Your story, ‘Hide’, published in The Lost Boy and other stories, seems just as much about Mary and the mother as it is about Siew Ching, our protagonist. Do you see your stories as inherently interconnected, or is this particular story so-structured to explore the inner worlds of three key characters?
I never thought of it that way but in reflection, yes, quite a few of my stories are interconnected as I like to explore the views of different characters. I think a story usually has a few stories within it. I like to see how the different dimensions intersect.
In ‘Hide’, there’s also a subtle shift between times of war and times of peace, and particularly the trauma carried by the mother. What are you own thoughts on the healing of trauma. Is it something best dealt with privately or are there benefits in engaging in a greater dialogue?
This is a hard question for me as I have never had to deal with real trauma, and is probably the reason why I wrote the story. I think a lot of people deal with trauma on their own, which, in the mother’s case, has impacted her mental health.
What I was trying to explore in the story, however, is how young people function with trauma happening around them. That despite the issues happening around them they still have to deal with the universal problems of friendship, duty and relationship with family.
In addition to writing fiction, you also work as an advertising copywriter. How has this profession shaped the way you write and the topics that you write about?
Working as a copywriter has taught me how to write to a brief, which in fiction, is the plot I suppose. I think I also write more concisely as ads are often minimalistic.
You are the mother of two children. Do you find that you often write about children, particularly since their birth? Is there a particular age group that you seem to represent in your writing?
Actually, yes! I think I have been writing more about children. But then again, I think even before that I liked to write stories from a younger person’s perspective. I find the age group of 15 to 17 interesting, that whole coming of age thing. I have an affinity to the elderly as well.
Are you currently working on a longer project? Let us know a little bit about the project, and how it’s coming together.
I have been ‘currently working’ for a while. There is a collection of stories in the vein of ‘Hide’, that is, they are inspired by Malaysian life. If there was a common theme, maybe anomalous lives in a global world.
Then there is a novel (doesn’t everyone have one!) in the works, also based on a young character.
Su-May Tan is a marketing copywriter based in Melbourne. She enjoys writing fiction when she can and has been published in Silverfish New Writing 6 and the Margaret River Short Story Writing Competition 2015. Originally from Malaysia, much of her writing is inspired by the region.