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  • Writer's pictureAudrey Lavigne

Y.Y. Chan: "As long as someone somewhere gets a chance to see and read my book, I am happy."

1. Can you start by telling me a little bit about yourself?

Hi. I'm a self-published author based in Hong Kong. I grew up in Brisbane, Australia and after graduating, I started teaching English in Hong Kong. I left my full-time teaching job in 2017 and started doing private tutoring and trying other new things like freelance writing and editing and writing my own stories.

2. When did you first realize that you wanted to be an author and when did you publish your first book? How many books you have published so far?

A few years after I started teaching, I became interested in writing stories for children. I wrote stories for my own lessons as well as reading passages for assessment papers. I guess you can say that that sparked an interest in writing in me. I started writing blogs, short stories, book reviews, poems, and journals. The first book I really wanted to write was a memoir about how I lost my dad to pancreatic cancer. I started writing a few months after he passed away in 2017 but I couldn't finish it because I couldn't remember all the details and felt that it wasn't a true account. I didn't know how my family or relatives would take it - whether they would like what I had written. Later, I decided to combine my passion for children's books with the memoir to honour my dad. It became a fictional children's book about dealing with loss and grief. I wrote my first draft in January 2020, but it was a lot longer than what is acceptable for a children's picture book. I tried to edit and cut it down, but there were many parts that I loved and didn't want to cut. Instead, I decided to have two versions - a picture book for younger children, and a chapter book for older ones. I published the picture book in May and the chapter book in June. Since then, I have also published a Reading Journal for middle school children to keep track of their reading.

3. Where do you get your inspiration from and can you tell me about your writing schedule? Like how many hours per day do you spend on your books?

My inspiration comes from all different things and at different times. Mostly, I get inspiration from reading other books. Sometimes, I get them from my students, or even things I observe around me.

I don't really have a writing schedule, or a schedule for anything in my life. The only thing I have a fixed schedule for right now are my tutorial lessons. Everything else is just fitted in around them and I pick up random tasks that I think I need to do at different times. These last few months, I've been trying to come up with a better schedule for writing. I do all my lesson planning on Saturdays and Sundays so that I can have Monday for writing since that is my day off from teaching. However, my planning often rolls over to Monday as well because I'm getting more and more students these days! I try to fit in a few hundred words here and there throughout the week in between my lessons. But this doesn't always work. It's really hard to play catch up during the week if I fail to finish my planning over the weekend. So now, I take days off during the school holidays to make more time to write. I managed to finish two new manuscripts over the Christmas holiday.

4.Can you tell me a little bit about your books? What do you intend to achieve through your books and where can people purchase them?

My first book is about death, loss and grief. I wrote it because I had not read any books on these themes when I was young and wished that I had so I would be able to understand and process my own pain and feelings. It is written as a series of diary entries from a child's perspective. My story also mentions God and faith, which is actually a big part of the story. The story is essentially my personal testimony of how I came to faith. I guess all of these are reasons why I wanted to write that book. As for what I intend to achieve, I only hope that the book can help others going through difficult times in their lives. Although the book focuses on loss of a father to cancer, it can apply to all forms of loss and grief. I want to bring some light and hope to anyone on this journey and to know that they are not alone when they have faith and hope in God.

I have a few new ideas for a series. They will be more lighthearted and fun, but at the same time, I also want to help children develop social and emotional skills and be able to work through their emotions, challenges, fears and pain. It was something I really lacked growing up and it took me a long time to overcome a lot of these challenges as an adult.

You can purchase my books on my website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers online. They are also available in a few Hong Kong bookstores.

5. What do you like to do when you are not writing?

I enjoy reading a lot but lately I haven't had much time to. I like travelling as well, which also something I can't do much of lately! I love finding new places to eat and try new food. Lately, I'm enjoying taking walks and just going outside for some fresh air. Sometimes getting outside can help clear your mind and relax and it helps a lot with productivity.

6. What have you learnt in creating your books so far?

I've learnt so much and continue to learn every day! I learned about a whole new industry in self-publishing. I learned about copywriting, marketing, advertising, social media, as well how to produce a book. I even learnt negotiating and communication skills trying to get in contact with illustrators, editors, beta-readers, publishing houses, bookstores etc. I also learnt to ask for help because you simply can't do everything yourself! I tried formatting my first picture book. It took me over two weeks and I still couldn't figure it out! I finally hired a formatter. You might have saved a few bucks doing it yourself, but you waste your time and efforts, and may lack the quality of a professionally formatted book. There are some things you just can't do yourself, although it never hurts to try and learn, just maybe not for your first book.

7. What advice would you give to other authors?

I would repeat what I mentioned before about asking for help. Also to connect with other authors and build up your support network and community. I have found that friends and family don't quite understand the struggles you have as an author and it's hard to share and talk to them about what you are going through. You need people who know and understand and can provide you with the help and support you need. Every time I have a problem or a question, I simply post in a Facebook group or a group chat with other authors, and someone in there will provide a solution or give feedback within a short period of time. You can ask them to read and critique your manuscripts, help you choose your cover, give feedback on your blurb etc. And every time you have something to celebrate - like making your first international sale or a number one new release or bestseller in your category, you have people to celebrate with you! No one else can give you the same amount of excitement as another author!

8.Do you provide other services to help other authors?

I'm starting to develop myself as an editor. I have previously edited some academic papers and course content and would like to offer editing services to other authors as well. I also used to do a lot of proofreading of other teachers' worksheets and assessments papers when I worked in a school. So I think I could look into doing editing, or at least proofreading to start with. I do a lot of other things to help other authors for free. We all have different skillsets so it's great that we can connect with different people with different backgrounds and experiences and help each other out.

9.How do you market your books?

Honestly, I don't know if what I'm doing is helping to market the books. I am on social media, I run ads on Amazon, Facebook, Google. I write blog posts, book reviews, engage with other authors, share in Facebook groups, etc. The list is endless but I don't know if any of it helps. I will say that I have made a lot of friends doing all of this and those friends have then bought and shared my book with others. I also contact local bookstores to ask if they would be able to sell my books. I donated some books to hospices and churches as well and people in need. As long as someone somewhere gets a chance to see my book, I am happy.

10. What are your plans for the future? Do you have more publications on the way?

I am working on a few new stories and am developing a series. I would like to publish five books this year but I don't know how close I can get to this goal. I currently have two stories in the editing phase. I hope I can get them to the illustrator soon! A few people have read the manuscripts and have given a lot of positive feedback so I'm excited about them!

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