Christina The, best-selling author and soprano, wants us to see the humour in dark times
From Facebook posts to a novel that’s going to be adapted for the small screen, she shares about her book writing experience.
by RACHEL TAN /
November 30, 2021
Against the backdrop of a pandemic that has rocked our world, we turn to each others’ stories to seek comfort in humour and empathy.
The Peak speaks to award-winning soprano and bestselling author Christina The about her recently published Diary of a Former Covidiot: Tales of Panic Buying, Surviving and Finding Humour During the Coronavirus Pandemic and the plans to turn it into a TV series.
How did you find your way to Singapore? I come from an Indonesian- Chinese family with a history of entrepreneurship. We have a packaging, manufacturing and distributorship business in Indonesia and other investments. My immediate family moved to Singapore during the Indonesian political unrest in 1998 and have been here ever since. I often joke that I was a “refugee” back then.
Besides working in my family’s business, I am also an opera soprano in Singapore’s classical scene. My next step involves getting into films.
I am also a mother of two children, aged 11 and 8, and a divorcee who’s about to remarry. You know what they say, life begins at 40. I am at peace with looking presentable at my age, and I hope this inspires other women in similar circumstances because your life does not have to end after a bitter experience (divorce); there is hope and happiness yet. I am just a normal person and if I can have a full life of quality and experiences, so can anyone.
Moving from finance to singing, and now book writing, there have been so many seasons in your life. What inspired you? I have always had a soft spot for writing. In the past, I would write manuscripts. During the pandemic, performing arts were seen as non-essential. Many artists had no work. We have to adapt, reinvent and have a backup plan. As they say, the species that adapts survives.
What inspired Diary of a Former Covidiot? It is a collection of short stories inspired by true tales of herd mentality, panic buying, irrational behaviour, and adapting to unusual challenges during a pandemic. It is an observational fiction set in the Singapore context. These are our stories. Looking from the outside in, everyone can resonate with them. They are everyone’s modern problems.
The stories originated as Facebook posts I wanted to write to cheer up my friends. Covid was so depressing for everyone. I wanted to counter this negativity via social media. Inspiration led me to develop these short stories and submit them to the publisher. I successfully received the contract, and that’s how I started working on it.
Does your musical background help in your writing? Yes! These are all different mediums of storytelling. We are all storytellers. A book is the printed form while movies are the audiovisual form.
What were your highest and lowest points while writing the book? The highest point was being able to publish a book during this difficult period. Researching and writing a story while we were in a lockdown was a life-changing experience. At the same time, I was still singing and helping the kids with home-based learning for the first time. That was most challenging for them because of their young ages. I had to teach them everything, and help them with technical issues. I also had my day job in investment. The toughest part would have to be going through two months of sleeping at 3am and waking up at 8am every day to juggle all three jobs together.
It must have been hard to juggle so many things. Those with children would understand. I had to be strategic about time. I only have an estimated number of hours in the week. I also had to deal with an acrimonious divorce – but that’s material for yet another book or a screenplay.
Who were the biggest inspirations in your writing journey? My current partner, children, parents, friends and my very accomplished helper. No single mother could have done this alone. Hour by hour, week by week, I set out time to deal with specific goals. Time management books helped me to be more productive. Domestic tasks involved outsourcing and division of labour. Domestic helpers are also career women. They work hard and get paid to improve the lives of their family and others back home.
What are the plans for converting Diary of a Former Covidiot into a TV series? For this project, we are collaborating with Ng Swee San, president of the Screenwriting Association (Singapore), and I am working with my long-time friend and business partner Ben Chan, an American executive producer. There will potentially be three seasons. We have the deck and all the story developments for the TV miniseries, and are currently in talks with several production houses. The series is copyright protected and registered with the Writers Guild of America and the US Copyright Office.
What do you want the audience to take away from the book and the series? The theme is finding humour and humanity in these times. We are all part of modern history in the making. It’s a positive message to remind ourselves of our human qualities. We are resilient, resourceful, complex, and comical. We all need to have this ability to laugh at ourselves. While the predicament remains the same, we can choose to cry over it, be fearful, or look at it from a humorous point of view. Why? Because we need to keep going.