IFOA: Who was the inspiration for Aunty Lee?
Ovidia Yu: The “originals” of Aunty Lee are an aunt and a good friend of my mother’s, and I’ll explain in a moment why I won’t say more. They’re both lovely, lively, large ladies who are great cooks and love feeding people with food and advice. They’re also among the many who have told me they Know who I based Aunty Lee on (and it wasn’t themselves!) but that her recipes aren’t as good as their own… a total Aunty Lee trait!
IFOA: Do you have a favourite mystery writer?
Yu: One of my all time most favourite writers on the page and in person is Louise Penny, and her being Canadian and writing about Three Pines is one of the reasons I’m so excited about the IFOA and visiting Canada.
IFOA: What time of day do you get the most writing done?
Yu: I generally start in the morning (alarm goes off at 7am) and write in 25-minute pomodoros (interspersed with dog walks, meals and laundry) and go on until I’ve done 8 pomos/reached 1500 words/it’s 5pm. Then again, I find it’s when I’m lying in bed about to drift off to sleep with the dogs finally settled in to their satisfaction that I suddenly see how I can tie up things I’ve been struggling with. So the note pad by the bed may be where the “real” writing knots get unraveled.
IFOA: Why do you think readers are so fascinated with sleuths and their unraveling of mysteries?
Yu: I think it’s because it gives us a chance to see what we would do in extreme circumstances. And the mystery story structure often presents us with someone trying to make sense of a mass of confusing and conflicting circumstances—which we’ve all encountered at a more mundane level in our lives—and we enjoy the challenge of working things through and the thrill of (safely) experiencing threat and danger and the happy dopamine release of a good ending.
IFOA: What is next for Aunty Lee?
Yu: I’m afraid poor Aunty Lee may find herself in hospital for a while. My father is in hospital at the moment so I’m learning more than I’ve ever needed to know about hospital food and I suspect Aunty Lee will have her own views on the subject!
Ovidia Yu is the author of the Singapore Mystery novels, an award-winning short-story writer and a playwright with over 30 plays performed. She is the recipient of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Singapore Foundation Culture Award, the National Arts Council Young Artist Award and the Singapore Youth Award. She presents the second book in her Singapore Mystery series, Aunty Lee’s Deadly Specials, in which her feisty titular character returns to solve another delectable mystery involving scandal and murder among the city’s elite.