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5 Creative Questions with… Grace Chan

Grace Chan is a speculative fiction writer, a Malaysian-born Melburnian, a psychiatrist and in possession of an admirable array of accolades (Stella longlisted, Aurealis winner and much more). We began to chat when mutually congratulating each other, having each found ourselves on the 2023 Australasian Shadows Awards shortlist - her for non-fiction, me for long fiction. Grace got the nod for 'Holy Revelations' (in Unquiet Spirits: Essays by Asian Women in Horror, published by Black Spot Books). "It hits a little different for a non-fiction piece," she told me.

Grace's debut novel, Every Version of You, has an extremely solid 4.15 on Goodreads, has been optioned for film adaptation, and reveals her impeccable taste in media, given that its flavours combine Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, Black Mirror and Murakami.

Grace Chan. Image: supplied

Grace Chan is the 29th in my series of creatives to take five questions.

When my creative process is stuck, I reach for... flow. I won't lie, much of the creative life is tedious: multiple editing passes of the same manuscript, managing emails, checking contracts. And grit doing the hard yards comes more naturally to me than letting go. But lately I've been trying to cultivate more freedom in my creative practice. Trying to find flow a state of relaxed focus, where time and self disappears is one way of doing so. Sometimes that means doing something that's not writing for a while, before coming back to the work. Sometimes that means accepting all the imperfections in my work, too.

The weirdest thing about being a creative human is... how you can find a story in anything, no matter how mundane or tiny. When I was younger, I had a blog called "Everything's Magic," and I think that phrase captures the simplicity and wonder of creativity for me. It works both ways, though. You see the potential for delight and fascination but also for horror in the everyday. All of it makes art.

The most unusual object in my house is... this remarkably anatomically accurate human skull ashtray that my husband thinks he got from Thailand, which I pinched from him and now use as a bookshelf divider, and also as a vessel for the dried petals from our engagement bouquet.

I celebrate my achievements by... shouting, doing a little dance, and giving my imposter syndrome a good bop on the head! Honestly, though, this is a great reminder to mark my achievements in a more meaningful way. Writing is solitary, the journey is non-linear, and the goalposts are arbitrary or even non-existent. It can be easy to get lost in a fog of feeling like nothing's happening. So, I try to enjoy my achievements while not staking my self-worth as a writer in them.

Something in the world that already exists that I wish I had created is... In another life, I wish I could've been involved in designing a spacecraft. I would love to have such specialised expertise and a long-term project to focus on and, of course, to send my creation into space!

Find out more about Grace Chan here: Grace Chan – speculative fiction writer ( Grace's debut novel, Every Version of You, is out now (Affirm Press).

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