The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Verena Tay

By Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé

Verena Tay Pix

Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

I write to scratch itches, ‘itches’ being anomalies, oddities, things that intrigue me in life, that won’t disappear or be at rest unless I pay attention and make something of them.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

I wrote an essay about being a 50-year-old virgin and proud of it.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

Pardon my ignorance, but what is ‘writing aesthetic’? If you mean how I would describe my writing, then I would say:

– simple, direct, to the point
– great emphasis on story
– focus on action and dialogue
– depending on the piece being written: sometimes sparse in style, sometimes elaborate.

Who are your favourite authors?

Angela Carter, Jeanette Winterson, Neil Gaiman, Maxine Hong Kingston.

What’s the most challenging piece of writing you’ve attempted? Tell us why.

My first novel. Life keeps interrupting my focus and concentration. And the concept keeps growing in size. Based on aspects of family stories, the novel will trace the lives of three generations of Singaporean Chinese women over the twentieth century. Interweaving amongst the naturalistic and historical framework will be a mythical layer, probably focusing on the Chinese goddesses, Nu Wa, Kwan Yin and Ma Tzu.

What’s your idea of bliss?

To live in a cosy resort where my aches, pains and excess fat will be massaged away daily and I would spend the rest of the time reading and writing to my heart’s content.

What makes you angry, and I mean all-out-smash-the-china raving mad?

When people accuse me of crimes and misdemeanours that I have not committed… When people nag and nag or grumble and grumble over trivial matters as if the world will collapse because of these things that bother them… When people ill-treat animals…

What book/s would you take with you on a three-month retreat in the boondocks?

Aiyoh, how to choose? If I could, I would truck my whole unread library along with me… As the Romans once said, “Art is long, life is short.”

Your house is burning down. What’s the most important thing you’d want to take with you?

My laptop. Practically a major part of my life is stored within.

Describe your life philosophy. In a sentence.

I create and present the mirror of story before my audiences so that they may behold and be enriched by life’s essence.

Author Biography:

Verena Tay is a Singapore-based writer, editor, storyteller and theatre practitioner. An Honorary Fellow at the International Writing Program, University of Iowa (Aug–Nov 2007), she has published a short story collection, Spectre: Stories from Dark to Light (2012), and three play collections. She has also edited seven fiction anthologies, including the popular Balik Kampung series published by Math Paper Press. For more information, please visit