I would like to introduce Eva Wong Nava, a very talented writer, contributor to Literary Heist, and novelist.
What type of fiction do you write?
I write mainly fiction with magic-realist and historical elements; most of my characters are diverse, reflecting my own diversity. My Flash pieces are written for the adult reader and weaves personal experience, memoirs, and bits of history. I am experimenting with Flash for Kids, so these pieces will read like the Middle-Grade novel, except they’ll be under 1,000 words. I feel that Flash for Kids will encourage young readers to read as the brevity of Flash fits in with the hustle and bustle of contemporary life.
Do you write in different genres, for different people?
I am primarily a children’s book author and write mainly for children for the traditional publishing market. I am a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCWBI) and focus mainly on writing picture books. The picture books I write consist of manuscripts no longer than 500 words, with a definitive story arc. It’s like writing Flash Fiction in a way. In fact, it’s Flash Fiction that has helped me to develop a way to compress creative writing that has a clear beginning, middle, and an end, and to do this for children. I love writing picture books for children between the ages of 4-8 because the endings always have closure, are hopeful and positive. It’s the lighter side of writing, in a way. In adult Flash, I tend to finish open-ended, not always hopeful, and/or positive because real life often occurs in shadows and between dim alleyways.
Which books have you written?
For middle-grade, I wrote “Open: A Boy’s Wayang Adventure.” This book won the bronze medal in the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award in 2018. My debut children’s picture book, “The Boy Who Talks in Bits and Bobs,” was published in 2019 and this picture book has received several 5-star reviews and was selected for Book of the Month by a bookstore in Los Angeles, in celebration of diversity and multiculturalism. My second picture book was signed with Penguin Random House and this will be launching in July 2019.
Where else can we see your work?
My Flash Fiction has appeared in Jellyfish Review, The Peacock Journal, Ekphrastic Review, Literary Heist, Ariel Chart, and CarpeArte Journal, where I self-publish some of my work.
What has inspired the books that you’ve written?
My character Open in “Open: A Boy’s Wayang Adventure” was inspired by a friend’s autistic son. He is non-verbal and loves to hide in cubby corners. I felt it was important to write a book about a Chinese boy on the spectrum because I’ve not seen one out there yet. It was important for me as a writer to represent difference and diversity because this is reflective of our world. I added elements of the Chinese Opera because my character Open has an obsession with monkeys and thinks he is Monkey, the mythical deity from the Sung Dynasty. This book was an adaptation of a friend’s movie, “The Wayang Kids,” where “Wayang” is the Malay word meaning, theatre. It was a collaboration to bridge moving image and text, offering audiences two forms of storytelling.
The Boy, whose name is Owen, in “The Boy Who Talks in Bits and Bobs” was inspired by my daughter who had some speech difficulties when she was 5 years old. I went out to look for a book with a character that has a speech impediment to help her see herself in the pages of a book but couldn’t find any. My daughter, distraught, asked “why aren’t there people like me in books?” – and this became my quest. It wasn’t until years later that I was able to put a story together with a character named Owen, who appeared to me in a dream as a boy with an orange mop-top hairdo. This picture book was another collaboration, this time, with Kirkus Reviews nominated illustrator, Debasmita Dasgupta. Together, we brought Owen to life, offering children who find speaking challenging, a mirror to themselves. My forthcoming books were inspired by migrant workers such as nannies and builders who must leave their home countries in search of work, people who live peripatetic, displaced, and marginalised lives.
Does your personal and family life affect your writing in any way?
I write for myself. I write for my daughters. I write for catharsis.
I tend to write stories that I have personal experiences of. My characters reflect my psyche, my desires and my hopes. Some characters reflect the displacement I often feel as a third-culture individual, growing up and living in various continents for most of my adult life. Other characters go through journeys of self-discovery and navigate the waters of self-identity as I do.
I think in writing, there is a lot of (psychological) projection on the part of the author. These projections find their way into our main characters. You can say that our (main) characters are reflections of ourselves and represent ourselves in some ways. What we are may not be locked in only one character, we could fragment ourselves and represent parts of us in various characters.
My writing process involves a lot of psychoanalytic work. I work through my felt experiences and process them through writing. I find that self-awareness and mindfulness are the only ways to write relatable and authentic characters.
Is there anything exciting that you are currently working on?
I’m working on another middle-grade novel for Penguin Random House. I’m in the midst of research and building a story arc for it.
There is a manuscript somewhere in my drawer of a collection of Flash Fiction that is waiting to find a home with a publisher as a chapbook.
How does your love of art affect or inspire your writing?
I tend to write stories that have been prompted by artworks. This is not always the case, but it happens more often than not. As an art historian, I look at artworks, teasing out their visual narratives. I pick a character, an icon, a symbol or whatever captures my eye and sit with it for a while. Then, I let these images linger and meander in my dream-space where a story unfolds. I think in images too, so this does help in the writing of picture books and stories for children, in general.
Is there anything else you would like to tell the readers of Literary Heist?
- Writing can be learnt, believe it or not! It’s a craft. To improve, keep on practicing, keep on crafting.
- Learn to read like a writer and write like a reader.
- Getting published is a subjective matter. There have been many a good writer that has been rejected time and again. Do not give up!
- Getting published should not be the only reason you write.