Sunday, 18 October 2015

An Interview With Yuna Angell.

Hi Yuna, thank you for agreeing to take part in this interview.
Before we get started on the questions, how about you tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi everyone! Thank you for having me Rainne, I appreciate it.
I’m an indie author who is currently a HarvardX student. HarvardX is a partnership between and Harvard University, and it provides online courses with the option of verified certificates. I was born and bred in Singapore, which is an island country in Southeast Asia. I am currently based in Singapore.

How long have you been writing? What made you decide to put your work out there to be read by others?
 My mom suddenly asked me if I ever thought of writing a book in 2009. She said I’ve been through a lot due to schizophrenia, and maybe writing a book might be interesting. I started gathering A4 sized writing pads and just wrote silly, nonsensical stories, to practice writing 20 pages for each story at any time. I started out with pen and paper, and did writing marathons. I know it sounds wasteful but I threw away all of those practice stories and then started jotting down ideas for booklets. I went online Google and did a search for publishing avenues and decided self publishing was the only option. I never expected to be successful in getting a literary agent and having my books published by traditional publishers.  
So in 2010, I self published my first book under my birth name. I changed my name legally to Yuna Angell in recent years, and that is my current pen name too. It was around 80 pages long, and is considered a booklet. I touched a bit on my schizophrenic experiences and also created some flash fiction stories. The local libraries here in Singapore bought some copies and stocked up on them. To this date, my older booklets from 2010 to 2012 have been discontinued and are out of print. My later works from 2013 till 2015 have been practice pieces for me too. I only started hiring a freelance editor from Upwork(which used to be oDesk) for my latest book “Angelica Walker: Halloween Birthday Girl” this year in 2015.  
I guess writing books gave me an outlet to organize and analyze my own thoughts and psyche, and I write more to have a cathartic experience, than to satisfy readers. If my writing gains readership, I would be very happy. Writing has helped me to stabilize my schizophrenia, which was diagnosed in 2004 during my early 20s. I was stabilized by 2013. 

How difficult do you find writing in language that isn’t your native tongue?
English is the language medium for schools in Singapore. Most of our road signs in Singapore are in English too, which is rare for Asian countries, where their road signs are in their local languages. We are also taught “mother language” in schools such as Chinese Mandarin, Malay and Tamil for example. Students learn their own cultural language and some do opt to learn another cultural language than their own ones too. The level of spoken English is filled with grammatical problems in Singapore because we have our own “Singlish” which is a mix of all the cultural languages and broken English. Of course I am working on my own level of spoken and written English too, because I speak Mandarin at home as my parents speak very little English. Being bilingual can make my English suffer. My Mandarin, believe it or not, has become rusty over the years. I had always been stronger in expression when it came to the English language, even though I need to polish it up.
My mind thinks in English since I was a kid, so I don’t feel like a stranger to it. But I am currently also studying for an online certification in TESOL teaching (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) with American TESOL Institute that is based in Florida, USA. I thank the Divine for the existence of editors! I will endeavor to hire editors for my every future book I am going to write, starting with my latest book “Angelica Walker”. But believe it or not, a lot of Singaporeans are highly qualified and well travelled. I guess I’m just the average lady here, having been a perpetual school drop out in the past and I’ve only been to 2 or 3 countries before back in 2000s. There are locals who are very good in English but I guess I have to constantly try and improve on my own language proficiency. 

You self-publish. How has this changed the way you read?
To be honest, I don’t read books a lot these days. I take a lot of bed rest because I discovered that when I have too little sleep, my memory suffers a bit due to the side effects of my schizophrenia. I don’t think being self published makes me read books any different personally. I am currently reading up on mythology about Avalon and Glastonbury from some ebooks I bought on Kindle. One of them started out as a self published book but was later picked up by a traditional publisher. 

Tell us about your favourite memory related to reading or writing?
Firstly, in regards to reading, I love it when I’m having problems in my life and something I read suddenly seem to speak to me about that problem. New age gurus might call that synchronicity. As for writing, I love it when something philosophical comes out from nowhere. The muse might have been “photobombing” my thoughts! 

Do you ever get writer’s Block? How do you get through it?
Oh yes, I think any writer would have experience writer’s block along the way. I try and watch Korean dramas online, go watch a movie at the cinema, listen to music on the radio and on my mp3 player’s play list, go on a long bus ride to people watch and watch the scenery go by, and finally go to places with aromatherapy scents because my mom bans any aromatherapy at home due to her hatred for anything that has scents. All these things help to relax me and inspire new ideas.

Tell us about your book ‘Halloween Birthday Girl’ and what inspired it?
“Angelica Walker: Halloween Birthday Girl” is really my life but I’ve used facts from my life here and there only, peppering the book with a fictional spin to it, in order to sensationalize it into a piece of fiction. Although I have to say, somethings fact is weirder than fiction, and I’ll leave it at that.
I’ve always believed that supernatural things happened to effect my schizophrenia. I used to hang out in New Age spiritual chatrooms on IRC back in 1999 and 2000s until they moved or shutdown. I would participate in online meditations and tried my hand at giving psychic readings. I would often observe the volunteer mediumship readers and what they were doing for people in the chatrooms.
I’ve been experiencing good and bad supernatural and paranormal things since I was a kid. I’ve interacted with the New Age community in Australia, Singapore and internationally too. There’s always the good and the bad in anything in life and in communities. I can’t say I am a very good person because I have had my share of mistakes in life, but I make it a point to learn from my mistakes and to move on and become a better person. I wanted to write down the scary hallucinations I had experienced in my schizophrenia, along with the negative voices that kept haunting me.
From my New Age experiences, I used it as part of the background for Angelica, who is a white magick mystic and past life healer. I used to have visions when working with people doing New Age stuff and past life readings. There is a misconception that you invite bad visions because you are doing something negative or that you are a negative person. I personally believe in reincarnation, and of course, I stumbled upon others’ bad past lives and their bad past life deaths when I tried to scan their auras and tune into their soul energies. Along the way, I just decided to quit doing psychic readings because I couldn’t handle the truth of negative past lives. Sometimes I would see visions of how people died in their past lives, and it wasn’t very pretty.
I was hospitalized for schizophrenia in the psychiatric ward for 7 times throughout the 10 years and a bit from my diagnosis from 2004. This kind of experience puts me in perspective because I had spoken to fellow patients and I’ve heard of a lot of different kinds of life stories from the psychiatric wards I’ve been to. Other than having to handle my own schizophrenia, having to deal with the psychiatric wards and other patients sort of scarred me for life.
I wanted to change the things I couldn’t in my life through Angelica’s story.
And by the way, yes, my birthday is on Halloween, 31st October. And I was born after midnight. But no, I’m not into the dark forces or evil things. I’m seriously a scaredy cat. Imagine how freaked out I was when I kept having non stop hallucinations for years due to my schizophrenia. The kind of hallucinations I had were very scary.
So I hope that Angelica will help the readers to view psychics in a different light, especially since her love interest, Calvin, is a psychic medium. I also wanted to write about psychic experiences in the book, especially in the scene when Angelica was doing a past life healing for Ronaldo, her friend from a meditation group. That was something I might have done in the past, if I had my own healing room and metaphysical gears.

Do you see yourself in Angelica? In what ways is she like and/or unlike you?
I originally wondered if I should portray Angelica as an Asian, because this book is loosely based on my life and I fashioned Angelica after myself, but as a RPG version of me. I realized that if I wrote Angelica as a Caucasian woman, I wouldn’t have to introduce the theme of Asian-American issues into my story, because I chose to put Angelica in an American or western civilization environment. And no, I’m not Asian-American or anything. I have been unemployed for roughly 10 years due to my schizophrenia but I wrote that Angelica had annual dividends to live on from her family’s investments in real estate and petroleum companies. I thought I could escape my world of “poverty” through my book with Angelica.
My last relationship ended in 2003 and due to recovering from schizophrenia, I’ve never been attached again. Calvin, Angelica’s love interest, was written into the story because I wanted to train myself to think of having a man in my life again. Since I have been mostly stabilized in my schizophrenia from 2013, I’ve been rebuilding my life. And I am open to possibilities of a relationship again but I haven’t found anyone yet so far. Calvin is a totally fictitious character. Angelica is like my “Iron Man” suit, when I close the book, I am the average Asian woman from Singapore again.

If your book was being made into a film, which star would you cast as Angelica?
I would cast Liv Tyler as Angelica. Although I loosely based my book on my own life, and I’m just an average looking plus size woman who is Asian, I’d love for the role of Angelica to be player by Liv Tyler because she had been the face of supernatural strength in The Lord of the Rings as an elven race. Angelica has supernatural gifts and Liv Tyler would be great in portraying that. I believe that she will help the dark past of Angelica to come alive too. And it would be great to see Liv Tyler acting out some mini horror themed scenes from my book.

Would you tell us a bit about your other books and where we can get hold of them
Personally, I would only recommend my latest book “Angelica Walker: Halloween Birthday Girl” because it was the only book that had proper editing done. But if you want to look at some of my past works, you can find them on Amazon with my current pen name “Yuna Angell”.

Who designed your book cover/s? Do you think that the cover plays an important part in tempting people to read your books?
Jennifer Wilson-Niskanen is my book cover designer for “Finding Prince Kyle Of Nunos” and my latest book “Angelica Walker: Halloween Birthday Girl”. She helps me design book covers to my low budget. But Jennifer gives me quality work that I am proud of. If you want to connect with her, just message me on Facebook. I feel that sometimes the book cover does have an important job of drawing in the readers, but seriously, there are tonnes of books with simple book covers that are bestselling books. So I guess it all depends on the content of the book usually.

Do you have more books in progress? Can you tell us a anything about them?
I have 2 or 3 book ideas but they are in the back burner because I don’t have the money for book covers or professional editing at the moment. I’m thinking of trying to give talks to earn some money first before I embark on another book writing journey. One book idea is about a guardian angel romance, one is a children’s book and another one is probably a Book 2 for my latest book.

What advice would you give to your younger self?
There are many, many unpleasant things that might happen in life. They sometimes might seem to be so overwhelming and continuous, you might want to keep giving up. But know that no matter what happens, Fortuna Roman Goddess will always be there for you. She is all you need.

Do you like to hear from your fans? Where can they find you?
I would love to hear from fans. They can find me on my Facebook Page:

What’s the nicest thing anyone has said to you?
 “I love your lips! They look so kissable!” I consider myself to be average looking so that comment made me feel so pretty.

Is there anything else you would like to add before you leave us?

I know the mental illness schizophrenia sounds and looks so scary to a lot of people, but usually schizophrenics are not violent or dangerous. Personally, I am so scared of the hallucinations and voices that haunt me, that I cower in fear and have no time to even battle anyone else. I had lost most of my basic functions of a human and had to have the hospital attendant ladies shower me in the psychiatric wards. I could hardly speak any sentences and I was shell shocked. It took me many years with the help of my inner voice and soul strength to function normally as a human again, even though there are still some small side effects. I also know that not everyone with schizophrenia ends up being well, but a lot of them can recover and manage the illness with long term medication, like me. I just hope people see me for me, and not be afraid of me because of schizophrenia. Some days I wake up in bed and I forget that I have any illness at all. I’m that well now.

And finally... If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
I would have loved to be the original author of Winnie The Pooh. Because I want to be a teddy bear with simple wisdom!

I thank you, Rainne, for this opportunity to talk about my latest book and my life.

Thank you, Yuna. It’s been a pleasure.

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