Michelle Tanmizi interview
A little introduction:
I am born in Jakarta and raised mostly in Singapore. I lived in Hong Kong and France and have travelled extensively over the years. I published Late Dawn, my speculative fiction novel, in 2019 and was an invited author at the Ubud Readers and Writers Festival that same year. Speculative fiction or soft science fiction is my favourite genre to write but I sometimes also write fantasy. I am currently working on a short story collection of climate fiction. Although I write novels, I am also fond of short stories.
When did your love of books begin?
I fell in love with books when I was 8 and half years old and able to finally read English properly. As an Indonesian, I was ’shipped’ to Singapore for education when I was 8 in an English medium school and learnt the language from scratch then, sitting among others who already knew their alphabet and who were already reading and writing in English. Perhaps it was because I had to learn the language quickly, or perhaps I had the most amazing primary school teacher who patiently went through the alphabet when I was first ‘thrown’ into the class, but it enamoured me to the English language. In six months, I was ‘devouring’ books as many as my mother could afford to buy for me. I also became the school library’s most frequent visitor.
When did you start to have the wish to become an author?
When I was about 11 or so, I wrote notes in a book about all the stories in my head. Later, when I watched Star Wars for the first time on the big screen, I went home and wrote notes for a space opera story, complete with drawings of space creatures, clothes and vehicles. I kept the notes in the hopes of turning the stories one day into books. But the years went by and other things dominated my life and those notes were forgotten. Then, in 2015, I wrote some notes about a story I thought would make a great novel. I kept it hidden until 2018 when I heard about a friend who published her book and decided to take out the notes and wrote my novel. It was then I decided that it was what I want to do for the rest of my life.
How have you found the process for becoming an author?
Writing is the ‘easy’ part, with some non-productive days thrown in. What I found challenging is after the work is completed. I realised it is not that easy to get published; that I am but an atom in the universe of writers. While I love writing and often feel that my work is good, it is not easy to make a mark in the publishing world because there are so very many other better writers. Authors, I realise, require tenacity and an iron will to succeed. Being published does not guarantee that the next book will also meet the same end. For me, I write for me first, because I want to make sure I nurture my love for the written word. Should a publisher or agent read my work and love it, it is a bonus.
What would you say to those wanting to become an author?
All of the above and also to read, read, read. I know a person who wants to publish but doesn’t read. Reading is like seeding the mind with all kinds of nutrients so when one writes, all these nutrients will feed the soil of the craft and help him/her/them write better prose. Reading great literary work will influence an author’s writing. I read a lot and continue to buy many books. I read for pleasure and when a book’s stunning prose finds me, I am always in awe. I think it shapes my own writing.
Tell us about your book/books:
Back in 2002, I self-published a collection of poems. I did it mostly for fun and for myself. Then in 2013, I was invited to be a contributing author in a non-fiction anthology of business stories. The book was called Conscious Business and is already out of print for a few years. Late Dawn was my first novel. I have since completed 3 manuscripts – 2 novels and a short story collection. But they are not yet published because I have not properly sent them out for queries. I took a year off to complete a Master’s in Creative Writing, wanting to improve my craft. My Master’s finish in September this year (2022) and so, I am getting back to my manuscripts to re-edit all of them and then will begin the process of queries.
What do you love about the writing/reading community?
As a cinema ‘addict’ and child of Star Wars, I had fallen in love with stories at a young age. What I love about writing is the ability to put all my crazy story ideas into words. To be able to put them down on paper makes the ideas real and the stories come to life. With Twitter, I had discovered a huge community of peers who share the same passion I have for the written word. The journey to becoming a published author is challenging and therefore, having a supportive community is important. It keeps me motivated and keeps me going even through the more challenging times, such as receiving rejections on queries.
If you could say anything to your readers what would it be?
If you want to write, then write. Follow the passion like Alice did down the rabbit hole. But writing like anything else requires discipline and an openness to learning. Take up writing courses, read a lot and always remain humble about your writing. Learn to take feedback with reflection and give some with kindness. Writing improves with practice and perseverance.
Where can people connect with you?