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[GUEST POST] Joyce Chng (a.k.a. J. Damask) on Urban Fantasy in Singapore

Born in Singapore but a global citizen, Joyce Chng writes mainly science fiction (SFF) and YA fiction. She likes steampunk and tales of transformation/transfiguration. Her fiction has appeared in Crossed Genres, Semaphore Magazine, Bards and Sages Quarterly and Everyday Fiction. Joyce also has a crowdfunded web YA novella entitled Oysters, Pearls and Magic. Forthcoming fiction will be featured in Drollerie Press. She also blogs for Apex. Her urban fantasy novel Wolf At The Door (written as J. Damask) will be released on the 4th of April. She promises she is normal…

UF in Singapore – Why Not?

Why did I ever write an urban fantasy set in Singapore? What possessed me, anyway?

These were the thoughts that crossed my mind when I started the process of editing my urban fantasy novel. It was the start of January 2010. The novel… mess.. whatever it was began as a challenge to myself: write an urban fantasy set in Singapore, my country. Granted that I also wrote it for Nanowrimo and I had recently given birth… So, I was insane. But at least, I did it. Wrote the story out within the space of a month – relatively easy as the landscape was familiar and the world-building was already done, somewhat, in my mind. The world of the Lang (Mandarin Chinese for ‘wolf’) grew, followed by a whole menagerie of shifters and non-human types.

Then I started looking for publishers. Would an urban fantasy set in Singapore sell? Would it find readers, for crying out loud? And with a nom-de-plume like “J. Damask”… it would, right? [How do you pronounce ‘Chng’ anyway?]

Pzzzt. Wrong.

My first forays in looking for the right publisher were (not surprisingly) bleak. I was told that it wouldn’t sell, that it wasn’t marketable. What? I thought urban fantasy was selling like hot cakes. You know, leather-clad babes with angst and surrounded by a coterie of drop-dead handsome men. Considering the chilly publishing industry in Singapore, I was half-tempted to self-publish the story of a werewolf mom, dealing with non-human shenanigans and family politics. [Hey, wait.. you mean no sexy babe in leather and hunks with abs of steel???]

Oh yes, did I mention the chilly publishing industry in Singapore? It’s a pet peeve/hot button issue of mine, so bear with me.

Singaporean publishers are not friendly to genre submissions. True that horror is popular (and there is a whole series of ‘ghost’-written stories to whet the public’s appetite on all things ghoulish), but general science fiction and fantasy… nadah. Currently, the local SF/F books in the bookshops are by small independent publishers who dare take the challenge to produce genre books. Yet the general population seems hooked on poetry books, recipe books, memoirs and self-help books. And assessment books and academia. Oh, having a big name helps. A big plus if you are writing “post-colonial” literary fiction too. Not that what I am writing is considered “post-colonial”…

Given such an environment, I didn’t know where to send Wolf At The Door. I was already active in web-fiction and was in the process of writing a web novella at the same time. Was self-publishing the only way? Should I end up presenting the novel as a crowd-funded web project?

Hell, was it my only way out? [Did I dig myself into a quandary?]

Disappointed but not wanting to give up, I probed further and found Lyrical Press. I thought: “Heck, why not?”, crafted a query letter, synopsis, tidied the MS up and – with a prayer – sent it on its merry way.

Imagine my (dance-around-the-house) delight when I saw the acceptance email. I was unagented. I was a relatively new author, unlike the big name authors from big publishing houses. But hey, I did it. Lyrical liked my stuff.

[Of course, as any industry pro would tell you, submission is the easy part. There began the edits. I have a brilliant editor who whipped the MS into tip-top shape like a personal trainer.]

There you have it. The novel’s life-story, my life-story (edited and abridged) and the Singaporean publishing environment.

Any questions? Bueller?

Why small press? Well, that’s another blog post all together.

6 Comments on [GUEST POST] Joyce Chng (a.k.a. J. Damask) on Urban Fantasy in Singapore

  1. Congratulations, Joyce. I remember well the feeling of getting that acceptance email! I’m dying to read Wolf at the Door. Singaporean folk tales mixed with urban fantasy has got to be worth a look. Such a shame your local publishers weren’t so excited by it. I hope you have massive success.

  2. Thank you, Graham! 🙂



  3. Good for you, writing outside the box, Joyce — and huge congratulations on finding a home for it! The 4th of April is coming up fast…hope you’ll be doing lots more happy dancing when the book launches! 🙂

  4. Wonderful. There are so many hidden dreams, mysteries and secrets in Singapore’s 700-year past. I wish you all the best digging them up and making them uniquely yours! 🙂

  5. Thank you, Alistair. 🙂


  6. Thank you Linda and Alistair! 🙂

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