Today's post is a mix - I get to review a copy of the super Through the Storm by Tan Su Yin, and then have the pleasure of interviewing her.
I was delighted to receive a copy of Tan Su Yin's Through the Storm, having come across the book through the Aspiring Mangaka and Writers' Club, and been intrigued by both its pitch and its exquisite cover. Through the Storm is, at heart, a love story, following the (I will struggle to avoid puns) tempestuous relationship between Eric and Viki. eric has been washed up on the shores of Phuket following an attack at sea, and subsequent storm. When Viki finds him, he is near to death, and she slowly nurses him back to health.
Further tragedy strikes when Viki's parents are killed by a powerful tsunami, but tragic as this is, it creates a further point of contact with Eric, who still mourns his mother. Even as love blossoms, though, danger is never far away, as the frustrated attackers learn that Eric is still alive, and continue their relentless pursuit. Can he elude them without losing Viki?
I particularly loved the very opening of the book, I have to confess - the passage when Viki finds Eric is very reminiscent (consciously?) of the scene in the Odyssey when Nausicaa finds Odysseus asleep on the river bank. The tender nursing passages, with their beautifully rendered descriptions of herbal dressings, brought to mind scenes from the English Patient. That's a pretty heady set of reminiscences.
Tan Su Yin's elegant, understated prose works wonderfully for romance, conveying tenderness without being mawkish, and - very satisfyingly - never shying away from physical horror yet managing to remain centred in calm. If there were weaknesses, I would say that the strength of the romantic sections outshone the thriller/action aspects of the story, which did not suit the prose style quite so well. I would have liked more tenderness and less action, but then I'm a hopeless romantic with my reading tastes. I would also have liked a little more geographical calm to match the style of the piece. But by the time the ending comes, tranquility is restored and the author is back in total control of her material, delivering a thoroughly satisfying finale.
In conclusion, Through the Storm is a romance with a satisfyingly hard edge to it, and Tan Su Yin is clearly an author full of promise, her style composed and elegant. I look forward to more, and very much hope one day to read the pure romance she was born to write.
1. You refer in your acknowledgements to Winglin and Fanstory. Would you care to share a little about the sites, and how hey helped you to get your book to the stage where you felt it was ready?
Winglin is an amateur site where teenagers and young adults gather to read and write fanfiction on their fave movie stars, most of whom are Asians. There's a comments page accompanying each chapter you post. Once you catch their imagination, they will really cheer you on and literally drag you to the finishing line with their persistence. I daresay that, if not for them, the first draft of Through The Storm would really have a challenged birth, if at all! Now, Fanstory is different. It is a gathering of serious, aspiring writers, some of whom have honed their writing skills to a point where they are able to advise others on the dos and don'ts of writing. A few of them are published authors in their own rights. I still remembered the first few posts I made way back in 2004. The reviews were gentle but firm, some unflattering, others too ego-boosting to be taken seriously, even with a large spoonful of salt. Through their comments, I reworked Through The Storm many times over, taking 2 years to churn out what you see published. My second book went through the same initiation rites, albeit less painful as these same advisors became friends, who provided feedback on the credibility of the plot, any gaps in the storyline, how they take to the protaganist and villians, suggestions for improvement etc.
2. I was very impressed with how well edited the book was - how did you set about that?
Why, thank you! I went back to read the book, just to see how well edited it was, and completed five chapters this time before I spied one missing word. Yep, there are still little nits there, but certainly the two years to rework the book, plus investing in an editor who is also a published author, helps. I now have a burning desire to edit it some more! The dialogue was so stilted, and the pace of writing a tad too fast in some places when I should have taken time to show the reader what was happening. I guess I have the liberty to do it since this is a POD.
3. The opening of Through The Storm reminded me very much of The English Patient - is that a book you had in mind whilst writing?
Heavens, no. I have never read the book. I didn't have any book in mind when I first started Through The Storm. The first chapter emerged a few days after the tsunami, which wiped out hundreds of thousands of lives, struck Asia in 2004. I was truly affected by it. Seeing the photos, reading about the devastation and heartbreak, it made me realise how unpredictable life can be, and how important it is treasure our loved ones, spend time with them, show how much we care … today, this very day, for tomorrow may not be there.
4. Your cover is utterly exquisite - and fits the book very well. How important was it for you to get that right?
How important is your first baby who took three years to take form and emerge from your womb? I enjoyed creating her, dressing her up, making sure she is presentable, likeable and attractive. Again, many thanks for your compliments, Dan. The artist I used is a local and teaches art as a profession. My second book uses an artist from China.
5. What are you working on now?
I'm working on my third book. I've said this in answer to many enquiries since January this year and yet I am still at the start of the second chapter. I wonder at times whether it will go beyond that, whether my passion has fizzeld out, or am I fortifying myself for the making of a masterpiece. Perhaps I'm just plain busy ... and lazy.
6. How would you like people to remember you as an author?
Interesting question. I have never quite thought about this. However, one thing I consciously do in the two books so far is to introduce the Word of God at the most unexpected time, and let the readers understand the awesome price God paid by sending Jesus, his only begotten Son, to us. I will never be a C. S. Lewis, who draws parallelism in the most beautiful way on God and his teachings. I can only say that I try.
Thank you so much, and do feel free to add anything you like.