Is it possible that a world can be divided by memory retention instead of race, wealth, or religion? Felicia Yap tells the story of a psychological thriller in Yesterday, centered around murder and a society where there are only two classes – Monos, those who can remember events from the past 24 hours; and Duos, those who retain up to 48 hours of memory. We speak to the Malaysian born author about her debut novel.
What were the challenges you faced when writing Yesterday?
I struggled to think on some days. I would call it thinker’s block (and not writer’s block). Ideas would fail to form; my brain would feel like mush. When one is writing a high-concept thriller (which tends to require a steady stream of working ideas), this can be pretty frustrating. I remember bursting into tears at my writing table on more than one occasion.
Thankfully, I discovered that ideas come to me on the move. I also realised that changes of scene and new environments help spark possibilities in my head. Inspiration, I’m now convinced, is an alchemic response to the unexpected and unfamiliar.
I began writing Yesterday on planes, trains and even buses. I also began writing in cafes, airports, railway stations and parks. I once climbed up a tree in Greenwich Park with my laptop and a mug of coffee – I unfortunately dropped the coffee. These days, I only write at my table at home when it’s freezing or raining outside, or if there’s an interesting ship moored opposite (my apartment in London overlooks Greenwich Pier).
I also struggled to write my detective Hans Richardson at first. This is because I do not naturally think like a male police detective in his early forties. I worked really hard on Hans’s voice and he paradoxically became the easiest character to write in the end. Maybe it’s because the things we have to work hardest at often become the easiest.