Ivy Ngeow was born and raised in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. A graduate of the Middlesex University Writing MA programme, Ivy won the 2005 Middlesex University Literary Prize out of almost 1500 entrants worldwide. Her debut Cry of the Flying Rhino won the 2016 International Proverse Prize. She has written non-fiction for Marie Claire, The Star, The New Straits Times, South London Society of Architects’ Newsletter and Wimbledon magazine. Her short stories have appeared in Silverfish New Writing anthologies twice, The New Writer and on the BBC World Service, Fixi Novo’s ‘Hungry in Ipoh’ anthology and most recently the Fixi 2020 Anthology. Ivy won first prize in the Commonwealth Essay Writing Competition 1994, first prize in the Barnes and Noble Career Essay Writing competition 1998 and was shortlisted for the David T K Wong Fellowship 1998 and the Ian St James Award 1999.
Tell me what inspired you to write your (debut) novel?
My debut novel was inspired by a dream, which took place in a Borneo longhouse. I saw a girl with huge hollow eyes and she was just about to run away from something. I have since written 4 more novels.
What came first the characters or the world?
Always the world for me. Then I fill it with characters.
How hard was it to get your first (debut) book published?
It took 12 years.
How long did it take to write?
About 2 years. I rewrote for another year. My latest and fifth novel took 38 days.
How many publishers turned you down?
More than 80.
What’s the favourite reaction you’ve had to your book?
“I will read anything from Ivy without checking the back blurb. I know I will love it.”
What can you tell us about your next book?
My next book will be an Asian thriller with a female protagonist.
Do you take notice of online reviews?
Yes and no. Occasionally I do check but I am more resilient now to one stars and trolls.
Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?
My current genres are literary fiction and psychological crime thrillers. When I do stray outside these, I tend to do it in short stories. Short stories are a great form to experiment in genres out of our expertise, and to exercise creative freedom. So for example, I have written romance, historical, paranormal, dystopian, speculative or women’s fiction short stories. They are also less rigid when it comes to mixed genres.
What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer?
I have a 30 year profession in architecture and interior design.
Which author(s) inspire you?
David Szalay, Flannery O’Connor, Carl Hiaasen, Sarah Waters, Daphne du Maurier.
Which genres do you read yourself?
I read crime, psychological thrillers and literary fiction.
What is your biggest motivator?
What will always distract you?
How much (if any) say do you have in your book covers?
Most of the say. I am a designer myself. I do all the graphics already in my interior design and architecture practice.
Were you a big reader as a child?
Yes. I started late. I read to myself at around 8.
What were your favourite childhood books?
I read all the Enid Blyton books and later the Nancy Drew series. Hence the interest in adventure stories.
Do you have a favourite bookshop? If so, which?
I love little indie bookshops, eg Nomad Books in Fulham and South Kensington Books in South Kensington.
What books can you not resist buying?
Short story collections.
Do you have any rituals when writing?
I tend to write in the early mornings, first thing. That is the only criteria.
How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?
What is your current or latest read?
I am reading a thriller for an author now, coming out soon, to give him a cover quote.
Any plans or projects in the near future you can tell us about?
My 4th and 5th novels are coming out this year but I can’t say when yet as they are still being edited. However, what I can say is that I will be doing a cover reveal very soon for my 4th novel, White Crane Strikes, a suspense thriller set in Chicago’s Chinatown.
and finally, what inspired you to write the genre you do?
I enjoy the dark psychological side of human nature with its surprises and twists, and inventing characters to reflect that unpredictability in humanity. Therefore literary fiction, noir and thrillers are my subject interests.