The denizens who inhabit Dark City, the first collection of stories by local author Xeus, are stabbed, raped, buried alive in coffins and mysteriously disappear. These are undoubtedly “twisted Malaysian tales”, as the suitably lurid cover pronounces, set in a nameless, Asian city that reads a lot like ours.
Xeus’s debut effort has proven a hit among lovers of psychological thrillers. The book has sold close to a whopping 2,000 copies in a mere three months, which by local standards, is sensational. And by a newcomer to boot, who took the plunge into the publishing industry after 11 years of freelance writing for newspapers and magazines.
I didn’t know anything about the publishing world. The agent was recommended to me by a friend, and almost immediately, four publishers wanted to publish Dark City,” she explains.
Not surprisingly, she professes a fondness for the macabre. “I read everything, even chick lit. But I’ve always gravitated towards writing about the strange and disturbing things that go bonk in our world,” says the mysterious author, who assumed her nom de plume to keep her full-time career outside the publishing world separate from her fiction pursuits.
She can now also add “banned author” to her CV. The Singaporean National Library refused to stock the book due to its explicit content. “It was too sexual for them! We pointed out that they stock many Western books with exactly the same content, but apparently, they won’t do the same for Asian books,” she explains. The book, however, is available for sale at bookstores.
That touch of notoriety should only help spur sales. The book is heading towards a second printing, with a Malay translation currently in the works which will mark her entry into that lucrative market. In the meantime, she’s already working on her follow-up, a children’s book. Kids, beware!