Interview: From the other side of the publishing fence

I often feature interviews with writers and artists who are mostly on one side of the publishing fence. Today, I interview Rosemary who is both a writer (having recently co-written a book titled “Happiness at the end of the world” with her writing group) & a publisher in Singapore. Time to find out more about the other side of the publishing fence~!

Tell us a little about yourself and your company. What do you guys primarily work on?

Two Trees is a tiny company with great ideas. That’s our tagline. We earn
our money editing books for larger publishing companies, running writing
and editing workshops and also a literary tour of Singapore. That gives us
the financing to then do small print runs for our publishing.

You collaborated with the Happy Smiley group to publish a book and took up most of the costs involved in getting it to print, what made you decide to do that?

I’m actually a member of the Happy Smiley Writers Group. The simple answer
is that I could do it so I did. There was all this talent and no outlet. It was an easy decision.

How did “happiness at the end of the world” first originate? What spurred you on to suggest this theme to your writing group?

The title comes from a short story I wrote about eight years ago. It was
published in a literary magazine in Australia and I decided it was time it
had another airing. Since HSWG writers are all good with speculative
fiction we decided to follow on the theme of a post-armageddon world where
someone, somewhere is happy. It is a thumbing the nose at the plethora of
misery literature that seems to define Asian writing nowadays. We wanted
to say that there are happy stories in Asia too.

How well do you think Happiness will do in the bookstores?

Not well. Bookstores are surprisingly the worst place to sell books,
especially Singapore books in Singapore book stores. Just walk into a
Singapore bookstore and you’ll see why. We sell online and through friends
and at events.

What are some of your marketing plans for this book?

Blog, blog, blog! Well, more than that actually. We’ll be doing some
sci-fi writing events and selling it through those, also we’re sending out
review copies to magazines and newspapers as well as to publishers and
agents overseas. We don’t expect to have a bite the first time out with
this book but it at least it lets the rest of the world know that Asia
writing is not just about miserable childhoods.

There must have been some hiccups during the production of this book, were there any particularly nerve-wrecking ones?

Deadlines, of course. We had a lot of fun with cover but there was a
hiccup there because of a lack of the necessary programs. Other than that
it was a straightforward edit and layout. I think it’s important for
writers to learn as much as they can about the publishing process so this
book was a good learning tool for the rest of the HSWG.

You have a second book titled “Bubble G.U.M” in the works, how is this book different from your first anthology?

Bubble G.U.M. is actually a novel rather than short stories. We each
contributed a section at the beginning and by the end of the first round
we had the characters and the basis of a plot. So what we have is Prix
Zero Noir entering National Service in 2045 when Singapore is a Green
Underwater Metropolis protected by a dome made of bubblegum, hence the
title. It has a bit of everything, mystery, love story, action, and lots
of comedy. We always have the happiness somewhere!

How is the collaboration on the second book different from the first book?

I have to admint that I ruled over its creation with an iron rod, or pen,
but that was as an editor because it needed to come together as a coherent
piece of writing seemingly by one writer and not six. It has been an
interesting journey and the world that has come out of it is so different
from what any of the six of us expected individually. It morphed into
something much bigger and better because of the collaboration. There are
many more stories from the Bubble G.U.M. to come.

I understand that you publish new writing to encourage greater creativity from local talents. What are some of the things that will interest you to even consider their queries?

We only publish two or three titles a year but I do have contacts with
other publishers. I think the best thing that local writing talent can do
is learn about how to submit to publishers, how to make a book proposal
and how to lay out their manuscript. The talent is there so I don’t worry
about the novels or stories being any good.

Usually it takes no more than 30 seconds to spot the talent. The editor will always do the job of shaping up the final work so perfection isn’t necessary but a good grab-them-by-the-throat opening is essential. It doesn’t have to be action packed or anything like that, just extremely well written, the best part of the book to keep the editor reading. One rule that I have is that I
don’t deal with misery literature, other than that I’m open to queries.

What do you think differentiates Singaporean writers from their international counterparts? Do you think we’ll stand a chance against them?

Not enough time to write is the simple answer. Too busy with work and
study stresses. Singapore has just as much talent as anywhere else in the
world, not just in writing but in all spheres. It’s a statistical certainty. The problem is the pressure to make a living in a high-cost environment. Singaporean writers certainly do stand a chance in the international arena and it will happen at some point. The HSWG and Two Trees are doing their best!

Thanks to Rosemary from Two Trees for taking the time to join me for the interview~! Check out their website if you’re interested.


Interview: A Tweeterview with Happy Smiley and Friends

Sarahcoldheart & friends recently published an interesting book called Happiness at the end of the world. She sent me a free copy of the book in a neon blue package which stood out starkly from the rest of my mundane mail. Shall get around to reading it soon. But before that, just to let you guys know that for the first time, I’ll be conducting the interview via Tweeterview where questions and replies are limited to the creative use of 140 characters. So stay tuned for updates on the time and date of that interview. =D

Update: I know this is a little last minute but the above interview will be held tomorrow at 11am, Singapore time! See you then! My apologies. My internet was down for the ENTIRE MORNING and I only just managed to get online. Will do the interview after 2pm. Shall put the link here for your convenience! Sorry about it!



Interview: The Resident Tourist~Troy Chin

Howdy guys! How’s things going this week? It’s the start of the Chinese New Year this coming Saturday so let me wish you guys GONG XI FA CAI! :3

Up next, an interview with the creator of Resident Tourist, Troy Chin! :3

How and when did you decide to use art as a mode of expression?

For comics, it would be mid 2006. It’s exactly like what is written in the Tourist. While undergoing therapy with my doctor, we discussed drawing and how I was terrible at it since my childhood days. I started drawing and got better and decided to try doing comics. The rest is…well, history. As for art in general, I started to use music a very long time ago. But that’s another story altogether.

Was it difficult getting publishers for both Resident Tourist & Loti? Tell us about your publishing experience.

I pretty much couldn’t find any publishers locally who would be interested in comics, let alone the kind of comics I do. Adrian Teo, who paid for the first 2 books, is a comics fan, so that doesn’t count. We don’t have any dedicated comics publisher here. Chuang Yi is only interested in licensing Japanese and Taiwanese material. And regular publishers like SPH don’t take comics seriously. It’s a dead end. That’s why I decided to publish TRT3 and Loti myself.
What do you hope to achieve with your publications?

The printed versions are purely for those who want to have a physical comic book to read. I was previously solely online and was happy with just putting stories out on my site. It is cheap and easy. Now that I am printing them and incurring actual costs, I guess I hope to recoup my losses. Self-printing is a monster though. I highly advise against doing it if possible coz you have to do a lot more than just sending it to the printers. It becomes a business.
What are your future plans for your comics?

My future plans aren’t anything great. The only plan is to continue with my existing series and perhaps try some random stuff along the way. Yeah, I don’t really make big plans more than 2 weeks away. I can’t work that fast and they all change in the end anyway.

If you could advise a struggling artist in Singapore, what words of advice would you give him/her?

Advice? Ha ha. I’ve only been doing this for about 3 years so I don’t have that much experience. What I’ve learnt is that making comics is a very SLOW process. If you want to do comics, you have to understand and realize that it is not something that you can do within an hour or even a week. It requires patience to complete a strip, a page, a chapter, a book (time length varies based on ambition and scope). You need to budget your time and money realistically to complete your panels. You absolutely do not want to rush and put out something you don’t like. Put in 100% of effort into your current comic. No less. If it takes you a week to do a 4-panel strip. Take a week. Everybody works at different speeds. Work at a speed you are comfortable enough to do the best panels you can at that time. If you need to do part time/full time gigs etc for wages, then go do those and come back later to continue your panels. I find that most people I’ve met who wanted to do comics but quit soon after is usually not due to lack of income, but due to an incorrect assessment of the marathon task of completing comics. Which is why I love this art form. Because it truly tests whether you love it on a daily basis, not like some throw-away, instant gratification that seem to exist in abundance today.


An interview with Madeleine Rosca, mangaka of Hollow Fields

Hi guys! Once again, I’m able to invite yet another mangaka to grace our blog with her presence. Let’s give a warm welcome to Madeleine Rosca, mangaka of Hollow Fields~! =D

I personally find her style of drawing very cute and very colourful. =D So do support Madeleine by hopping over to and purchase all the volumes of Hollow Fields~!

She was also one of four winners presented with Japan’s first ever “International Manga Award” for her work on Hollow Fields.

When did you discover you could draw?

Very young, like most kids. I wasn’t always particularly better than other kids at drawing; I just really enjoyed it, so the more I did it, the more practice I got. My parents were both art teachers, so there was a lot of encouragement at home.

Why manga?

Manga has a very cinematic feel to it; a good manga should be a lot like watching a good movie. Drawing the panels is a lot like being a director who’s in control of a camera. I liked that sense of action and movement. Often western comics look very static by comparison, so they didn’t appeal as much.

You’ve been both self-published and published by a publisher, could you tell us briefly what it’s like to be on both sides of the fence?

I was very, very briefly self-published before being picked up by Seven Seas. There are good and bad things to both sides. All in all, it’s much better to be published, because you get paid(!), you get professional editorial input and your work reaches a much bigger audience. Benefits to self publishing though, include full control over your work and your story. That’s not always what’s best for the story, though…sometimes having an editor’s opinion really helps.

How do you come up with the ideas for your manga?

I read a lot, watch a lot of films, talk to people…it’s a very organic process. I hope that doesn’t sound pretentious. Writers come up with stories just by living and having experiences. I like steampunk, so most of my stories end up with a steampunk aesthetic, and the themes that come from that – mad science, retro robotics, etc.

What can your readers look forward to in your future projects?

I’ve currently got one in the pipeline but I am still in the annoying ‘negotiating with publishers’ stage. It’s been a slow year, but hopefully next year will see another story coming out.

Interview: Hu Jingxuan, mangaka of LAMENT

Hiya guys~! Today I have the privilege of interviewing Hu Jingxuan, thanks to the heads-up by annhell. =D

When and why did you go into manga drawing?

Since young, I had been enjoying cartoons and animations. The first few series that really sparked my interest in manga creation are Saint Seiya, Sailor Moon and Dragon ball. I started seriously drawing manga in 2003. I joined the Student Manga correspondence in Singapore Press Holdings and I submitted my works to be published in Friday Weekly every now and then.

Of all art forms, I especially love drawing manga. It is an escape from the real world into my own fantasy world. I can tell my own stories through manga and create characters based on personal experiences, making sure they are neither absolute monsters nor angels. But most of all, I love the challenge manga drawing requires.

Once I started drawing manga in 2003, I had decided that I would want to do this for the rest of my life. Since then I had been working consistently towards this goal.

Being a manga artist in Singapore is not easy, how did you manage to juggle both real life and drawing?

It had been really hard at first. Lament was produced when I was still in NUS High School. I had to balance between homework, exams and producing about 20 pages of manga per month. But I guess ‘when there’s a will, there’s a way.’ My passion had kept me going.

How long do you take to produce a page and where did you get your inspiration from?

It varies. It’s usually the concept and planning of the page that takes time. Inking takes around less than half a day usually.

I’m enchanted by myths and the ancient civilizations. Much of my comic and illustrations has setting in a fantasy or ancient world. My subjects tend to be mythical guardian beings or angels.

Over the years, I have developed an ornate and gothic art style. I’m obsessed with details, techniques and visual impacts. I put special attention to designs in my work, be it the clothing design or landscape design. Though I like painting and experimenting with colours, I’m more interested in the sharp visceral feeling created by the medium of micron pens and markers. I want to create in my art a surreal nightmarish dream realm. A worlds like an entangling spider web, where everything is crawling with pseudo-organic ornamentation and decaying roses.

You managed to publish “Lament” with the help of MDA and Chuangyi. Could you tell us how that came about?

I submitted my proposal for First-Time Writers and Illustrators Publishing Initiative in 2007, and I was chosen. Since then, I had been working on ‘Lament’. I had gained a lot through the process.

The experience and insights gained from working with editors. Lament is created from the team effort of me and the Chuangyi editors. Comic drawing is no longer a simple individual affair. It involves the combined effort in drawing, scripting, page layout and story development.

Along the way, I picked up invaluable tips from the editor’s suggestions. The main editor and Team Cy has helped me to develop my plot from its shaky beginning. They showed me how to add tension to the story. And with their help in scripting, my story becomes more polished and smooth. This project is a proper training for me to prepare me for future challenges.

Chuangyi and MDA had been selflessly promoting our works through conventions and autograph sessions. My experience at STGCC recently has really been fruitful and fun. Chuangyi had done a great job creating publicity for our works in STGCC from both the public and other publishers. I also had an interesting experience overcoming my shyness and learning a few promoting skills from Chuangyi. ^^

It’s an honour working with Chuangyi and it’s really a huge dream come true for me. At this moment, I need to say a loud, thank you for making it happen!

I still remember the first time I met the manager in Chuangyi, he looked at my art and told me that my works and my unique gothic style have the potential to go far, it has been one of my driving forces when I was drawing Lament =>

What was it like to contribute to “Liquid City”?

I felt both excited and honored. It’s a platform for me to polish my skills at telling a story in less than 20 pages. It felt totally different from drawing a long story like ‘LAMENT’.

Publishing anything of any sort is really challenging in Singapore, how would you advise an aspiring mangaka to see his/her dream come true in publication-land?

I would start by submitting my works to competitions and proposing my ideas to different publishers. Also, set up a good professional website to showcase your works. Or even start a webcomic to get feedback and create a fan base. And there’s always the option of self-publishing if you are confident that your work has market value.

Thanks to Jingxuan for granting us this interview. Check out her artwork at Deviantart. You can also find out details to purchase Lament there.


By Moon Alone interview

mooncastHi guys! Today I have the honour of interviewing Honoel A. Ibardolaza who published his own webcomic at ByMoonAlone. I personally feel that his art is amazing and you guys should check out his works at ByMoonAlone, his portfolio or his deviantart account.

Why did you decide to publish your comic on the web?

My reason for publishing online is actually twofold:

1) It’s economically viable as there is no printing cost when you are publishing online. You can use a different page dimension and have full color and it won’t cost you even a cent to have a wide distribution. There’s also something very appealing in the fact that you can publish online and have that update accessible instantaneously to whomever has internet access wherever he may be in the world.

2) My other reason that perhaps carries the most weight is that I have complete creative freedom with my story. No editors or publishers to tell me what I can and cannot do. As a writer and artist, I would like nothing better than to be left alone to draw and write what I want and there’s no other avenue aside from the Internet that allows me such freedom.

What gave you the ideas/inspired you for your comic?

My comic is inspired by a lot of things. But mostly it’s inspired by the books I’ve read and movies I’ve seen that I have fallen totally in love with.

Are there any plans to publish it as a book?

Yes. I’ve always wanted to hold it in my hands as an actual physical product. If I can’t find a publisher for it, there’s a big possibility that I may just self publish a limited run just to satiate my own personal sense of fulfillment.

Tell us about your journey as a comic artist, has it been difficult?

I’ve always been interested in drawing since I was a kid but I didn’t take it seriously until right after college when I realized that you can actually make a living in illustration. I started my comics career submitting to local anthologies while starting up my own webcomic. It was through my webcomic that I attracted a manga publisher who wanted to hire me. Since then I’ve drawn two books for that publisher and I’m currently about to start on my third. I think the hardest thing in being a comic artist is that you have to stay true to yourself and never give up even if it seems no one is reading your work.

Who do you count as your inspiration as an artist?

I can’t really say I have one person to count as my inspiration. There are some artists whose work I admire but honestly I can’t remember the artists’ name. I appreciate art for what it is and I’ve always made it into a point to separate the artist from the work he’s done.

What advice would you give an aspiring comic artist?

Drawing comics for a living is a very personal and lonely career and most of the time the pay is absolutely horrible. If you want to have a secure future and don’t want to worry about where your next meal will come from, I would highly suggest earning a degree in accounting or information technology. But if you absolutely love to draw, and would rather stay home and draw all night into the morning and not have a social life, then there’s no better and more fulfilling career than drawing comics.

interview: Dash from Expanded Horizons

Heya guys! Today I have the pleasure of inviting Dash from Expanded Horizons to share his/her story on how the web magazine for speculative fiction came about. =3

So just who is Dash? Well, he/she’s the editor of Expanded Horizons and he/she works with two other people to bring speculative fiction to readers the world over. I had emailed him/her one of my stories for submission to his/her web mag and he/she was gracious enough to not only accept my humble tale but also agree to do a short interview for the AMWC blog. =3

Hope you guys like the interview!

When and why did you decide to set up Expanded Horizons for speculative fiction?

I got the idea to start my magazine in May 2008 while driving to a friend’s apartment. The day before, I had had the honor of hearing Justice Breyer (United States Supreme Court) speak in the afternoon about justice and the law, and Neil Gaiman speak in the evening about speculative fiction, and these two inspirational speeches marinated in my mind for a day… and voila, a magazine concept emerged.

Several weeks earlier I had gone searching online for the sort of market I eventually set up, and could not find one, and out of that realization that it had never been done in this way, I decided to do it. Thus was born a magazine whose mission it is to diversify the genre of speculative fiction and to serve as a venue to showcase underrepresented voices in the genre.

Do you have any plans to make Expanded Horizons a print magazine?

No. To do so would be cost-prohibitive, as we are entirely a volunteer effort run on out-of-pocket expenditures and donations. To go to print format would also cause problems with distribution- on the web, we can be international very cheaply, and reach a very large and diverse audience very quickly. In print form, it would be very hard for authors and readers around the world to find us. Our international scope is one of our greatest assets.

Why did you choose speculative fiction as a submission criteria?

I’ve always been interested in speculative fiction, since early childhood. I grew up both reading and writing speculative fiction. That’s my home, and I’d never start any other genre of magazine (that I can think of!).

Could you tell us a little on how you and the rest of your crew on Expanded Horizons met?

Jacie and I were friends both in real life and online before I decided to start Expanded Horizons- she and I met through a mutual (in real life) friend. Prezzey and I were online friends before she became involved in Expanded Horizons- she and I met in an online forum.