Wednesday, December 31, 2014

At Kinokuniya: Local Writer Wayne Rée's Not So Tiny Q&A Panel

2014 has been a wonderful year for Red Dot Diva because she got to know a few more interesting humans of the geek tribe. And with a chosen particular few, she got to interact with them even more, making her life a very interesting ride outside the humdrum of a cubicle-based day job.

One of these geeky souls is Wayne Rée.Yes, the exuberant one with the rocker-like tattooed biceps, silver-tinged hair and sexy beard. For visual reference, Red Dot Diva is helpfully providing a pic taken during STGCC 2014. That's Wayne, on the left, happily flexing his biceps. Heh heh.

Together with fellow-writer/artist-in-crime Gene Whitlock (the even crazier one on the right), they have each released their first books with small publisher Math Paper Press (an imprint of Books Actually) at STGCC. For Gene Whitlock, it was a madhouse anthropomorphic caper called "The Unsavoury Alphabet". As for Wayne, his creative output was a quieter and very insightful book consisting of a collection of 11 short proses entitled "Tales From A Tiny Room".

At Kinokuniya's relocated main store two months ago, Wayne held a not-so-tiny Q&A session that was ably moderated by 1/3 Here Be Geeks, Peter Lin. The main topic of discussion was how Wayne got his first book "From Concept to Print".

There was a gathering of about 20+ people at the Q&A that afternoon, many of them were familiar faces of the local geek scene. A few were folks that Red Dot Diva has not gotten to know yet. Everyone in the audience that day was genuinely interested to find out more about Wayne's journey on getting his first book to print, because heaven knows... it is really easy to merely talk or dream about writing a book. It is far more difficult to get the project completed and finally, published.

On another note, the Q&A was also a special occasion - not because of Wayne's chosen introductory music :P - but because it was the first time that Wayne and his 3 artist friends who contributed art pieces to the book - Andrew Mason, Audrey Chan & Paul Hendricks - were together meeting readers in the same space. The synergy of the awesome foursome was very apparent as their individual personalities carried a unique creative spark that brought some very funny witty moments during the session.

(Note: Andrew Mason drew the illustration for "Man on the Street", Paul Hendricks for "Creation Myth" and Audrey Chan for "Finn vs God".)

Peter: When did you start writing these stories that would eventually find themselves into this book?
Wayne: I was writing these stories since 2011. I have been mostly writing stories for myself since 1998. I've been throwing them online because I figured that was the best way for people to read them. Some time in 2011, I was trying to do a short story a month and half way through 2011, I've always wanted to write a book so I thought, let's try to figure out how to put these together for a book.

Peter: What happened when you decided to publish a book?
Wayne: My original plan was to self-publish the book. Part of me was always worried if any publisher would actually want to publish this book. And because I grew up a lot with comic books, I wanted to work with artists as well. It's a very nice coincidence that many of my friends and business associates are talented artists. So, I gathered them together and showed them the stories and asked them, 'Could you draw stuff?'

Peter: How many artists were there originally?
Wayne: There were about 6 people. And then we narrowed it down to 3. 

Someone from the crowd piped in to ask why the other 3 "ran away", and Wayne quipped that he smelt funny sometimes.

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Peter: Was it your decision to have only 3 artists?
Wayne: It was a decision between me and the publisher I eventually worked with. They were all good pieces, and even these guys did more than one illustration each. But because it was a variety of styles. Even here, we have designer(y) stuff and Audrey's stuff which is more manga-comic. We wanted to keep some consistency so we narrowed it down to these guys.

Peter: You mentioned that your decision not to go self-publishing was due to someone in the panel here...
Wayne: Yes. When I finished the book and wanted to go self-publishing, I finally realized how much it was going to cost. It was the cost that not only I had to bear, but anyone buying the book would also have to absorb. I didn't want that barrier for people to read the book. I told Paul about it. His exact words were "Don't be a moron. Go look at local publishers." 

Peter: How many local publishers did you look at?
Wayne: I looked at those available here - Epigram, Math Paper Press, Marshall Cavendish. My stories aren't all set in Singapore. There are elements in Singapore but it is not a Singaporean novel per se. And Epigram is focused on publishing stories in Singapore. Math Paper Press wants to publish any good authors who come their way so I did not face the barrier of having to set my stories in Singapore.

Peter: Did you know the publisher behind Math Paper Press before you worked with them?
Wayne: No. I've heard of Math Paper Press and Books Actually. And I heard there was a documentary on Kenny (Leck) but I had no idea who he was till I met him.

Peter: Tell us about that first meeting....
Wayne: (laughs) I had already sent him my proposal and the artists I want to work with. For the first meeting with the publisher, Paul went with me as well. For those who don't know Kenny Leck, he is a Very Relaxed Person. Kenny in his usual business attire was in bermudas. Unfortunately, so were Paul and I. All three of us were seating there at an old-fashioned coffee shop table in his publishing house. Since then... Kenny still doesn't know this, I will tell him eventually.... we have referred ourselves as The Bermuda(s) Triangle.

Paul's artwork for "Creation Myth"
Peter: How did you get involved with Wayne's book?
Andrew: I was catching up with Wayne on a semi-regular basis. And at that time, he was going to be writing an anthology and there were two things that struck me. One of it was that he actually did it. I think it is quite an achievement because it's easy to say something, it is a lot harder to actually do it. He stuck to his guns and consistently worked on it to get his stories done. I give Wayne a lot of respect for that commitment. The second thing, because it is an anthology, it tends to get marginalized. Growing up as a kid in the UK, I used to read 2000 AD that features Judge Dredd and that was a weekly anthology so I have always been drawn to that. In response and respect to Wayne's work, I decided to help out. I came toward the end actually, I think I mopped up those stories that people hadn't done illustrations for, which was fine!
Paul: I have known Wayne way too long. (rounds of laughter from the audience and panelists) I have always liked to work on something of my own outside of work and when Wayne came up with this anthology and asked if I would like to contribute, I said yes. I read his stories and they were interesting enough, so I picked the ones that I was more drawn to. 
Audrey: I met Wayne on Twitter through mutual friends, and it took awhile for us to meet in person. One day he asked me if I wanted to draw something for his book and I said, why not?

Peter: You were mentioning that the book pretty much came out the way you thought it would.
Wayne: Yes. More or less. Kenny said that we won't censor your stories but we would look at the stories and see which ones fit and which ones match up to the tone of the entire collection. I had a medieval-ish kind of story in there, when Kenny mentioned about matching the tone of the book, I personally took that one out and put in a different story as well, for the sake of consistency.  

Peter: How did you go about writing a proposal?
Wayne: It was fairly straightforward because I work in marketing. There are elements in there like who's your target audience, what are these stories about.. Basically, if you were to approach a publisher, he will be asking why should I print this book? Why would this book sell? So that's how I did the proposal by asking myself, if I were to convince any publisher to print my book, what would I tell them.

From l to r: Audrey, Paul, Wayne and Andrew

Peter: So, would you guys ever work together again?
Paul: It's not like I have a choice. I have to look at his face every day at work. (laughter from everyone) 
Audrey: If he continues to pay me in Skittles and scotch, that's fine.
Paul: To be fair, I would like to work with him. He's always writing stuff and I am always looking for things to draw. This time, I'd probably ask for money.
Andrew: I would work with Wayne again. I haven't done real illustration work for about 10 years and so it was quite nice to do it. I were talking about this the other day. One of the approach was to work collaboratively right from the stuff, and to develop things. And to work with the stories and artwork in parallel and to perhaps to have more artwork in the next volume so there would be more of a balance between the two things.
Wayne: Yeah definitely. I'd really like to work with these guys again.
Andrew: Well, you'd definitely see each other at work on Monday.
Wayne: (sighing) oh damn. This book started as my book and at this point of time, it's our book. My name may be on the cover, but these guys really helped make the book what it is. I'd definitely want to do a more collaborative approach the next time because all three of them are storytellers.

Peter: What does the future hold of Wayne Rée?
Wayne: I have a couple of books planned. I'm working on another collection of short stories with another writer. There's a man over there with a massive beard named Gene Whitlock, who's louder than me. We are collaborating on a kid's book called "Yellow Princess" which is based on ideas that his daughter came up with. 

As Wayne revealed during the Q&A panel, the stories in "Tales From A Tiny Room" were very personal tales during various emotional periods of his life, which have been embellished with a more genre type of "fantastical twist". One of Red Dot Diva's favourite from the collection is the "Creation Myth" - a solemn tale where two deities sat together like chums to show each other what kind of worlds they could build. Then, there's the other one about "Parallel Lives" that carried that kind of tingly creepiness one associates with stories from "Twilight Zone". Even if one was not physically there during Wayne's own life experiences, it was still possible to sense what was being conveyed when reading these narratives.

"Tales From A Tiny Room" is a very readable, imaginative and touching collection of speculative fiction. So if one is an avid reader who enjoys unusual perspectives of life, do grab a copy of Wayne Rée's book at the usual local outlets. For one thing, you can go all hipsterish and said "I've read his first book many years ago", 'coz Red Dot Diva believes there will be more wonderful tales coming from Wayne's "tiny room" for many years to come.

With this article dedicated to local talent, this is also Red Dot Diva's last blog post for 2014!

Thanks for all the geeky love all you lovely friends, challenging frenemies, inspiring creators, fellow bloggers and readers from all over the world.
Here's to more creative and fun stuff in the next 12 months!

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