An Interview with Tunku Halim

Q: Looking at your own writing [ for example ‘ A Malaysian Restaurant in London’ ], what challenges do you face when writing, and how do you overcome them?

TH: One great challenge is working out where the story is going, plot-wise. I usually start writing with an idea but no clear idea of what will happen in the story. Sometimes the plot can get stuck and I’ve no idea where the story is going. I find it helpful to put the story away for a while and work on something else. I can then approach the story with a refreshed mind.

Q: There are some excerpts from literature that capture something so perfectly, we want to return to them again and again. Is there a section from a novel that resonates with you in this way?

TH: Good thing I’ve been recently highlighting some excerpts in my eBook reader! Here’s a selection:

“I know that anybody may fall in love with anybody else.” – In Search of Lost Time, Marcel Proust

“I’m reading this unreadable Proust …” – A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth

“I’m too happy; and yet I’m not happy enough.” – Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte

“For there is something very comfortable in having plenty of stationery.” – Great Expectations, Charles Dickens

What are the top five lessons you hope writers learn from you?

a) Writing is like playing the piano. You have to always practise.
b) Write without worrying about spelling or grammar. You can fix those at the very end.
c) Write as if it’s your last day on earth. Hold nothing back.
d) Writing is a craft which you need to learn. It’s no different from a craft necessary to build a table. There’s nothing magical about it. (Until the magic happens!)
e) Writing is re-writing. It takes many drafts to get it right.

Q: When is it important for new writers to start thinking about publishing their work, and how do you advise them to go about doing so?

TH: It’s good to put away your story for a few weeks, so that you can do a final polish with fresh eyes. Then, when you think it’s good enough, you can start thinking about getting it published. A lot of work is published online, so this might be the way to go to begin with. From there, moving into hard print will be the natural step.

As a judge for Write Tales Competition, what will you be looking for in the writer’s story as a winning piece?

TH: Most importantly, I’ll be looking for a good quality of writing, whether the writer is competent in the craft of writing. This is the foundation stone. Being able to practise the writer’s craft is essential. Next, I want to be captivated by the story, by the imagination of the writer. Lastly, I want to think “Wow! That was a good story!”


Books by Tunku Halim:
a_malaysian_restaurant  last_breath  horror_stories