“On Fridays: The Story Behind the Story” sending the Story Behind the Story blog series international with its first literary magazine connection. “On Fridays” has now been published 13 times!
Amazingly this is the 78th publication of one the *17 stories in Lovers and Strangers Revisited. Recently I reconciled all of my short story publications, discarding those that were previously accepted but never published (I had several from LSR, including “Mat Salleh” in the US, a big disappointment). I thought the LSR number was somewhere in the mid-to-high 60’s, maybe higher since I added in those last two stories for the MPH collection, but then I had overlooked “The Stare” which I had added to the Silverfish version (replacing “Moments”), so those three stories added 9 more LSR sales. I cross-checked the total with a separate year-by-year LSR sales and sales of each individual story to make sure they tally. It’s official, 78!
The biggest year for Lovers and Strangers Revisited was 1992 when I had 18 sales followed by 1991, with 11. The years 1988-1993, prior to the publication of the first collection by Heinemann Asia, I had 48 sales, a pretty strong testimony, especially in light of so many collections being pushed out the door or even self-published by teens without any prior publishing track record. Beginning with the year 1986 when I had my first three sales (“Mat Salleh”, twice, and “The Stare”), a story from Lovers and Strangers Revisited has been accepted for publication at least once every year—except 1998, 2000 and 2002—for the past 25 years! And Hong Kong is the 11th country where a story from Lovers and Strangers Revisited has been published.
The only story from the collection that has not been published remains “The Watcher” though it came awfully close in the US, when another story of mine from the collection beat it out for a place in Thema. “Moments”, which I had dropped, was published once in Malaysia.
Important milestones for the collection, after its initial publication in 1993 in Singapore, was in 2005 when a professor at Universiti Sains Malaysia contacted me about including the collection in his course on postcolonial writing from Malaysia and Singapore, which prompted me to contact Silverfish and they agreed to republish the stories after I insisted on revisiting them. In 2006, “Neighbours” was selected for SPM literature (and taught in UKM, where they set up a discussion forum for the story on the MELTA website), introducing the story (and hopefully the collection) to countless teachers and students. The first story from the collection to be taught (as far as I know) was “Teh-O in KL” from the original collection in a high school in Canada.
2008 was also important when I switched to MPH to make the books available in Sarawak where I now live (which prompted several more rounds of editing, an addition of two stories, and a really cool cover!). In 2009, Lovers and Strangers Revisited won the 2009 Popular-The Star Reader’s Choice Award in fiction, validation and testimony to the longevity of these stories that I first began to write in the mid-80’s—now being taught in universities and private colleges throughout Malaysia.
Here’s the publication breakdown by story with a link to each The Story Behind the Story (except for “Moments” which was dropped for the revisited collection).
13 – On Fridays
8 – Neighbors/Aftermath
7 – Teh-O in KL
7 – Sister’s Room
7 – The Future Barrister
5 – Dark Blue Thread/The Watermark
5 – Waiting
4 – The Station Hotel/Joking
4 – Smooth Stones
4 – Symmetry
4 – *The Stare (added to Silverfish version, replacing “Moments”)
3 – Only in Malaysia (added to MPH version)
2 – Mat Salleh
2 – Transactions in Thai (added to MPH version)
1 – Lovers and Strangers
1 – Home for Hari Raya
0 – Watcher
1 – Moments (dropped after original Lovers and Strangers collection)
In addition to these 17 stories, I have also published 13 other short stories 22 times (most are set in Malaysia) including “The Merdeka Miracle” that I wrote with Lydia Teh and Tunku Halim.
* Update, the 20th anniversary of Lovers and Strangers Revisited
***Here's the link to my website, to MPH online for orders for all three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie.