We’re barrelling face-first towards the holidays, and I just wanted to provide a reminder of which books of mine are available to buy for yourself and your loved ones (and even your enemies). If you can, please purchase these books directly from Epigram Books (we’re even having a Xmas Market this weekend with huge discounts!), but feel free to pick them up at your preferred bookseller.
Let Lundberg’s imagination introduce you to an unearthly stargirl, a foul-mouthed wombat, slithering immortals, a fish with premonitions, and much more.
Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume Four (guest editor Pooja Nansi) (Oct 2019)
“Our stories are everywhere we look, and those stories matter; they are as varied and as manifold as we are.” –Pooja Nansi, from the preface
Diary of One Who Disappeared (Apr 2019)
In 2040, Lucas Lehrer finds himself a fugitive in the Southeast Asian nation of Tinhau, and he discovers that his deep-seated desires are coming true.
Bo Bo and Cha Cha series (illustrated by Patrick Yee) (2012–2015)
This series of children’s picture books follows the adventures of two pandas and their new experiences after relocating from the bamboo forests of China to sweltering tropical Singapore. Ages 3-7.
A ten-issue literary journal focusing on speculative fiction from and about Southeast Asia. Contributors include Dean Francis Alfar, Paolo Bacigalupi, John Burdett, Zen Cho, Aliette de Bodard, Sabrina Huang, Eka Kurniawan, Amanda Lee Koe, Ken Liu, E.C. Myers, Ng Yi-Sheng, Victor Fernando R. Ocampo, Geoff Ryman, Christina Sng, Cyril Wong, and Bryan Thao Worra.
I also want to mention something that’s been a topic of interest recently, that of my seemingly frenetic productivity. I’ve had people coming up to me at both the Singapore Writers Festival and George Town Literary Festival, as well as friends over coffee or a meal, asking about this, mostly wondering when I have time to write so much in addition to being: the fiction editor of Epigram Books, a single dad, a frequent panelist at various events, a freelance editor, a workshop instructor, a Netflix addict, and a relentless promoter of my new work. The fact that two of my books were released this year (three, if you count BNSSSv4), and another one being released next year (two, if you count Best Singaporean Short Stories 1 in the UK only), has given the impression that I am either a master of multitasking or have borrowed Hermione Granger’s time-turner in order to get this all done.
And not to take away from all the hard work that has been done and is still ongoing, but it’s also a bit of smoke and mirrors on my part. Some background: my former agent sat on both Diary of One Who Disappeared and A Fickle and Restless Weapon for years, which is the primary reason he is no longer my agent. Both the novella and the novel were finished and publishable back in 2014, just awaiting publication.
I let my agent go at the beginning of 2018, and a week or two later pitched to my boss* at Epigram Books both a new edition of Red Dot Irreal (since it had gone out of print) and Diary. He wasn’t keen on bringing back my first collection and asked for something new instead, so I quickly selected what I felt were the best stories from my first three collections, and these (plus an uncollected story and a brand new one exclusive to the book) became Most Excellent and Lamentable. He liked the idea, and signed me for a two-book contract. So for these books, most of the work had already been done, apart from finishing “Slowly Slowly Slowly” for MEAL.
Then in mid-2019, after Diary had been out for a few months, I pitched A Fickle and Restless Weapon, since they both share a common narrative universe and timeline. It’s also my first proper novel, which is a big deal when marketing any given author. After some back and forth, I signed that contract in September. As mentioned before, the creative part of the book was done; I’m currently revising it based on comments from my editor (Eldes Tran, who also edited Diary and MEAL), but that’s a regular part of the editorial process.
It’s almost as if I had these books in a queue, ready to go at the right moment. After Fickle is released in June 2020, I have no more books in the hopper, so I’m trying (with varying levels of success) to get my next novel going now. It’s technically a sequel to Diary, though it (like all of my Tinhau books) stands alone, meaning that you can read them in any order. I’m not, in point of fact, a fast writer, so I have no idea when it’ll be done, but I would like to finish the novel in 2020 or 2021 to capitalise on the momentum of the other books.
So there we are. It’s true that I have had at least one book released each year since 2011, but after 2020 there are no more guarantees, and that’s okay. I’m more grateful than I can say that I have been able to make a life for myself that includes a day job I really love, as well as an audience for the books I write and edit. It’s something that I never take for granted. So if you’ve read a book that has my name on it anytime in the last eight years: thank you so much for helping me to live my best life, and Happy Holidays!
* I’ve also been asked if it feels weird or incestuous to have released books with the publisher I work for. But I have two points to make there:
1) I stand by all of the fiction titles I have edited for Epigram Books, and feel that they can compete with books from anywhere else in the world, so I needed to put my money where my mouth is. It would be hypocritical of me to praise our fiction and then insist that my own fiction must be published elsewhere. I am very happy that each of the books listed above proudly bears the Epigram Books logo.
2) Edmund Wee, the big boss man, believes in my writing and feels that he should be publishing it himself, rather than another publisher in Singapore (or elsewhere). He also feels that it is commercial enough to make money for both me and the company; if he didn’t, he would have passed on any of the books I’ve pitched to him (and indeed, he did so, with Red Dot Irreal). This is the same situation Toni Morrison ran into when she was an editor at Random House, so if it was good enough for her, it’s certainly good enough for me.