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.
You currently live in London. How did being in Malaysia influence your writing?
Nothing is ever wasted – all prior experiences are immensely useful when one is working on a novel. Everything feeds back into one’s writing, often in unexpected ways. It could be random conversations one has overheard, the most obscure things one has seen, heard, felt, smelt, or tasted.
I learnt a lot about family interactions whilst growing up in Malaysia. My parents (who still live in Kuala Lumpur) have been married for thirty-seven years. I have always been fascinated by why couples stay together for so long, what keeps them going. This really helped when I was writing Yesterday, because the book is partly about Mark and Claire Evans’s fractured twenty-year-old marriage which persisted despite the odds. I had to figure out if there was more to Mark and Claire’s devotion than just willing self-sacrifice. Family life in Malaysia gave me ideas for the love story in Yesterday, especially the ways I could describe Mark and Claire’s complex relationship.
I live in London now. It’s a great place for a writer to be. One gets to meet all sorts of people, folks with all sorts of foibles and quirks. One also gets to appreciate how different things drive different people, motivate them in a variety of ways. This is extremely valuable when one is trying to develop characters in novels, because characters should have unique quirks and be driven by something interesting.
Some of my ex-classmates from the Faber Academy still meet in Bloomsbury every week to exchange and discuss drafts. Constructive criticism is definitely the lifeblood of any writing process. I owe a lot to my writing group in London – I would have never written Yesterday if not for their regular, incisive feedback.