My life being a Writer & Teacher- Interviewed by Mimi Wong

Have you ever imagined your life as being a NET teacher and a writer? Miss Kate White, who was a former NET teacher in K S Lo, speaks to Mimi Wong about herself and being a NET teacher and writer.

You have been teaching in Hong Kong for seven years. Why did you want to be a NET teacher?

Initially I wanted to be a writer more than a teacher. However, after I graduated university in UK,  it seemed the natural thing for me to try. (My father was teaching in Hong Kong at the time.) Though it wasn’t something I imagined I would be doing for the next 8 years, I enjoyed the experience greatly, and I learnt a lot!

What do you like about being a teacher?

Being a teacher is an interactive job. It’s not just about facing a computer or having a desk job, but also talking to students. I can laugh and have fun in classes. Teaching is a learning experience as well. A secret is that I don’t care much for public speaking – something I had to do in school morning assembly quite often. But after facing a class every day, it gave me the confidence I needed and speaking in front of a crowd became a lot easier. Yet, one challenge is that it can be unpredictable. You can’t always control other’s behaviour or reaction- even the best lesson planning doesn’t always go your way.

Why do want to become a writer? 

When I was younger, I thought that writing was like a form of escapism. Reading was my main hobby and I borrowed three to four books every Saturday from the public library. Writing provided an opportunity for me to release my negative emotions! I guess it’s also the influence from my parents as they encouraged me to read from an early age. When I was about 15, I had the idea for my book. The characters kept appearing in my head, waiting to be introduced into the world. As a result, it took me many years to publish the book through the intensive editing process- it never seemed good enough; something all writers experience! Even if I encountered many bad things in reality, I can always escape from reality by writing.

Have you faced any challenges when you became a writer?

I would say writers block, and not being able to fulfil the snapshot of random ideas I had in my head. I have edited the novel for many years but nothing new recently. Also, there can be internal struggles and lack of confidence that might hinder or stop you from writing- for example do we write for ourselves or for the reader? A lot of the time it’s to share personal things (as through Caskets of Ice), yet once it’s out in the world, you can’t predict or control how others will react.

These days, I have been quite busy. Finding time to write is a challenging task. Interestingly, I have more inspirations when I am busy, or listening to music that puts me in the mood. When I am bored, I find I cannot come up with many ideas.

Could you tell us about your new book?

The new book is called “Casket of Ice”. It is about reality and the terrors of the dream world. Imagine you can control your dreams in your ‘ideal’ setting, to escape to somewhere far better than the troubles you experience every day. However, there is a dream devil that rules the dream world, plaguing and collecting people’s souls. He may appear your friend at first, but he hides more unsettling secrets of his own. One of the main characters – a secondary school student called Dinah realises she gets more than she bargains for once she enters this new, scarier realm she cannot wake from. Though the story is a bit dark and creepy, it is very realistic to our lives- which is often complicated, and far from pretty or nice. It encourages us to have determination and face our problems with strength and unity.

Did you have any difficulties when publishing your new book?

 Yes. I approached many publishers in the past when I was eighteen. They required me to cut out many parts of the book that weren’t relevant to pushing the storyline along. As a result, the finished form is a lot shorter than what people may expect. Unlike J K Rowling and her extensive Harry Potter series, I find that my writing is a lot different in that it is shorter and focuses on specific snapshots of events. I think it is something we have to find out for ourselves.

Publishing your own novel can be very hard, as you need to find an agent or publisher willing to take on your work, especially to sell commercially. Eventually, I decided to self-publish, after debating on what I wanted as a writer. To self-publish, you have to do everything by yourself include promotion. I uploaded and edited on Amazon. Also, I asked around if anyone was able to design the front cover of my book. Luckily, the illustrator was able to produce my vision in a dramatic and eye-catching way.

Yet, I needed to find a printer in Hong Kong. The hardcover books cost me HK$350 to make each book, as opposed to the paperback book which cost a third of that amount! To be honest I earn little profit from the book because the publishing cost is very high. However, I knew it was about achieving my dream over making this my main source of income!

Why did you want to write a dark fantasy novel (Casket of Ice) instead of other genres?

I think everyone likes a bit of creepiness! It can attract more people to read. Strangely enough, I don’t read a lot of fantasy books or other genres such as sci-fi books. However, I am interested in fantasy movies so this is what attracted me to this genre. A reviewer of my novel said it was “Dracula meets Inception set in a fairytale setting”, which I found quite apt… can see for yourself! But otherwise, my book is a combination of everything- mystery, adventure, with some romance. People want to categorise books, and so, I have to say it is a dark fantasy book suitable for teens and adults alike.

What is your plan? Will you write the same genre of books again or write something new?

A lot of people asked me to write a sequel or prequel of my new book. That’s an option. I am thinking about writing a dark fantasy collection. If others can collaborate with me, I can even make a whole novel. From now on, I would like to concentrate on writing poetry, prose poetry or short stories. I have always been attracted to old-style nature poetry written by the romantics such as Keats… When I was stressed in the past, I would write poetry describing the wonderful sights of nature around us, the colour and calmness it inspires. Perhaps it can even turn into a collection or anthology! There are many options, but I hope that I can write more in the future- as well as doing more promotion for my current book.

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