Novelist and children's author Clara Ng discusses her work, in the fourth of six Q&As with Indonesian authors visiting the London Book Fair as part of the Market Focus programme
Clara Ng is known for both adult fiction and fantastical children's literature. After finishing her secondary education in Indonesia, Ng went to the United States to study at Ohio State University. She worked in the US for several years before returning to Indonesia. She has released several novels, as well as numerous short stories, children's books, and some collections of fairy tales. Many of them are bestsellers. She has won several national literary awards for her children's books. In 2018, her children's novel Dru and the Tale of Five Kingdoms was translated into the Tagalog language and published in the Philippines. She has just released her first English language children's digital story series, Little Bo, with Little Lights Studio in Austria.
What's the first book you ever fell in love with?
I fell in love with The Famous Five: Five On a Treasure Island when I was 6 years old. I was in grade 1 and my mother gave me the book. She said I should start reading a more difficult book. It turned out to be a novel. I didn't take too long to read that book. It was my first love.
And which writer would you most like to meet?
I'd love to meet Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is also one of my favorite books of all time. Carroll is a master logician. His work in the field of linear algebra, geometry, and puzzle-making is extraordinary and he wrote almost a dozen mathematic books. I am not sure which one I am most interested to know about - his writing on Alice or on maths, but I admire anyone who is such a good thinker.
What are the main themes of Indonesian writers at the present?
Indonesian writers are very diverse and write on various themes. Many write romance stories, some write about social and political issues, and a large number of people write religious (Islamic) novels. Each book has its own readers. Although the themes are diverse, they don't actually have the same degree and value. The romance stories have an abundance of readers while other books that talk about other issues, such as family, society, politics, gender, and others do not get as much attention at present. Indonesia is still struggling to build an enlightened society that has a high literacy rate.
Indonesia has such a rich history of storytelling of folk tales and myths. Do you find inspiration from these?
I like folk tales, legends, myths, and also traditional stories of brave knights, warriors and princesses. Every object that I saw during my childhood always has a story. My mother started her amazing storytelling when I was very little. She made up everything she saw to me, filling me in with things that could not be known for sure: for example, the pine forest that we passed in the mountains on the way to grandma's house or some empty farmer's houses covered with dark shadow, or the twin rabbits that she bought at the market (I named them Kisi and Kissi). I continued her habit, composing and telling stories to my children as often as possible. As I write, I pick up everything I knew, read, and heard, and create it into variety of stories.
Clara Ng has been chosen as one of 12 authors to participate in the Indonesia Market Focus programme at the London Book Fair 2019, and is on a panel entitled "Feminist Fairy Tales" at the Cross Cultural Hub, 10am on 13 March. Click here for additional events and more information on the 12 authors and the cultural programme in conjunction with the British Council. These questions were posed by Dr Annabel Teh Gallop, lead curator for Southeast Asia at British Library.