A Thank You Message

At last, it’s publication day! From today my novel – The Woman who Breathed Two Worlds – will be available for purchase at major bookstores (Barnes & Noble in the US, Waterstones in the UK and at many others) as well as on leading websites worldwide. My book is available in three formats: print, as an audio book and also as a Kindle e-book, the latter from Amazon.

The past month has been exhilarating. When the e-version of my novel was placed on the Kindle First platform beginning October 1, 2016 I sat in trepidation, knowing that early readers would soon be reviewing my work. At heart writing is a solitary activity, and although I knew what I wanted to achieve with my novel I had no idea how readers would actually react. The process of waiting for those first reviews was nerve-racking. I told my editor, Elizabeth DeNoma, that I was not going to check for reviews.

October 1 fell on a Saturday. Bearing in mind that my book is over 400 pages long (nearly 500 pages in the paperback version), I was surprised to receive an email on the evening of Monday, October 3, when it would only have been noon in Seattle. Could anyone have actually finished reading the book? Apparently, yes. Elizabeth’s email said that the first reviews were in, they were “pretty great” and I should take a look.

My heart was thumping when I opened Amazon’s US site. Everything was a blur and my eyes could barely focus. I felt a little like the parents of my protagonist at the moment when they stood staring at the island of Penang. There before them was the object for which they had given up so much, yet as the island rose in front of their eyes, its beckoning shape seemed too daunting.

A day later, I received my first fan mail. As an author who is keen to be read, I cannot tell you how thrilling that was. Many others have written since, either on this blog or via Twitter or my Facebook Author page. Thank you to all, your words mean a lot.

Thank you, too, to readers who have written reviews on Amazon. To say that I’ve been overwhelmed by my book’s exceptional reception would be an understatement. The start of my novel is somewhat meandering – mimicking life as I imagined it would have been in 1878, when the story begins. With pace being the norm today, I worried that readers would not be drawn in. How wrong I was.

…fabulous job of writing drawing you immediately into an unknown Asian family and their world…

Loved it – it was hard to put down” was a common refrain, but it took a week before I could read such compliments without heart palpitations. A fortnight passed before I really grasped the sentiments readers were trying to convey. It was difficult to take in the adjectives readers were using: “wonderful”, “enchanting” and “epic”. Some of the comments brought me close to tears – and I don’t cry easily. One reader said: “When I started this book I wasn’t sure I would like it. But it turned out to be a very good book and I didn’t want it to end.” For an author, there can be no greater compliment.

There have been highly personal messages from readers who grew up in South-East Asia, for whom my book brought back vivid memories. To be clear, no familiarity with Malaysia is required: readers who knew nothing about Malaysia beforehand have enjoyed the story as much. A few even had their interest piqued: “I loved this book so much I’ve started making a Pinterest board about it so I can see all the items and sites described.” This reader, like many others, described my novel as a journey.

I was sad when I finished this book. Felt like leaving a good friend.

It has been an honor to travel with this courageous, feisty and loving woman, to be her companion. I will miss her.

One of those books you hope will never end and you feel bereft when you reach the final page. Excellent story, beautiful writing.

At this point, I must make a digression to thank my publisher. One of the reasons so many of you have found the reading experience to be unique and authentic is in part thanks to my publishing team at Amazon Crossing and their bold editorial decisions. My editor, Elizabeth DeNoma, loves my book as much as many of you do; she did not want to see any of it cut. As a debut novelist no one had heard of, I’m really grateful for this.

Amazon Crossing made other decisions that preserved the cultural content of my work, notably with respect to dialogue. Some of what the characters say to each other is written the way Malaysians speak, which means that the word order is slightly changed. The vast majority of readers have appreciated the sense of place which this helps to create. Someone put it thus:

I loved the dialogue. Making the word order match the dialects represented made everything more real.

Who said books had to be dumbed down?

I also wanted to depict my homeland, Malaysia, in the fullest possible way, so that people who had never visited would be able to picture it and smell all the smells I grew up with. From the reaction of readers, it’s just possible that I succeeded. “There are some books you devour, and others you savor. This, Selina Siak Chin Yoke’s debut novel, is the latter. Her beautiful descriptions bring the time and place in which her characters live to vibrant life, and turn the setting itself into a character in its own right.

There have been many, many other heart-warming comments; I could not possibly quote them all here. If you submitted a review, please know that I have been deeply moved by the way my story has resonated.

Now that The Woman who Breathed Two Worlds has been published, the cover name of my blog will no longer be ‘Journey of my First Novel’. The blog’s URL will remain the same and if you’ve subscribed to this site, there’s nothing you need do.

Let me conclude with the following lovely comment from another reader:

The rhythm of the words, the flow of the story, the tales that were shared – it all seemed so real. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that tugged at my emotions, culminating in tears for a woman I felt I had grown to know.

As we say in Malay, Terima Kasih Seribu Kali (Thank You a Thousand Times). Thank you for reading, for writing to me and for all your kind words. Your messages make the years of toil worthwhile.

NB All of the above reader comments (and more) can be found on Amazon’s US site as well as on its UK site. With thanks to Amazon Crossing for allowing me to cite them on this blog.

11 Comments

Filed under Malaysia, Novel, Publishing, Writing

11 responses to “A Thank You Message

  1. Sheema Abdul Aziz

    Love this post!!! As you know I have been excited about reading your book right from the very first moment I found out you were writing it. I haven’t had a chance to do so yet, and would have anyway even without the glowing reviews, but this just makes me even more super excited about it – especially since I’ll have a chance to look for it in London later this month! WELL DONE Selina. As someone who has married into a Peranakan family, I am really, really looking forward to this.

  2. So happy for you and so proud of you! Well done!

  3. I just finished reading this book and I have to say that I absolutely loved it! LOVED IT! I’ve always enjoyed books that deal with eastern cultures and nationalities and this book is one of the best I’ve ever read. It brought me to tears more than once. I truly empathized with the character who worries that her way of life is being eroded by western ways. It’s true of all cultures, I think. One has to almost work at not losing all of the old ways just because the world is modernizing. Really looking forward to your second book!

    • Thank you so much for this lovely message, Jan! I really enjoy hearing from readers and am truly delighted at the connection you felt while reading my book. Follow me on this blog or on Amazon (click on the Follow Me button on my Amazon Author Page) and you’ll be first to know about the next book! Thank you also for leaving your review on Amazon, it’s much appreciated!

  4. I loved your book. I started readi g it the other day when I was ill in bed. I finished it today and now I have recovered. I am from Ireland and I totally understand the family, ancestry and customs that you wrote about. We in Ireland are also full of stories passed down by the generations. I have never been to Asia but I do eat tofu and noodles !. I really loved your descriptions of the food throughout the book and I could really smell those chillies and garlic. I loved the book and It will always stay in my memory. I cannot wait for another.

    • Dear annbellmalone,

      Thank you so much for your message, I do love hearing from happy readers and am even happier that my book helped you recover! If you haven’t already done so, please do leave a review on Amazon and Goodreads too, if happen to be a member; the reviews mean a lot. Best wishes to you and yours.

  5. I just wrote a review having no idea so many others had also read the book. Bravo! I’ve actually got 10% to go according to Kindle so lucky for me the journey is not quite over 🙂
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/review/R36VEYC8UQGJRS/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1503939340

    • Hello Jesse,

      Thanks for this message and for your review, which made me smile. There have been several hundred reviews thus far on Amazon USA and no one else has said that they read my book on the elliptical machine! How wonderful! I hope you enjoy the remaining 10%…

      With my best wishes.

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