Most Thursdays this year we will be interviewing one of the members of Christian Writers Downunder – to find out a little bit more about them and their writing/editing goals.
Today’s interview Elizabeth Tai (who also writes fiction as Tai Weiland)
Question 1: Tells us three things about who you are and where you come from.
I am Malaysian but lived in Adelaide for about 3 years before returning to Malaysia. I was a journalist for 15 over years for Malaysia’s biggest English daily, The Star. I’m an avid gardener who dreams of having her own urban homestead one day where I can organise writing retreats.
Question 2: Tell us about your writing (or editing/illustrating etc). What do you write and why?
I write across many genres.
I currently write non-fiction as Elizabeth Tai and science fiction (space opera adventures) as Tai Weiland. I decided to use a pen name for my fiction because I spent many years building a career as a journalist and non-fiction writer as Elizabeth Tai. I’m also a personal finance blogger in real life, so it’s helpful to have a totally separate brand to write under. I also came up with a pen name because, in the past, I preferred to be more “under the radar” with my fiction. Now I wondered if I should’ve just written under one name because having two pen names is like managing two companies!
Tai Weiland is currently working on the space opera series, Distant Stars. I’ve always wanted to create a universe that I can write endless stories from, and this was my way of doing that! My first novel was conceptualised in 2013, during Nanowrimo.
The first book, a novella, is a prequel to the series - Heretics of Thran. The second is Book 1 - Shadows of Corinar. I’m editing the second book of the series, Nexus Point and hope to publish it by September. You can find out more about Tai Weiland at https://taiweiland.weebly.com
Question 3: Who has read your work? Who would you like to read it?
The whole of Malaysia has read my articles as Elizabeth Tai the journalist, I suppose, but not many people know me as Tai Weiland. That’s because I’ve not gone all out to promote her. I plan to only do that once I’ve uploaded the second book of my science fiction series, Nexus Point.
Question 4: Tell us something about your process. What challenges do you face? What helps you the most?
I am a semi-planner. I would have a certain vague framework for my novel and it’s off to the races I go.
I notice that I need to be able to imagine a scene in my head before I could write the words. I have to be able to connect with my characters emotionally before I get fired up. When the details of the scene and the emotions of the characters connect, I can write really fast. I can complete a novella in a month - but that’s if I have a good idea of what I want to write.
But in general, I get frustrated at the pace I come up with ideas. My life is so full that I don’t have enough “dreaming” time to come up with the plots of my books. And since my career involves producing words as well, a lot of my creative energy is used up by the day job.
I’m also currently in the midst of changing careers and it takes a lot out of me. I spend so much of my time learning about my new career job and industry that it leaves leaves me little time or energy to spend on my books. A lot of times I feel as if I have to choose between my books and my career, and it’s never an easy decision.
If I had one wish, I wish I could stop time so I can just finish all my books and then hit publish!
Question 5: What is your favourite Writing Craft Book and why?
Ooh, this is like asking me to choose a favourite child! I’d say of all the books I’ve read, Editor-Proof Your Writing by Don McNair has brought my fiction writing and editing to the next level.
Question 6: If you were to give a shout-out to a CWD author, writer, editor or illustrator – who would they be?
I’d like to give a shoutout to Sue Jeffrey who has been my steadfast friend, counsellor, agony aunt and prayer partner! (She’s also an author, writer, editor and illustrator in one package!) She was a literal answer to prayer. When I came to Adelaide in 2012 and started my writing adventure, I asked God for a writing friend, and boy did He deliver! We met during Nanowrimo when Sue and her husband Marc decided to pop in at a Glenelg cafe for a write-in I organised. In the end, we ended up talking more than writing. In fact, we’ve not stopped talking and I’m ever so grateful for her friendship.
Question 7: What are your writing goals for this year? How will you achieve them?
Two main goals:
- Finish the second book of my series
- Lay down a solid foundation for my author business. Meaning, I want to set up my mailing list, tidy up my website, set up my reader magnet and finally do some book promotion - all that jazz. I would also like to start connecting with fellow authors.
The last 2 years has been very tumultous for me, career wise, and it was hard for me to focus on my authorpreneur business. Fortunately, I came across Mark Dawson’s Self Publishing 101 course - I’m using it as a blueprint to accomplish goal #2.
Question 8: How does your faith impact and shape your writing?
I’m still working on this, to be honest.
I’ve always been a truthteller. I once wrote a fairly popular Christian blog called “Messy Christian”, and many readers tell me they liked my blog because I was honest. I was the kind of person who called out injustice, even if the person I’m highlighting is a well-known Christian figure. I asked difficult questions and poked a lot of rigid mindsets.
But with fiction, the journey has been a little challenging. In my early years I felt really, really constricted by the need to adhere to certain “rules” in writing fiction. I thought a Christians can only write Christian fiction, and that we shouldn’t show violence or even sex. So I felt a lot of guilt when I write fiction and try to “hide” that part of me from God. I kept thinking that God would be mad at the fiction I want to write! I think that’s why I write under so many pseudonyms - on some strange level, I didn’t want people (and God!) to know I was writing them!
But eventually my understanding of faith and my writing evolved, and I realise that I can communicate the truth and the values of the gospel in a unique way via my fiction, even if I had sex and violence in them.
In fact, my science fiction stories has a faith component in it. It always disturbed me that science fiction worlds are often atheistic, as if that’s the pinnacle of progress. Faith is very much present in my worlds, and God takes an active part. The message of my stories is this: You may have all the technology and wonderful science, but you will still need God to truly be complete.