strong female character who was more like us – funny, smart, and who could stand on her own feet when it came down to it. And what better way than to throw her into strange, stressful situations than NS?
Lina: With the climate change happening, we thought, why not do it and see how the world would be like if the worst did happen. Why not have females doing NS? I’m thinking that the ladies of the future would be stronger and hardier than we are now, especially if the world as we know it is gone.
Joelyn Alexandra: Also, it went along with Happiness at the End of the World, which was thought off at the same time as well. And also, I feel that the HSWG, being made up of so many girls with strong characters, had some kind of a “strong female character” influence on the story as well. Of course, our guy gives us a lot of useful pointers with regards to the NS area, without actually downplaying the female characters, which is highly commendable.
Notkieran: National service is a convenient setting for a novel about coming of age; traditionally this has only been reserved for boys in Singapore, so why not the ladies? It seems to work for the Israelis.
Being writers, have you ever been tempted to pretend you were one of the characters in the story you’ve created? Did that happen for Bubble G.U.M? If so, which character would you say is most modeled on yourself? If not, which character would you say is most like you?
Rosemary: Oh yes! I’m often in bits of my characters, although not all me is there and not of them is me. But I did put in a real Mary Sue moment in the novel and told the rest of the writers that this was an “I wish” moment. I’ll let you see if you can spot it for yourself!
Sarah Coldheart: I started the intro of Bubble G.U.M since we did the round robin thing as one of the earliest drafts so I wrote the intro of Prix. So I wrote her with a bit of me in it but as I wrote more of the other characters, there was one particular lady called Slider that I started to like more. She was actually unnamed the first time round although I wrote her rather descriptively. You’ll really see what I meant by descriptively in the first few chapters so if I were to pretend to be one of the characters, I’d like Slider. Or Prix. Either of the two.
Raven Silvers: Grandpa. HAHAHAHA. I guess because I wrote a lot of Prix’s grandfather’s lines, so the way he talks and thinks is pretty much modeled on me when I can’t be bothered to speak proper English – and, if you think about it, I would probably be around Grandpa’s age in 2045, so it makes sense that he’d talk and feel like my generation. Plus, I’m always scolding people like he does 😀
Lina: Personally, I think that each character that we write has a part of us in it. As for G.U.M., I didn’t come up with Slider but I think she’s a lot like me since we both date younger men. hur hur hur 😉
Joelyn Alexandra: I juggle between Prix and Holly. I think many of us may identify with Prix and Slider because we either keep talking about them and stuff. Holly is because I’m the eldest in the family and I’ve always wanted an elder brother who is somewhat (note, somewhat) like Jax. Oh and the fact that I like the whole “still water runs deep” thing though I utterly fail at that.
Notkieran: While we’re on the subject of Slider, I want to put it on the record that I was the one who created her name. She then ran away and somehow merged with another character and when I saw her next, she’d grown quite a bit, in every sense of the word. I imagine that’s how it feels to be an absentee parent. Seriously: No, I don’t imagine that I am one of the characters. I do believe, however, that there is a bit of me in every one of the supporting characters you meet in the NS parts of the story, especially the older ones. But probably not Slider.
You guys are like SO active in the writing scene! Where do you get your energy from?
Rosemary: I think the energy for writing is always there. It’s getting the energy to do all the other stuff that is the problem.
Sarah Coldheart: We just do it. There are few others that are “loud” about being active even though they do write! We just want to get loud and known so that others will know that writing genre fiction is ok and that we’ll eventually make it a regular staple in the local fiction instead of what serious or horror fiction you see there. Plus, we have enough imagination to write our stories.
Raven Silvers: Each other, I think. Alone, there’s no way we’d be able to do what we do regularly, but put us together and suddenly we’re like batteries in a torchlight. And probably a certain sense of indignation that there isn’t stuff that we like, written by local authors – or if there is whatever genre stuff written by local authors, it’s depressing. And we do not like depressing.
Lina: Caffeine. Lots and lots of caffeine. Actually, that’s only partial true. We want to see the local writing scene be more diverse and so we want, no, needed to do something about it.
Joelyn Alexandra: It’s my comfort blanket, honestly. I always tell people that I already have the perfect career only that it may not exactly feed me as people will expect. I get a lot of energy and inspiration from almost anything and everything I do and see – the adventures with friends, stuff you see on the streets and dreams. And opening yourself to see that anything is possible (no matter how bizarre) works as well.
Notkieran: Sugar helps. An irresistible urge and habit to write helps more. What helps the most, though, is a base state of insanity.
Who would you say are your writing muses, mentors or inspiration?
Rosemary: Everyday life probably. But for the comic element in Bubble G.U.M. I’d just have to read Janet Evanovich or Terry Pratchett to get in the mood to write some of the funnier scenes.
Sarah Coldheart: Tamora Pierce, Terry Pratchett, Meg Cabot. They’re all pretty much different in styles but in the end, they entertain and the stories they write are fun. And S. Meyer. She is… a certain inspiration alright. Bwuahahahaha!
Raven Silvers: I’d say Terry Pratchett for his funny, Neil Gaiman for the way he can weave different mythologies into one coherent world, and Jim Butcher for his ability to write funny, believable characters who’re like the average guy, even if they have powers or whatever.
Lina: David and Leigh Eddings, Mercedes Lackey, James Mallory, Patricia Briggs, Kelley Armstrong, Nora Roberts. They write about strong yet flawed characters, plots that drag you in and leave you gasping for more and best of all, they’re entertaining. Their female characters are strong, independent and absolutely no damsels in distress, which is a big draw for me and inspires me to write about strong female characters too; characters that, hopefully, can be role models for others.
Joelyn Alexandra: I will sound absolutely cliche here but James Patterson, Stieg Larsson, Wena Poon, David Hosp and Eoin Colfer. All of whom have written Crime or Action fiction, which is what I’m inclined to. I also like Shoko Tendo, the person who wrote Yakuza Moon, while it is not fiction per se, her “biography” of some sorts did give me a good idea of how it’s in another person’s shoes and not falling asleep halfway like I usually do with other biographies. Looking to TRY and read Freud though. TRY.
Notkieran: Arturo Perez Reverte, Sergei Lukyanenko and Raymond Chandler. All of them are genre writers who have never surrendered the sense of beauty in their writing.
Complete this sentence: If I had just one day to live, I will…
Rosemary: … die the next day.
Raven Silvers: Go to Disneyland and drink bubble tea until I explode.
Lina: Spend the day with the loved ones and indulge in everything possible.
Joelyn Alexandra: Simulate the Millenium trilogy as Lisbeth Salander from start to finish. And I mean everything. HAHA.
Notkieran: Live it up with my loved ones. But first I need to check if my life insurance is still paid up.
Sarah Coldheart: Do non-PG things.