Ivy Ngeow is a writer with many successes behind her, including winning international prizes and having her work read out on the BBC World Service.
Extract: Do you believe in writer’s block?
Yes sure. The block is not a hard block. It is a semi-hard sponge. You squeeze it very hard regularly and daily and with luck, each word will come out like a drop of blood.
Ivy’s first novel is now being (almost) published by Penguin/Random House, via their new Unbound crowdfunding pre-selling platform. It is now 61% funded, with ‘pledges’ from £10 (ebook, your name in all editions) to £125 (personal visit to your writing group, name in editions, and 5 hardback copies). This is a way of reducing the publisher’s risk, as a high target figure is required – £4000 in Ivy’s case. Money is traditionally never mentioned by writers – because they earn so little! Unless you are J K Rowling of course. If you want to investigate, have a look at her videos and the site in general, visit
Unbound writers site – Ivy Ngeow – Heart of Glass >
Interview with Ivy Ngeow 3rd February 2017 by Brian Jones of Top Writing Courses
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Doing a Masters of Arts (MA) in Writing. It cost 3200 pounds but I won the prize of 1000 pounds. Had I not done the MA I would not have taken my writing to a professional level and needless to say would not have won the Middlesex University Literary Prize.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I try to give readers what they want. My aim is to be a popular writer. I want to write to make myself happy and to make others happy. This does not mean I am not being original. Everything I do has originality because I have created it and did not base it on anything. I am already an architect and designer and everything I create is already original. Similarly, I see writing as in the service industry.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
Sure. You don’t have to have cancer to write about cancer. You don’t have be old to write about being old. Writing is very much a conjuring skill, a performance art. You just have to be skillful enough to perform believable magic tricks on your audience, and not only will they believe it, they will continue to suspend disbelief and they will enjoy your show.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I try to research after beginning a book, not before. It can be distracting and time-wasting. Before beginning a book, it is still at the sketchy ideas stage and ideas for fiction do not require research until the point where it needs to be written.
Brian: I agree. Research can be a big distraction, a way of putting off writing. Even for genre writing, say a Submarine Thriller, you can add the details later – everyone knows the basics of any scenario, enough to write the story out. Get on with the writing now! You can add the engineering detail later – if the story works.
What did you read when you were a kid?
I loved adventure stories. I loved reading Nancy Drew mysteries, Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven and Famous Five, some classics like Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Catherine Lim’s Or Else the Lightning God and Other Stories.
When did you start writing?
I started writing when I was 8 years old. At first it was to entertain my younger brothers who were only toddlers then and could not read. Then later, I was writing for myself because I could not help it and I enjoyed not writing for them (the toddlers).
What is the first book that made you laugh, and cry?
Nothing made me laugh. The first book that made me cry was Enid Blyton’s Mallory Towers (I forget which one). It’s not a sad book so I don’t remember why I cried except because of a kind of girlish hysteria where I was delirious and could not stop crying for many hours.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I am on several forums on FaceBook such as the Unbound Social Club, where authors like me are funding or have funded their books. I am finding it useful to know and make friends with other writers as they go through exactly the same struggles. I have learnt from their tips and advice and hopefully I have given them tips and advice too along the way.
I was in a great Writers’ Club at the City Lit when I first came to London. This included several successful writers such as Penny Faith of Made Up Theatre and Keith Charters of Strident Publishing. We were all beginners then and twenty years later, we are still in touch.
What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
Brian: Yes, writing is a pleasure and an escape. What happens when it becomes a full-time job? That is the conundrum!
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
It energizes me. I am already a creative person, when I have completed a design or drawing or illustration, I get the same thrill or buzz. I have a high standard and instinctively know when something is really, really completed to the highest possible quality.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
I find keeping up a creative routine or discipline hard.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
I have already started on another novel during NanoWrimo 2016 and I am 24,000 words in. This is a standalone novel. However I am interested in planning a prequel and sequel to Heart of Glass.
Brian: Publishers seem to go for trilogies. If you haven’t planned that, even if everyone dies at the end, you can go ghost/zombie/time travel. Or, as in Dallas, use the power of dreams.
Brian: Don’t forget to check out Ivy’s videos and the Unbound publshing site now >