Video transcript
NSW Premier's Reading Challenge 2022 - SWF author interview (primary) - 03. Remy Lai

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[intro music]

CATHERINE: Hi, my name is Catherine Sugiharto, and I'm from Chatswood Public School. Today, we are on Cammeraygal land at The Concourse for the Sydney Writers' Festival. I am joined by the remarkable Remy Lai, author and illustrator of award-winning book 'Fly on the Wall'. So, when did you realise you wanted to be an author and why?

REMY LAI: I think I've always really loved drawing and writing when I was a kid. But I didn't know I wanted to become an author and illustrator until I was in university because when I was in school, I didn't have authors or illustrators come to my school to talk. So, I just didn't think that it was a real job because I never met one in person. So, it was only in university when I had to think really hard about what I wanted to do as a job every day. So, then I think about, 'OK, what do I like to do?' And that's writing and drawing. So, that's when I decided I wanted to become one.

CATHERINE: OK. If you weren't an author or illustrator, what would you be?

REMY LAI: That is a hard one. So, I would say I have worked as a cashier and I worked as a dog groomer. But when I was working those jobs, I was always writing and reading when I'm not working. So, I was always working toward becoming an author and illustrator. So, that's a very hard question for me to answer. But if I could do anything in the world, maybe I'd want to be a dolphin trainer. That sounds really fun.

CATHERINE: Do any of your books include your past experience? If so, what?

REMY LAI: Yes. So, 'Pie in the Sky'-- I think most of them would have included some things from my own childhood. But for example, 'Pie in the Sky' is about the 2 brothers who moved to Australia, but they can't speak English. And so that was from my own experience because I learned English when I was about 9 when I moved from Indonesia to Singapore. And then so some of-- and the 2 brothers, they're always fighting. And that's what I did, too, with my siblings when I was a kid, yeah.

CATHERINE: Where do you get your inspiration from, though? Like, 'Pawcasso'.

REMY LAI: For 'Pawcasso'? So, for 'Pawcasso', this dog looks exactly like my dog. So, I was inspired by my dog and his ways. So, in the book, this dog likes to roll in poop. And so, that's what my dog loves to do, also. But in this book, the dog goes shopping, but my dog can't do that. No, he would just eat all the food.

CATHERINE: What was your childhood favourite book when you were little?

REMY LAI: There's a very hard question. I love-- it's hard to pick one favourite, but I would say I read a lot of comic books when I was a kid. So, I read 'Calvin and Hobbes'.

CATHERINE: Definitely.

REMY LAI: Yeah. 'Tintin', and then I guess for prose books, I would say-- or illustrator books, I would say Roald Dahl's books. So, I love his books, yeah.

CATHERINE: Do you look up to any author or illustrator?

REMY LAI: Yeah, of course. So, there are many authors and illustrators that I really like. And sometimes, when I read a book, it's so good that I just want to throw it. Like, this is so good, I can't do this, I just went, like-- But then later on, when I calm down, it would inspire me to work on my writing and drawing more, work harder on it so that I could become a better author and illustrator, yeah.

CATHERINE: So, what is your process when you write a book?

REMY LAI: Process. It's a lot of sitting around doing nothing. I would say it's something like-- what is it called? I don't have the word now, but you're just sitting around, and then you're trying to let all the ideas play in your head.

CATHERINE: Brainstorm?

REMY LAI: Yeah, brainstorm, sort of like that. Yeah, brainstorm. But it really looks like you're doing nothing because you're just sitting there. But your mind is working really hard. So, I would start with that. And then once I find an idea that I really like, that's when I think, OK, maybe I can have a story, I can get a story out of that. So, that's when I start writing, maybe, like a summary of the whole story, yeah.

CATHERINE: What type of genre do you like to read?

REMY LAI: I like realistic books, but I also really like fantasy books. But I tend to like the easier fantasy, like--

CATHERINE: So, not portals, time dimensions?

REMY LAI: Portals is OK. Maybe like high fantasy where they don't have-- it's not based in our world. So, yeah, that's hard for me. Sometimes it gets very complicated and I can't follow it, yeah.

CATHERINE: What do you think makes a good story?

REMY LAI: If only I knew the magic formula. I think what-- I want to say that what is a good story for one reader might not be a good story for another reader. So, I can only-- when I'm writing, I can only try to think about what makes a good story for me, and then I hope that that's also a good story for some other readers.

And so for me, I like to think about stories as being honest, I want to say, especially in feelings. So, I want to tell you that-- I want to tell the readers the truth about what I feel and what I think. So, maybe that's that, yeah.

CATHERINE: What advice would you give to kids who want to be an author or illustrator?

REMY LAI: My advice would be to have fun. So, it sounds weird, but especially for kids who already know that they want to become an author and illustrator, sometimes, when they don't reach their goal quickly enough, then they get really frustrated and then they start hating what they're writing or drawing. Yeah, yeah. So, then, yeah, it's really important to then kind of step back a little bit and think about why you love writing and drawing in the first place. So, yeah, so have fun.

CATHERINE: And what book are you writing next?

REMY LAI: So, I just finished work on a graphic novel that's coming out next year. It's called 'Ghost Book'. It's actually a fantasy, but it's not high fantasy. It's contemporary fantasy. So, it has got ghosts in it, so it's a little bit scary. So, I'm really excited about that one.

CATHERINE: OK. Thank you for having your time. I hope you have a good time writing your new book.

REMY LAI: Thanks so much, Catherine. Thank you.

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