Choon Ean (aka Cean), third prize winner of the Utusan Group Literature Prize emailed me today to tell me about writing her story:
I'm tickled you think my story is a horror story but on reflection the title does sound like one. It actually refers to the proverbial nine lives of a cat, compares the way teenagers live their lives as if they have 9 and also compares the lives of nine teeangers whose lives are linked together. I started out planning a horror story and then decided it wasn't my scene though it would have been easier to write because there is a degree of suspension of disbelief when you handle horror stories.Must have been an excruciating 6 months! Her effort is truly an amazing one. Every one who hears six days can't help but gape and go, "Waaaaah!" Deadlines truly are wonderful things. But I wouldn't want to cut it too close like she did when submitting the story!
The story that I finally wrote in 6 days of frantic typing and thinking at the keyboard is a transformational novel, a simple story of how a 15 year old in Malaysia copes with growing up, friends, life at home and in school. So the challenge was how to make it interesting and may the story speak for itself. More challenging to me if you realize I am 52 years old and my eldest son is as old as you. As I wrote it, I never knew what the next line would be, thank god, it just flowed onto the keyboard. I think it was a culmination of memories and experience with handling young people for years and years.
My first critic was my 14 year old son who said, "Hmmm, mum, at times you sound like a 50 year old trying to be a 15 year old and at times you sound like a 15 year old who talks like a 50 year old." Only youth can give me a forthright answer like that. Now he has the cheek to ask for 10% of the prize money. Anyway I handed in my manuscript with half an hour to spare to closing deadline and in pouring rain. I never knew whether it made it in time cos I had to hand it in at the reception and they promised to get it there on the table before closing so I spent the last 6 months wondering if I ever made it to the closing date. Now I know.