By Serendipity, I Have an Agent!

Many things in life happen by chance.

I met my partner by chance. Russian-Malaysian combinations are rare; we met only because, while attending a networking event for professional gay women, we found ourselves seated next to each other at a lunch. Seating was on a first come, first served basis along an extremely long table; if either of us had turned up a few minutes earlier or later, or if anyone else had come in at a different moment, we might never have struck up a conversation. How serendipitous is that?

And now I have just returned from New York, holding in my hand a signed contract from a literary agent. This too, came about by chance.

At the start of Chinese New Year celebrations in February, my partner and I invited a Russian family to her house in France. There, over a meal of Malaysian-Chinese fondue, otherwise known as steam-boat, I got to know our guests – a couple and their son. I had not met them until then, even though they live in Paris. I had heard that she was a respected psychologist, he a journalist and published author, but I had no idea quite how well-known he actually was in his native country.

This is just as well, because it meant I felt no inhibitions. Malaysian steam-boat is a very interactive meal; basically, you cook what you eat – meat and vegetables, seafood, tofu and noodles – in a boiling vat in the middle of the table. When your food is ready, you fish out the tasty morsels with metal nets. The smell is wonderful and so close to your nose too, which always puts everyone at ease.

Being writers, Sergey and I began to discuss books. When Sergey asked about my novel, I told him how it had been inspired by my great grandmother, and that the story contained a unique mix of family drama, history, business, food as well as mythology. I’m sure I must have sounded passionate – I can’t help myself. Before I knew it, Sergey was asking for a synopsis. He casually mentioned that he had an American agent who might be interested in my novel. Would I want an introduction?

I jumped at the chance. As fate would have it, our dinner guest turned out to be Sergey Kuznetzov, whose novel Butterfly Skin achieved cult status in Russia and has been described as ‘Russia’s answer to Silence of the Lambs’. There I was, happily fishing out bits of chicken and pak choi leaves and dropping them into the bowl of a Russian literary star, and I didn’t even know who he was.

In turn, Sergey’s American agent is none other than Thomas Colchie, who specialises in representing international writers. Could I have had better luck?

Of course, there was always the possibility that Thomas and his wife would not like my work. Fortunately, they loved my manuscript and immediately offered to represent me.

Suddenly, I had hit a milestone in this journey of my novel.

I now have as advocates two people who are passionate about my book and who are highly respected in publishing circles. The Colchie Agency has represented and continues to represent many great Latin American/Iberian authors, among them Laura Esquivel (Like Water for Chocolate), Reinaldo Arenas (Before Night Falls), Manuel Puig (Kiss of the Spider Woman) and Carlos Ruiz Zafón (The Shadow of the Wind). It has notable Asian authors too, including Shazaf Fatima Haider (How it Happened). I am proud to be their first East Asian novelist and short story writer.

There remains a long road ahead: the path to publication is slow and not without pitfalls. I’ll be sure to keep the readers of this blog informed of progress. Meanwhile, it’s back to writing, this time a work of non-fiction – about the many surprises of France!

9 Comments

Filed under Novel, Writing

9 responses to “By Serendipity, I Have an Agent!

  1. Frieda Fuchs

    A heart-felt congratulations, Selina. Well done and well deserved!

  2. LisaKMK

    Well done and congratulations. Love how it was the deliciousness and informality of steam boat that brought about this latest stroke of good fortune. Lisa

  3. ghengsrs

    Congratulations nod you are Bout to hit the Wild West across the Atlantique Pond ! Don’t forget my uncle Chin Kee-Onn the author of many novels ” Maraiee ” ” The Silent Army” ” Twilight of the Nyonyas ” and as I say the Babas in counterpoint ! Gerry

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  4. So happy for you…and yes, chances make our lives…if I had not stopped to have a Diet Coke in a pub on the way to that lunch (as I was nervous), we wouldn’t have been next to each other at the table. Looking forward to becoming a spouse of a best-selling writer!

  5. A very hearty congratulations. I’ve only been following your blog since I had the need to look up Malaysian toilets, and you kindly provided follow up. I can really feel your passion for life and writing and reflection in your blog.
    I will surely buy be buying a copy when it comes out!

  6. Eddy Chin

    Good news comes of a sudden at times.
    Feel I can sing! (Footnote that!)

    Eddy Chin

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