Singaporean author Amanda Lee Koe recently made the news for her debut novel being picked up by renowned American publisher Doubleday.
She shared the process behind the book, which included travelling to various international cities and inadvertently writing in the middle of a lallang grass field in rural Thailand.
Her debut novel, titled Delayed Rays of A Star, follows the interconnecting lives of three actresses across the 20th century in famous cities such as Beijing, Berlin, Paris and Los Angeles.
The book will appear under Doubleday’s literary imprint Nan A. Talese, which published acclaimed writers such as Margaret Atwood.
The writer immersed herself in thorough research on the various cities featured in the book.
Speaking with Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore, Lee Koe, 30, said, “Obviously, every space, when correlated to time, carries specific socio-political contexts and cultural codes, so I drowned myself in massive research for a full year, including time spent in Berlin.”
“It was madness, but also a lot of fun for an obsessive nerd like me,” she added.
Lee Koe previously penned a short story collection Ministry of Moral Panic, which won the Singapore Literature Prize and was published by local publishing house Epigram Books in 2013.
Part of her travels included writing in a small town in rural Thailand where her partner was shooting a film. Lee Koe could not stop writing once she started, no matter which part of the world she happened to be travelling in.
She found herself on a film set “squatting in a field of lallang, hoping her 100 baht insect repellent was working” while trying to “tilt her computer screen so the sunlight would stop hitting it and she could continue writing”.
She remembered that it was the hottest summer in Thailand in half a century.
“There was this blazing hot day when I couldn’t write anymore so I started reading the book I brought along, Cervantes’ Don Quixote, which I had never got around to reading and was hoping to finish,” she said.
She said that members of the Thai film crew still tease her now when they see her, asking, “How is your novel writing? Are you still reading Don Quixote?’”
She acknowledged she is one of a growing number of female Singapore writers with books being picked up by international publishers in the past year.
They include Rachel Heng, 29, whose literary science fiction novel Suicide Club was picked up by publishers in both Britain and the United States, and Balli Kaur Jaswal, 34, whose most recent work Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows was released by publisher HarperCollins both in the UK and in the US.
“I’m thrilled that there are other young, female Singaporean authors whose works are appearing with US/UK publishers,” Lee Koe said.
The writer thinks people in Singapore should not be afraid to keep growing and pushing boundaries. “As an island state fed on an ethos of survivalist exceptionalism, I think we often forget that, in so many ways, we should completely be allowed to be beansprouts who are still growing a pair,” she said.
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