Riding upon the blood soaked success of Dark City, Xeus, our Malaysian femme fatale, has just released Dark City 2 – a collection of ‘twisted’ stories, this time by guest authors including myself, Lydia Teh, John Ling, Bissme S, Jennifer Wan, Chua Kok Yee and a host of others.

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I thought it’s an apt time for us to now delve into Xeus’s brain, to see how it ticks and what worms we might uncover!

Here’s the interview…

When did you first start writing short stories?

In 2005 actually, when I wrote Dark City. Previously, I had only written non-fiction articles for newspapers and magazines. I decided to try my hand at a new genre.

How long did it take you to write Dark City?

Surprisingly fast. 2 months for the first draft and 2 more months to rewrite it. I did 11 rewrites, each progressively faster than the previous one.

Is there any particular reason why you’ve chosen to write in this genre?

None other than the fact it’s quicker to finish a short story than a complete novel. I’m still in the second rewrite of a children’s book I completed and it has taken me a year and a half! Short stories are so rewarding in that you can finish each one and feel a profound sense of accomplishment.

Is it hard coming up with a twist for each story?

Not that difficult once I got the hang of it. I studied short stories extensively before I started out — the literary ones from Fitzgerald and Faulkner, the tongue-in-cheek ones from Roald Dahl and Jeffrey Archer. Then I would write a brief treatment for each idea, something that would go: “Girl works for a bar. TV is on. Newflash about a serial killer on the prowl. Girl walks home and is stalked by a serial rapist/killer. Write in POV of girl as a victim. REVEAL: Girl is actually the serial killer.”

I filed a lot of ‘treatments’ this way, and as I wrote, I kept getting more ideas for stories.

What advise have you for budding writers?

Read as much as you can. Learn from the writers you like. But there’s a difference between reading for pleasure and reading as a writer. When you read as a professional writer, you’re consciously looking out for plot points, twists, the way a certain sentence is phrased. For example, Jeffrey Deaver goes for the classic ‘misdirect’ in his short stories. However, Stephen King writes his short stories straight – there’s usually no twist in them. Jeffrey Archer condenses character backstory extremely well.

I would also advise a budding writer to watch as many movies and TV shows as possible, because they’re also all about storytelling. For sheer audacity of plotting, twists, classic ‘misdirect’ and cliffhanger writing, every writer must watch ‘Prison Break’. And more importantly, learn from it.

And there you have it. I’m sure there’s more to uncover. But for the moment you can visit Xeus’s blog to find out more about the author, her writing and her dark tales!

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