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Normanda Whyte writes regular columns for the Malaysian national daily, The Star, the Singapore national daily, The Straits Times, as well as features for numerous magazines including Women’s Weekly and Cleo.  Her work is syndicated globally, and her blog has a regular following.

Blackmail Bride is her eleventh published book, her first ebook venture.  She has high hopes of its success, and is already working on a follow-up story Red Habiscus, a romance story set in Malaysia, and featuring bomohs, Malaysian witchdoctors, and murder.

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PAPER RATS: What’s the name of the street you live on? (Please include a photograph of what it looks like outside your door with your responses. Most of us can’t picture Malaysia, never mind find it on a map.)

Normanda Whyte: I live in Subang Jaya, a suburb of Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia.  This is my street:

RATS: Blackmail Bride is your 12th book (correct?), and your first ebook. Who published your earlier books, and who published Blackmail Bride?

Whyte: 11th book, and first e-book.  14 years ago I wrote some How To computer books for managers that were published by Addison-Wesley Longmans (International) and Pelanduk (a Malaysian company).

In the last year I’ve published Katz Tales with Marshall Cavendish  and Logomania with MPH, a Malaysian publisher and bookshop chain.  Both are compendiums of 2 of my newspaper columns.

Katz Tales is about my cats, Au, Scoop, and Target.  Logomania traces the history of common expressions, and gives pointers on how to use them in everyday conversation.

This year I’m publishing a second Logomania book with MPH as well as Mystery of the Demon Caves, a story for teens, with Horizon, a Singapore publisher.

RATS: Have you noticed a difference in sales since deciding to sell your work in an electronic format?

Whyte: Not yet because it’s only been a few weeks.  However, I have high hopes!

RATS: How long has it been available as an ebook, and is it also available in paperback?

Whyte: Blackmail Bride has been on sale since early December 2010.  It is not available in paperback.

RATS: Ebook sales are staggeringly high in the US. How is the ebook market in Malaysia? Do many people there own e-reading devices?

Whyte: eBooks are not taking off here yet, mostly because readers are not generally available, and are very expensive.  Also, we can’t buy ebooks from Amazon or Barnes & Noble even if we do get friends to send us a Kindle or Nook.   Those companies only sell ebooks to a few countries, and Malaysia is not included.

10% of the sales from Blackmail Bride go to Friends Furry Farm, a no kill animal shelter in Malaysia.

Ink-Slinger, the company publishing Blackmail Bride, sells worldwide and in every format from Kindle to Apple iPad and iPhone, Barnes & Noble Nook and Sony eReader and PDF.   I’m hoping that this flexibility will appeal to everyone, from Americans to Zimbabweans.

RATS: What inspired Blackmail Bride, and who would you say most influences
your fiction writing?

Whyte: I wrote my first romance to amuse a friend, Christine, who was dying from uterine cancer.  I wrote her half a chapter a day, just to make her laugh at what we called My Art.  I’ve moved house about 10 times since then and lost that story.

However, 15 years later I thought it would be fun to try again.  Now I’m hooked!  I just love writing romance.  It’s so soothing – like eating chocolates in the bath.

My favourite romance writers are Georgette Heyer, Daphne Du Maurier, Mary Stewart and Mary Renault.  I know I’m not in their league but I hope to entertain my readers.

RATS: What’s your favorite line from Blackmail Bride, and why is it your
favorite?

Whyte: “The bad thing about being crazy,” she said to Terror who was watching with interest. “Is that you don’t know anymore what’s sane and what isn’t.”

This is from one of Lucy’s conversation with Terror, the Labrador.  I like the way she talks to him because she is so natural and unconstrained.  I find talking to pets wonderfully therapeutic too, so in this way Lucy is very much like me.

RATS: What’s the one thing you believe readers will appreciate most about
Blackmail Bride?

Whyte: It is upbeat and it has a happy ending!

RATS: Did you base the male character, Jack, off of anyone you know? (If
not, how did you shape him?)

Whyte: All the characters are entirely fictional.  When I started Blackmail Bride I wanted a heroine who gets herself out of a typical domestic abuse situation.  As soon as I got the first words down, Lucy and the other characters just came to life and ran away with the plot.  Really, the story wrote itself.

RATS: Who has been abusing Lucy so mercilessly that she has to have a
protector to save herself?

Whyte: Her former husband, Malcolm.  I won’t spoil the story for you, but all the events that pushed Lucy into this situation have happened in real life – to people I know!  Not to me, so please don’t think this is in any way autobiographical.

RATS: What’s your favorite of Lucy’s traits?

Whyte: Her resilience.  Lucy keeps her inner strength no matter what happens to her.

RATS: What’s been the response to Blackmail Bride in Malaysia?

Whyte: It’s early days yet but my first feedback came from my friend Cathy who said, “You didn’t base those sex scenes on personal experience, did you?  Please tell me no!  I can’t look you or your husband in the face ever again if you say yes!”

As she said this really loudly in the local pub at Happy Hour, it got Blackmail Bride instant attention!

RATS: Where is the story set?

Whyte: Scotland.  Although I changed the names, I visualised Loch Lomand, one of my favourite places, as I wrote it.

RATS: Do the characters or their experiences offer readers insight into a
different/unique culture/point of view, or is it more universal?

Whyte: Lucy’s situation is a classic case of spousal abuse.  Her experience is pretty much the same as it might be in Spain or Malaysia so I’d say it’s universal.

BUT: the next book, Black Magic and Mayhem at the Red Hibiscus is set in Sarawak, Borneo so that one will have the unique cultural input!

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More about the author:

Normanda Whyte was born in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.  Since then she’s lived in Scotland, Spain, Indonesia and Malaysia.  She read psychology at Stirling University but that hasn’t helped her gain the upper hand in her dealings with her cat companions, Au and Target.  She began writing fulltime about 14 years ago when her husband got a job in Sarawak.  She considers herself extremely lucky to be able to make a career out of a hobby.  Blackmail Bride is her 11th book and her first romance.

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2 thoughts on “Interview with author Normanda Whyte

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