Y. Y. Chan Interview Published on: 01, Oct 2020

Growing up in sunny Brisbane, Australia, which is your favorite childhood memory?

My favourite childhood memory growing up in Brisbane was having BBQs and birthday parties in our backyard. I also remember having my first Christmas in summertime and seeing Santa in shorts!

Why did you return to Hong Kong to teach English after graduating from university?

My family had moved back to Hong Kong while I was studying in Brisbane, and I missed Hong Kong a lot. I loved Brisbane and even though we had a lovely two-storey house, I could never get used to it. It was always so quiet and all the shops closed so early. You also can't go anywhere without a car and I don't particularly enjoy driving, so I found it rather stressful that I had to drive everywhere. Hong Kong is much more convenient and I like being able to just hop on the MTR, bus, or taxi, and take out a book to read on my way to and from work. I also wanted to teach English in Hong Kong because having learned English as a second language myself, I understand the difficulties kids in Hong Kong experience. The education systems are also quite different. In Hong Kong, you have different subject teachers who are specialised in teaching a particular subject, whereas in Australia, you have one teacher teaching all the core subjects of their class. In some schools, you need to teach PE, Art and Music, too! I decided I wanted to specialise and focus on English only. I felt it was more suitable for me and I could relate more to the students in Hong Kong since I also learned English as a second language.

What do you enjoy reading the most? Who is your favorite author?

I enjoy reading a very wide range of books, including nonfiction. I don't have a particular genre I stick to the most but I'm always happy to read something new. I really enjoy books by Jodi Picoult. Her stories are thought-provoking and always make me think and reflect on my own views and decisions, and how I would react in a similar situation.

What are the other activities apart from writing you like to indulge in your free time?

I indulge in reading a lot! I am always simultaneously reading 6-10 books at a time, and switching back and forth depending on my mood. I used to watch a lot of TV series and could binge-watch whole seasons of a show in a few days. Other times, I enjoy a leisurely stroll around the block and take photos. I love travelling and wish I can travel again soon.

How has been your experience of working freelance for different educational institutes?

It's been good. I can try out different kinds of projects and connect with different people. I have learned so much through every process and feel really happy whenever I finish a project. Some of them include conducting workshops for students, writing teacher's guides and designing lesson plans and curriculum.

What inspired you to write your debut picture book, 'Can You Hear Me, Daddy?'

My dad. He passed away in 2017 and I've been wanting to write the story for a long time. I was very sad when he passed away, but I would always see him in my dreams. I talk to him all the time in my heart, like he's still here and it makes me feel so much closer to him. Even though he passed away only a few years ago and I am already a grown adult, I felt so much pain and I couldn't imagine what it would have been like if I was younger. I wish that I had read stories like this when I was young to help me understand and cope with the processes of death, loss and grief. We also rarely discuss these topics in our culture and it's unlucky to talk about death but it is such a natural part of our lives and I think we need to have more open and honest discussions about it with children to make it easier to deal with when the time comes. It took me a long time to come to terms and accept that my dad was gone, and I still tear up about it from time to time, but I know that he will always be with me in my heart no matter what. I have faith that he is home now in heaven with Jesus, and that makes me feel so hopeful and joyful knowing that we will be reunited again one day. I wanted to spread and share this hope, faith and joy to children (and even adults!) through this story so that they would not be afraid or fearful of death and losing their loved ones. Renee's father in the story tells her that she just needs to have faith to know that he will always be there and listen to her. It is the same kind of faith we have when we pray to God.

Which is the latest book you added to your overflowing bookshelf?

I have several! My bookshelf largely consists of picture books. I normally download about 5-10 at a time and read them during the weekends. I recently added Wildflower Kiss from Heaven by Natalia Shudruk, Organized Ninja by Mary Nhin, and Moli and the Magic Tunnel by Jayada Sarela. As for novels, I recently added Tenebrasco by Hannah Reed. I actually buy more ebooks than hardcopies so I feel less guilty about having so many books on my shelf! I also picked up some second-hand books from the bookshelf of my lobby, and recently added The World of Peter Rabbit & Friends.

Who inspired the character of the little girl, named Renee?

Haha - me! My name is Irenee and I just removed the 'I' from it. In my very first draft, the girl didn't have a name at all! It wasn't until I started writing the blurb that I thought, it might help to give the girl a name. So I added it in and revised the manuscript.

When are you most satisfied with a book or piece of writing? Do you often edit things OUT of your books?

I'm never 100% satisfied! I am a perfectionist and always feel like something can be improved. It took me months to finish my first draft and find the courage to hire an editor! I edit a lot and often add or take out bits and pieces. If it doesn't work, I will take it out or move it to a different part.

What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of a good story?

I think a good story should make the reader feel something or make them think. Make things authentic, relatable and relevant to our lives. Sometimes, I like a little bit of magic, but it still needs to feel real and believable. I like when characters are true to themselves.

How often do you leave a review on another author's book?

I leave reviews for 90% of the books I read. The only times I wouldn't leave a review is if I really didn't like the book or didn't finish it. At the least, I give a rating if I do not have time to write a proper review.

What is one thing that has changed after being an author? Do you miss anything?

I got to connect with many different authors and writers from around the world and I find this really amazing! I used to dream about meeting or chatting with an author of one of the books I had read and now I can and even have daily conversations with them! We share so much about our writing, ideas, journeys and it feels like I have all these amazing new friends who share the same passion and interests and we understand each other completely! I also get a lot of messages from people asking me about publishing, too - from friends to complete strangers! But I genuinely enjoy chatting and discussing with them and sharing what I have learned with others. Do I miss anything? I guess I miss sleeping at a reasonable hour, because I feel like there's so much to do all the time and hardly sleep any more!

If you were ever given a chance to teach writing class or start a book club of sorts in a prison, would you do it? Why or why not?

I would teach a writing class or start a book club for kids, but I'm not so sure about doing it in a prison. I guess I would need a lot of training beforehand and I don't feel that confident teaching adults. My experience is mostly teaching young children. If it was a collaborative teaching class and I could work together with a few other people, it might be fun to try!

What are you working on at the moment? What is it about?

I am working on a few new projects. I want to write a book series that teaches kids about different morals and values, and make a few more reading and writing journals for kids.

How has your experience of being associated with AllAuthor been?

It's been a great experience. I love the great features of making book mock-ups, gifs, Cover of the Month competitions and being able to connect and follow other authors on the platform. I love how it's such an interactive platform and all the things you do to help and promote authors. I'm so glad I joined! Thank you for doing all this and even reaching out individually to us! I love it!

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