I Read/I Wrote: Ovidia Yu

In the I Read/I Wrote series, authors introduce a book they loved–in the genre in which they write–and share one of their own books.

GENRE: Asian History Mystery

I READ: Trial on Mount Koya, A Hiro Hattori Novel by Susan Spann

Hiro Hattori is a ninja assassin, hired by an anonymous benefactor to guard Portuguese Jesuit priest Father Mateo in Sixteenth Century Japan. This book is set during a snowstorm in a temple on Mount Koya, one of Japan’s most sacred peaks, where the temple’s priests are murdered and posed as the Buddhist Judge Kings of the Afterlife.

I love reading Asian history mysteries because I don’t know much about Asian history and I love learning without feeling that I’m studying. I also prefer traditional murder mysteries where lots of people die without anyone getting too viciously hurt on the page and I can enjoy unraveling relationships and motives.

I’ve fallen in love with the ‘Warring States’ Japan in these books. The cultural details feel authentic and universal and timeless power struggles and relationships are easier to recognise at a remove.

I’m also impressed by the thoroughness of Spann’s research. I’m going to try to sneak in a photo from her website here (if Cynthia lets me get away with it) that shows the nyonindo, or women’s hall, at the top of the pilgrim trail up Mount Koya where Hiro and Father Mateo would have started the climb to the temple at the holy summit where this book takes place.

I WROTE: The Betel Nut Tree Mystery

“What we came to think of as the betel nut affair began in the middle of a tropical thunderstorm in December 1937 . . .”

Singapore is agog with the news of King Edward VIII’s abdication to marry American heiress Wallis Simpson. Chen Su Lin, now Chief Inspector Le Froy’s secretarial assistant in Singapore’s newly formed detective unit, still dreams of becoming a journalist and hopes to cover the story when the Hon Victor Glossop announces he is marrying an American widow of his own, Mrs Nicole Covington, in the Colony. But things go horribly wrong when Victor
Glossop is found dead, his body covered in bizarre symbols and soaked in betel nut juice.

The beautiful, highly-strung Nicole claims it’s her fault he’s dead . . . just like the others. And when investigations into her past reveal a dead lover, as well as a husband, the case against her appears to be stacking up. Begrudgingly on Le Froy’s part, Su Lin agrees to chaperone Nicole at the Farquhar Hotel, intending to get the truth out of her somehow. But as she uncovers secrets and further deaths occur, Su Lin realises she may not be able to save Nicole’s life–or even her own.

Ovidia Yu was born in, lives in and writes about Singapore and is the author of the Aunty Lee Mysteries and the Crown Colony Crime Mysteries. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America and International Thriller Writers.

For more information, please visit www.ovidiayu.com.




11 thoughts on “I Read/I Wrote: Ovidia Yu”

  1. Wow! This is fascinating. (They both sound as though they would make wonderful films…as I read your descriptions, I could *see* them.) The picture of the women’s hall is especially beautiful.

    Thank you so much for visiting, Ovidia! (And I love the Aunty Lee Mysteries.)


  2. Thank you so much Ovidia!! It’s such an honor to have an author whose books I love so much say something so nice about my work! I’m so, so happy that you liked TRIAL ON MOUNT KOYA – and I adore reading about Singapore in your books too.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love what you said about learning history while at the same time enjoying a favorite hobby. Both “Trial on Mount Koya” and your novel “The Betel Nut Tree Mystery” seem to be informative with historical plot points while entertaining and enticing readers into a world of mystery and suspense. These two have been added to my list of to do things!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. So many questions, Ms. Yu! But first, I love that the Susan Spann’s book and yours take place in stormy weather–a snow storm and a tropical thunderstorm, it is of course the best weather for a mystery , but I also really enjoy bad weather. I had to google betel juice to understand the significance but do people spit it out just like icky tobacco juice? Why did you pick the colonial era to write about? Did the plot of your first book or the characters percolate for a long time, or did you just start writing? Do you journal? Are your books written in English and translated to Chinese and Malay? Are your books marketed internationally? I can’t wait to read about the Ninja assassin, but also the “Betel Nut Tree Mystery.” The illustration on the cover is exquisite. It is so nice to meet you and thank you for taking the time to do this.
    Best Regards,
    Stephanie O’Brien

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for your great questions, Stephanie! I’ll do my best to answer but please let me know if you need anything elaborated on! (and thank you for liking the cover. I love it too, and can’t believe the cover artist has never been to Singapore!)

    Do people spit out betel nut juice?
    They sure did in 1930s Singapore, but there are laws against spitting in public today. (The fact that we need laws against spitting shows how bad it once was!)

    Why did I pick the colonial era to write about?
    The idea came to me when I was thinking about how it feels natural to speak in English to strangers in Singapore. It’s our official language here, and most people are familiar with it, without ever having set foot on British soil. And the reason for that goes back to the Colonial Era.

    Did the plot of the book or characters percolate for a long time or did I just start writing?
    I have so many plots percolating in my head all the time, the difficulty is settling on one to really dig into. But once I do, it evolves and changes along the way as I get to know my characters better. So even though the percolating seems to take a lot of time, just sitting down and starting writing, even if I’m not certain how it’ll go, is what counts towards it becoming a book.

    Do I journal?
    Oh yes. I use 750words.com for my daily morning pages, and I also have a paper journal/notebook where I put down my thoughts/problems/to do lists/sketches/mind maps. I always have one of these notebooks with me, because I find it easier to work out what I think about something if I write it out. Also, if I’m feeling uncertain or stressed about something, I find that writing down on paper exactly why I’m feeling stuck or insecure (even something as stupid as ‘Why do I crave a game of Candy Crush instead of doing edits’ (answer: mindless focus, instant gratification, dopamine hits,) helps me get on with my day.

    Are my books written in English and translated to Chinese and Malay?
    My books are written in English, but alas they haven’t been translated into Chinese and Malay. The only language they’ve been translated into so far are Japanese and French.

    Are my books marketed internationally?
    At the moment they are in bookstores in Singapore, Malaysia, India, America and Britain–and on Amazon, which pretty much covers the world with internet access.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you so much Ms. Yu! I am 63 years old and returning to school after decades of raising my beautiful daughter. It is my dream to write my own mystery and your input is so selfless and generous, I hope I can meet you someday at a conference or just have an email relationship. The Best of Luck to you in the future! I will be following your success. One thing I have to tease you about is that you don’t mind a high body count as long as there is not graphic violence. LOL! Kind Regards, Stephanie

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Was the Bettle Nut Tree Mystery your first novel? What was it like writing this piece, if it was your first, and how did you make sure it got noticed by publishers?

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Hi Colby, The Betel Nut Mystery is the second book in my Colonial Crime Series. The first book I ever had published was Miss Moorthy Investigates, which is a comic mystery I wrote for a friend (also a ‘Miss Moorthy’ and also a schoolteacher), in which the protagonist finds the skills she developed to survive as a Singaporean Secondary School teacher carry her through solving crimes. I thoroughly enjoyed writing it, because I could use horror stories she’d passed me about dealing with administration and parents.
    It was picked up by a small press here in Singapore, which went out of business very soon after and I thought that was that. But though out of print, the book remained popular (especially with school teachers!) and passed around. And several years later a literary agency got hold of a copy and approached me and asked if they could buy the regional rights to publish it in India. When I told them I had no idea who owned the rights, because the publisher I had assigned them to was no longer in business, they asked if I would write another book and let them represent me. That book became Aunty Lee’s Delights, which was my first book to be internationally published. They also sorted out the rights to Miss Moorthy Investigates.
    So it looks more like luck than anything else. But looking back, I think what really helped was that I had a ready audience in the school teachers. Having a literary agent opened up doors I didn’t even know existed as an independent author. And my current agent (yes, she who sold that first book!) told me that having a book published—no matter by how small a press or even if self published—gives a potential agent the confidence that you can finish a book length project and lets them see if they can work with your writing style for future projects.
    I hope this helps, Colby. And good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you to you too, Stephanie! All the best with your own mystery and it would be great to meet you one day, especially if I’m queuing up to have you sign my copy of your latest book!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.