Hi Yvonne. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to have an interview with you. How are you and what have you been up to lately?
You’re welcome! Currently, I’m in the midst of getting my third book ready for printing.
Could you tell us more about your new book please?
My third book, Madness Aboard! the sequel to The Sky is Crazy, is a collection of humorous and real stories from my experience working as a flight stewardess with an international airline. This third book (my second book is a collection of essays on matters close to the women’s heart, of beauty and vanity, called Vanity Drive: The Vagaries of one Woman’s Vanity, also by Marshall Cavendish) continues to unravel the hilarious and sometimes bizarre happenings that took place in the stratosphere. Aviophobics, lecherous old coots, a passenger on a fart fest, troublemakers and other eccentrics are the worse kinds of passengers that all fly girls and boys had seen.
Among the books you’ve written, which one you enjoyed writing most? Why?
All my three books are special to me. My airline stories-based books certainly brought back the pleasant reminiscences of my airline days and are a favourite with those who want to know what life is like being the cabin crew. On the other hand, Vanity Drive is equally special because it had allowed me the soul-searching experience on matters revolving body image, physical attraction, beauty, vanity and coming to term with growing older, getting white hair and embracing the fact that one’s boobs will eventually stare southward! It explores the myriad vagaries of vanity and contains rather intimate anecdotes on how women and beauty concerns are inseparable.
The most challenging book has to be the soon-to be-out Madness Aboard! When The Sky is Crazy first came out and I was interviewed in many magazines and newspapers, some detractors undermined me by saying it was just my pretty face that made the media favour me. So, despite my busy schedule (3 kids and a day job), I pushed myself to come out with this because I don’t want to be labelled as a flash-in-a-pan author.
My book had been highlighted in over 40 different publications and some felt that it’s my ‘ex-stewardess factor’ that gave me the advantage. For that, I made it a point not to stop at one book, as that’s the tendency with some local authors. Yet, the reality remains that, as my family grew bigger (I had my youngest baby the same year my second book came out), as my business expanded, I found it harder to write.
But I made time to continue writing and my latest book Madness Aboard! was written during the most busy times of my life—a new baby after a gap of ten years (!). I remember days when I would even scribble a paragraph on a note pad while seated inside a car, braving through heavy traffic congestion on the road. My book is like another child, but one nurtured only after time spent with my real children. After they had all gone to bed, I would crawl out of the bed to tend to my ‘book child’.
Have you always wanted to write a book? If yes, what triggered the idea? If not, what/who inspired it?
Not really. Ten years ago, I never knew I’d be writing books. I had started out from a bored housewife who contributed ad hoc articles and letters to the local papers. One of my contributions touched on my experience working as a stewardess with an international airline. Some friends who read it commented that I should write more of my flying days. The rest is history. I’m glad the editors at The Star newspaper allowed me the opportunities to write for the lifestyle sections and that advantage made my approach with a publisher like Marshall Cavendish easier, I think…
What experiences have you gained as an air stewardess, which have made you who you are today?
What I value the most is my ability to plan out things and the persistence to materialise them, thanks to what I picked up from my flying days. When your whole month activities are determined by a block of flight schedules, you learn to seize the day and prioritise matters. For the air crew, time management is very crucial, more so if you’re the go-getter kind.
Who are your favourite authors and why?
My favourite authors…hmmmm…There are quite a number but I really enjoy humour writers that contribute for Traveler Tales series of books, on top of authors like Dave Barry, Bill Bryson, Anne Lamott and Elliot Hester. I also love books written by journalists like Mitch Albom, John Grogan and Mary Roach. Hey, why all the foreign names?? Yes, I also support local authors. My favourite local writers are Alexandra Wong, Lydia Teh, Petra Gimbad, Dina Zaman, to name a few.
Do you have any peculiar writing habits? If yes, what are they?
Peculiar writing habit? Must tell ah? I like to smell on minyak cap kapak every time I write. The familiar smell is very comforting whenever I needed to get into the groove of crafting words. Oh, I mostly write after the entire household is asleep.
What’s your cure for a writer’s block?
Yes, I do hit the writer’s block sometimes. When it happens, I just need to lay off my work for a while and start reading other books voraciously. When I feel relaxed, the words swim back to me again.
When you’re not writing, what do you do?
When I’m not writing, I’m just an ordinary working mum of three kids. I pick the kids from school, rush out for grocery, prepare the family meals and then go to work in the evening (I run a music school with my husband and schedule my classes on most nights). I try my best to find time, a minute here and there, to read daily. I have this habit of tearing magazine and newspaper sheets, fold and keep them in my bag. In between waiting for my piano students or waiting for my kids to come out from school, I read.
Yvonne’s tips to aspiring writers…
My advice to those who feel that they can only write after their children became grown-ups or after they had retired is, you don’t need to wait that long. If you really want to write, you can start today. Just spend fifteen minutes a day but keep it constant and before you knew it, voila, you have a book in hand!