This week on the World SF Blog, Joyce Chng interviews Malaysian writer K.S. “Kaz” Augustin.
Can you tell me more about yourself?
I’m not sure what to say. I was born in Malaysia, educated overseas, have worked on several continents and, right now, am temporarily back in Malaysia with my family.
How do you balance motherhood and writing full-time?
I wish I did
write full-time! In fact, that dream lasted for an entire three months, before I took over homeschooling our children a little over a year ago. Now, my “full-time” job is preparing, tutoring and assessing two children, one of whom has dyscalculia (the mathematical equivalent of dyslexia).We’re a bit of an anomaly in this region because we don’t have any servants nor any parents or in-laws to offer support. I can’t think of the last time my husband, J, and I had an evening to ourselves. It would have been years ago, I’m sure. I mention this because it’s not a case of “motherhood” (singular) so much as “parenthood” (partnership). In many ways, J is a lot more “maternal” than I am. If the kids hurt themselves, they run to him; if they want to know how to work a shifting spanner or how big a chicken’s eyeball is (and they’re quite large, relative to brain case size), they come to me.With the teaching, cooking (I love to cook!) and my share of the household duties out of the way, I do as most other writers do and scrape out some writing time from what’s left over. It helps that I’m a relatively quick writer.
You write SF romance. How do these genres complement each other?
Yes. Well. I came out recently at Heather Massey’s The Galaxy Express [http://www.thegalaxyexpress.net
] to say that I’m abandoning the term “SF romance” for my books. The way I see it, the men write “space opera”, but the women write “sf romance”. Heinlein writes about incestuous love across time-travelling generations and it’s still “science-fiction”. A woman writes about a love triangle in a charged political environment and it’s “sf romance”? Puh-lease. I may go so far as to describe my work as “space opera with romantic elements”, although even that’s disingenuous because “space opera”, by definition, is about romance–the lush offplanet settings, the galaxy-wide intrigues, the ravening beams of consumption, the phallic spaceships thrusting into the dark womb of space. Space opera has always been and, to my mind, always will be THE romance-driven sub-genre of science-fiction, human emotions writ large on a galactic canvas. In which case, why come up with a new category to describe a story just because a woman
throws in some exchange of body fluids? (Remember that Norman Spinrad, Philip Jose Farmer, Heinlein, all wrote about lubricant-assisted piston action in their books. Do we characterise *them* as “romantic” or even “erotic” writers? Of course not! Think of the cooties!)What I will
say is that romance, no matter the sex of the writer, can add incredible depth to characterisation, regardless of the genre in question. It’s another piece to the puzzle of a person that can be used as narrowly or widely as one wishes in order to illuminate basic questions: what does this person care for? to what extent? what is this person willing/not willing to give up in this particular situation?
4. How receptive is Malaysia when it comes to genre fiction?
I wouldn’t know, to be honest. I don’t target any Malaysian (or Singaporean) publishers for my work. From what I’ve seen on the bookshelves, paranormal stories are very popular, what Charles Tan described as “magical realism” when describing genre fiction in the Philippines.
To atone for this omission, I write a large number of “minority” characters into my books. (It strikes me as amusing that I have to refer to olive/tan/black-skinned women/people as minority characters when we make up the majority of the world’s population, but them’s the socio-political breaks.) And, just to turn things around a bit, my villains tend to–but not always!–have the pale skins! LOL
5. Any parting shots for aspiring authors and writers from our region, Southeast Asia?
Two things. If you’re doing this through some visceral yearning, then learning the craft will always stand you in good stead. Reading books you enjoy to then analyse why you enjoy them, playing around with different points of view, taking a few literature courses and so on. If you’re doing this to make a living out of, then remember that, not only do you have to do the first thing, but you also have to run your work as a business.
KS “Kaz” Augustin writes space opera(!) and some contemporary and fantasy romance. Her website is at http://www.ksaugustin.com Under the pen-name Cara d’Bastian, she is also writing an urban fantasy series set in south-east Asia. You can catch up with Kaz’s and Cara’s blogs at http://blog.ksaugustin.com and http://caradbastian.blogspot.com respectively. When not writing, Kaz is private tutor to two very good children. They’re not Einsteins, but they’re willing to think and try things, which is all she asks.