New WWII Malaya Novel from Selina Siak Chin Yoke
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Hauntingly beautiful family saga transports readers to WWII Malaya in new novel, ‘When the Future Comes Too Soon’
LONDON – Deeply inspired by her great grandmother’s life and the often-overlooked history of South East Asia during World War II, author Selina Siak Chin Yoke is releasing “When the Future Comes Too Soon” published by Amazon Crossing on July 18, 2017.
“When the Future Comes Too Soon” follows the story of Wong Mei Foong, a woman struggling to thrive during a time of war, increasing racial tension, and a husband who has been beaten down by life and consumed by bitterness. Uniquely immersing readers into another world and time, the novel embarks on a journey through Malaya and the forces that shaped its culture.
The release of “When the Future Comes Too Soon” follows the amazing debut success of “The Woman who Breathed Two Worlds” which, in addition to garnering almost 1,000 Amazon reviews from readers around the globe, has earned accolades from best-selling authors, as has Siak’s upcoming release.
Perfect for readers who loved “The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan and “Memoirs of a Geisha” by Arthur Golden, “When the Future Comes Too Soon” blends an exotic setting with eternal questions that cross cultures and time.
The tales Siak writes are inspired by the women in her family, her great grandmother foremost, and stories she grew up listening to as a child. After being diagnosed with cancer, Siak found a sense of comfort and solace in writing, especially while reaching out to family members to learn more about the old days to create a truly compelling and personal narrative filled with dynamic, relatable characters.
Written through the lens of a lifetime of family lore and extensive research, “When the Future Comes Too Soon” shines a light on the little-known world of war-torn Malaya and the struggles of a people under culturally divisive rule. Filled with twists and turns, this emotional story will keep readers enthralled until the last page.
Of Malaysian-Chinese heritage, Selina Siak Chin Yoke grew up listening to family stories and ancient legends. She always knew that one day, she would write. After an eclectic life as a physicist, banker and trader in London, the heavens intervened. In 2009 Chin Yoke was diagnosed with cancer. While recovering, she decided not to delay her dream of writing any longer. Her first novel, “The Woman who Breathed Two Worlds” (The Malayan Series, #1), was published in 2016 and made an immediate emotional connection with readers. It debuted as an Amazon bestseller in historical fiction, was named by Goodreads as one of the six best books in the month of its release and has been favorably compared to the work of Pearl S. Buck and Amy Tan. “When the Future Comes Too Soon” is her latest novel.
Book Details for When the Future Comes Too Soon
Selina Siak Chin Yoke • July 18, 2017 • Amazon Crossing
ISBN: 1542045754 (paperback) • ASIN: B01N5P78JM (ebook)
Price: $10.99 (paperback) • $4.97 (ebook)
Praise For “When the Future Comes Too Soon”
“…an intensely visceral evocation of life in Malaya during World War II…” —María Dueñas, author of New York Times bestselling The Time in Between
“…an intricately drawn network of human relationships.” —Musharraf Ali Farooqi, author of Man Asian Literary Prize shortlisted Between Clay and Dust
Praise For “The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds”
“…vividly drawn, deeply affecting first novel…” —Laura Esquivel, author of Pierced by the Sun and the New York Times bestselling Like Water for Chocolate
An Interview with Selina Siak Chin Yoke
It may surprise your readers to know that you weren’t always a writer. Before becoming an author, you led successful careers as a research physicist and an investment banker, and even today, you work as a trader. What turned you on to writing?
I began writing out of desperation and a cherished dream. In 2009, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. After finishing chemo, when I should have been feeling better, I felt worse, even after many months. I was listless, out-of-sorts and far from being myself. Nothing seemed right. I saw a counselor; I stayed with friends outside London; I continued exercising. I was in a depression, except that I did not know it. And I certainly had no idea what to do – until I started writing. It was like a miracle: the act of searching for words and putting them into sentences transformed me. And then I remembered the dream I had of writing a novel loosely based on my great grandmother’s life. With every page I wrote, I could feel my strength returning. Writing saved my life. And now I can’t stop – I love it.
Why do you think readers develop such strong emotional connections to your characters?
I believe there are several reasons. First of all, my books are an easy read. The stories may be set in unfamiliar cultures and countries, but they are very accessible; I write from my heart and I think this shows. Secondly, my characters are rich and complex, and readers are able to glean their life histories – to get a sense of why they are the way they are. Finally, people across cultures and time have been more alike than we think. My characters reflect this. They face situations readers themselves have either faced or have heard about and can relate to in a very palpable way.
Fans have described being totally immersed in the world you built. How do you go about developing your narrative world?
Many readers say that they feel as if they were there in British Malaya with my characters. It must be because while I’m writing, I myself am there in the house or the jungle or wherever with my characters! I live and breathe every sentence while writing it. Not only do I visualize each scene – seeing what my characters see, hearing what they hear, and feeling what they feel – I even try to do what they do. In “The Woman who Breathed Two Worlds,” the protagonist eats with her hands, as is the Malay custom. I had a tutorial from a friend on how to eat with one’s hands, and then tried eating with my hands for a couple of meals. The protagonist also has many children – I drew the line there (!), though I did interview a range of women about their childbirth experiences. It’s the only way I know to transmit my characters’ experiences viscerally to readers.
On the one hand you work as a trader, which involves numbers, but at the same time your other job, writing, involves words. How do you combine the two?
With some difficulty! When I trade, I try to shut off my emotions, whereas while I write I need to tap into as many feelings and memories as possible. This can be schizophrenic, but fortunately they have something in common: they both require discipline. Some people think that authors only write when inspired. If this were true, there would be very few books! To be any good at writing you have to practice it every day, like any craft, regardless of whether you feel inspired. This takes a huge amount of discipline. I’m thankful to have both discipline and tremendous powers of concentration.
Your first novel was partly inspired by the life of your great grandmother. What can you tell us about her?
My great grandmother was a feisty matriarch of mixed Chinese-Malay descent who had many kids. She had to feed them, so it was just as well that she was apparently a great cook! In the town where she lived, she was also famous for her sharp tongue and shrewdness as an entrepreneur. No one is sure where or when she was born and what her name was. In those days, we had a tradition of addressing older people strictly by their familial titles. For example, you would call your father’s second brother Second Paternal Uncle. The result? Everyone knew exactly how they were related to each other, but they did not always know the names of older relatives. I dedicated “The Woman who Breathed Two Worlds” to my great grandmother, but had to scramble to find out her name! (We believe she was called Chua Paik Choo.)
You raise an interesting point here – you have an intriguing name: Selina Siak Chin Yoke. What can you tell us about your name?
Believe it or not, all of those names are actually on my birth certificate! Westerners will be forgiven for thinking that my family name is Yoke; in fact, it is Siak. Here’s a brief explanation: I was given both a Western name, Selina, and a Chinese name – Chin Yoke. “Selina” is of Greek origin, I believe, and has something to do with the moon, while Chin Yoke means “Pure Jade.” My name is easy to decompose, if you know how. In the West, a person’s name comes before the surname, hence you have “Selina Siak” on the left hand side. In Chinese names, however, the surname comes before the name. Therefore, the Chinese part of my name is “Siak Chin Yoke.” Putting the two parts together, you get Selina Siak Chin Yoke. Now here’s what’s interesting: in Chinese families, we like to be able to identify the generation to which a child belongs. Therefore, children have names which may sound very similar, but aren’t. For example, if I had a sister, she could be called Chin Fah. The first parts of our names would then be Chin, so that everyone would know we were related and of the same generation. This is the reason why the Chinese siblings in my books have similar sounding names. It’s definitely not because I’m out to confuse readers! For anyone interested, I’ve written a blog post about Chinese names (https://chinyoke.wordpress.com/2012/04/21/whats-in-a-chinese-name/).
How much of your work is fictional?
My stories weave invented characters and situations with real historical events, and all are underpinned by thorough research. In other words the people are made up, but their behavior is sometimes drawn from a hodge-podge of people I’ve known. The exact situations that my characters find themselves in are also invented, though they do take place within a real historical framework. I research the historical events carefully, using a mix of archived news articles, books, road maps and interviews. I think it is this mix (plus my trying to do what the characters do, as described above) that provides the authenticity readers have picked up on.
What themes should readers keep an eye out for while reading “When the Future Comes Too Soon?”
“When the Future Comes Too Soon” follows an ordinary Malayan family through the Second World War. For many Asians, this invariably meant a time when their country was occupied by Japanese forces. The circumstances described in the novel are harrowing, and challenging times tend to bring out the best and the worst in people. Readers will see instances of betrayal in its many forms, but also instances of unexpected strength. The protagonist, for example, discovers that she is more capable than she thinks.
“When the Future Comes Too Soon” is the second book in The Malayan Series. What can you tell us about the series?
All of the books in The Malayan Series can be read independently and in any order. Each book will follow a different generation of the same family – the Wong family – and will tell not only their human story but also the story of the country they live in – British Malaya. Readers don’t need to know anything about Malaya beforehand! My books can be read on many levels, including as pure entertainment. “The Woman who Breathed Two Worlds” (Book 1) sees Malaya under British colonization and the rapid cultural changes this brings. “When the Future Comes Too Soon” (Book 2) takes place during WWII, with the Japanese occupation and all the consequences thereof. The third book will bring us closer to modernity. The closer we get to modern times, the more controversial the books may seem, especially in Asia, where we prefer to avoid inconvenient truths, striving instead for harmony over conflict.
Does this mean that there are messages in your novels?
My writing is not political in that way. I want first and foremost to touch emotions and to entertain, and to do both in an intelligent manner. However, because British Malaya was historically such a melting-pot of cultures and peoples, questions about identity, culture and how we live with one another emerge naturally in The Malayan Series. What happened in the past can shine a light on the present, and in this way provide lessons for modern Malaysia and any other multicultural country that is willing to learn from mistakes.
What do you think readers of “The Woman who Breathed Two Worlds” will like about “When the Future Comes Too Soon?”
They will be transported to British Malaya in the same way that they were in the first novel. They will find out what happens to characters who were briefly introduced there. They will laugh and cry – probably cry more than laugh, as Malaya is at war – and hopefully, they’ll wait anxiously for the third book!