Storytelling in the Bush – interview with Adeline Loh (5 March 2009)

Introduction

When Tan May Lee asked me if I would be willing to interview Adeline Loh, I had just finished reading an interview published in the local newspaper about Adeline. I was more than happy to do this interview and I’m glad I made the effort. I’m sure you’ll agree with me that Adeline is very funny as you read her story. Without further ado, I have great pleasure in introducing you to Adeline Loh …


Aneeta: Adeline, thank you for agreeing to this interview.

Adeline: Thank you for your interest in my book, Aneeta. I’m delighted to participate in this interview.

Aneeta: Let’s start with something about you. Where were you born, where did you grow up, what do you do for a living and where do you live now?

Adeline: I was born and bred in Kuala Lumpur. I was the former magazine editor of etc, Juice, The Professional and Architecture Malaysia. Currently I’m doing some freelance writing with some sporadic travelling in between. I’m now in Kuala Lumpur until my next radical endeavour takes off.

Aneeta: I understand from an interview you gave that before that wonderful adventure (which we will come to in a while) you had, you found your job mundane. What did you do that had become so mundane?

Adeline: Like I mentioned above, I was a full-time magazine editor. I can almost hear people ask, “But how can that be mundane?” Well, if you strip away the perks and perceived glamour of the job, what you are basically left with is no different from any other: endless maddening deadlines, ridiculously long hours and no personal time. After coming home at 11pm almost every night, I started to realize how absurd my life had become. I was experiencing burnout and knew I had to do something radical fast. So I quit my job without hesitation and ran away to Zambia.

Aneeta: When I read that interview, the sentence which stands out is this: The worst thing is the fear and doubt that creeps in after you’re all packed and ready to go. My question, therefore, is this: how did you deal with the fear?

Adeline: Distract yourself with happy thoughts. There really is no way to get rid of the fear. But then again, I haven’t read too many self-help books.

Aneeta: O.K.. Let’s talk about the big adventure. Tell me all about it, please.

Adeline: The big adventure! Yes, so after I ceremoniously resigned from my respectable job, I dragged my paranoid vegetarian companion Chan along with me to lion-infested Zambia in southern Africa. I picked Zambia because it seemed like a totally alien environment to be in. Perfect for a quasi-gruelling, character-building adventure, I thought.

Upon arrival in Zambia, I soon realized that nothing from the Animal Planet documentaries had prepared us for survival in the savannah. With hippos and buffaloes conspiring to kill us, we rattled along crater-pocked tracks, canoed through crocodile-filled Zambezi River, flew over panties-soaking Victoria Falls, stalked incestuous rhinos and peed amid deflowering shrubbery.

Aneeta: I understand that you’ve got this wonderful book out, Peeing in the Bush. And, it’s published by MPH. Well, do describe it for me, please.

AdelinePeeing in the Bush is a funny, offbeat and engaging account of my big Zambian adventure. I think readers will find it quite refreshing to read a travel narrative that is written from a uniquely Asian perspective, as opposed to the barrage of books out there by Western writers.

Aneeta: Did you have any problems writing/publishing this story. If so, how did you overcome it?

Adeline: Most of the problems I encountered had to do with myself. I was a deadline-oriented person in publishing. I thrived on set deadlines to finish a good piece of writing. With a book, there was nobody to set deadlines for me. I could work on the book forever if I wanted. And so I became an extreme perfectionist because I was never happy with what I wrote. Every time I read it, I would want to make it better and better, until rewriting became a never-ending task. It wasn’t until two and a half years had passed that I finally put a stop to myself and sent the manuscript out to publishers to see if they liked it. From then on, it was smooth sailing. I had no problems getting it published as the first publisher I sent it to accepted it!

Aneeta: As you know, this website caters for storytellers. What advice would you give those who would like to venture into storytelling?

Adeline: Get out, smell the fresh air and find inspiration from things around you. You can’t tell a good story if you don’t live life. Don’t expect to become a good writer just by reading 10,000 books a month.

Aneeta: Adeline, this is all I have to ask. Is there anything you’d like to add?

Adeline: Yes, I strongly prescribe Peeing in the Bush for those who are lonely and depressed because they will laugh their heads off and forget all their problems. It provides quicker relief than calling the Befrienders. The book is also a fantastic reference for those who have always longed to travel to an exotic destination.

Aneeta: Adeline, thank you.

Adeline: Thank you for the interview, Aneeta.


This piece may NOT be freely reprinted. Please contact editor @ howtotellagreatstory.com for reprint rights.

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