I grew up with ghosts outside my door. They haunted dark trees and cemeteries and were the spirits of young girls betrayed by lovers. These stories were made real by my cousins who were always telling me how just last year a child around my age had been snatched by one of these ghosts - Pontianaks. And never seen again... Then there were the rumours of babies abandoned in the rainforest because they were girls. Whenever I met Chinese girls raised by Malay families, I wondered how much truth was in these stories.
In Singapore it is considered a treat to bring children to Haw Par Villa, originally a venue for teaching traditional Chinese values. Here children are shown the ten views of Hell. I had nightmares for a week after each visit. Even today, I can visualize the demons as they tortured liars by pulling their tongues, elongating them grotesquely.
This is probably why I never wanted to be a writer. Initially.
Writers bend the truth. A little.
Then I came to Australia for my education, met my husband, married and stayed.
When my first son was born I read him stories. And somehow something stirred. I remembered my grandfather and how he would tell fairy tale after fairy tale, at least ten per night until in frustration he would record them to be spared reading the same stories repeatedly.
Thus, in a strange land far away from my own family and what was familiar, I began to write. And in my stories, I could come home.
To a land where boys turn into crickets and mousedeer dance laughing upon the backs of crocodiles.
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