Wan Phing Lim, whose story ‘Goldy Gold’ is published in the debut issue of Lucent Dreaming, was born to Malaysian parents in 1986 in Butterworth, Penang. Her short stories have appeared in Catapult (USA), Ricepaper Magazine (Canada) and anthologies by Monsoon Books (UK), Ethos Books (Singapore) and Fixi Novo (Malaysia). Her story ‘Snake Bridge Temple’ was selected for Kitaab’s Best Asian Short Stories 2017 and Buku Fixi’s New Malaysian Writing 2017. She is currently based in Kuala Lumpur. Read our interview with Wan Phing where she explains why writing is so important and tells us about her writing process.
What does writing mean to you?
Writing started out as a form of self-expression for me, where I felt I needed to write in order to express my emotions, thoughts and feelings that I could not otherwise verbally express. But as I took fiction more and more seriously, writing has now become a responsibility for me to tell other people’s stories that would not otherwise get heard. Everybody has a story to tell, and a unique perspective to their own lives or actions. If a scribe does not pen them down, their stories will not be heard, understood or empathised by a larger audience. I’d like to think that I’m restoring the humanity of my characters – especially the flawed, dysfunctional and guilty ones – back to our world.
What writing/creative projects are you currently working on?
I’m working on putting together my first collection of short stories, mostly based in Malaysia my home country and Singapore where I worked and lived for five years. I have about nine that are ready and I’m polishing another five or so in order to have something solid, with an overarching theme and flow to the collection. Every year, I take part in Nanowrimo in November and CampNano in April – that’s when I get most of my creative work done. I also do microfiction of 150-200 words as warm-up or starter exercises every time I sit down to write, and some of these end up becoming short stories at a later stage.
What are you most excited about right now and for the future?
That the publishing industry is more open to diverse voices now, such as Asian writers and women of colour. That’s a good opportunity for people like me to find an agent and land a book deal. It’s very exciting to know that readers are looking for alternative view points and storylines, and are becoming more aware that there is no “single story” to any culture, place or person.
How and where do you find inspiration to write?
The inspiration comes from mostly from stories of friends, family, relatives or even stuff that I read in the newspapers. My characters are predominantly Malaysians, and I like to write about interracial relationships, class differences, outcasts and petty crime. If there’s one thing I learnt it’s that real life is stranger than fiction, so if you just take the time to listen to other people’s life stories you have gold there to mine from. I’m also inspired by locations and the hometown I grew up in. Penang is an island, so I’m very fascinated with seas, hills, abandoned mansions and the bridge that connects the island to the mainland. I also love movies, and some of my short stories have been inspired by elements from The Birds, Mulholland Drive and Atonement.
What advice would you give those who want to do what you do?
Discipline, discipline, discipline. Writing is all about discipline – if you don’t make time for it, the story will not write itself. Many people like the idea of being a writer but are not prepared for the amount of hard work that is needed to perfect the craft. I’m guilty of this myself and have to constantly pep myself into scheduling time and taking writing seriously. Getting involved with a local or online community writing group also helps to keep you accountable to your craft, because writing can be a lonely and solitary endeavour. Don’t be afraid to experiment at the start and don’t worry about sounding like other writers or copying other people’s style – it takes a while before you find your unique voice.
Where can people see more of you and your work?
I have a website with my portfolio of fictional work here (https://wanphing.com/fiction/) Many of my short stories have been published in book anthologies in Malaysia, Singapore, online literary journals and zines. But the piece of work I’m proudest of is my short story ‘The Roof Walker’ which you can read on Ricepaper Magazine here (https://ricepapermagazine.ca/2017/08/the-roof-walker-by-wan-phing-lim/) It’s based in Manchester where I lived for five years and tells the story of two Malaysians – an illegal restaurant worker and a medical student. Both come from the same country yet are very different because of class, background and aspirations.
Lucent Dreaming is an independent creative writing magazine publishing beautiful, imaginative and surreal short stories, poetry and artwork from emerging authors and artists worldwide. Our aim is to encourage creativity and to help writers reach publication! Subscribe to Lucent Dreaming now, support us on Patreon and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.