Janelle Soong is amazingly witty, remarkably frank, and most of all, completely resolute. Discoursing with her is not just a wonderfully fine experience but also a highly rejuvenating one. Her sentences are well articulated, and she hopes to dwell in a world that’s devoid of racism, homophobia, and discrimination of any kind. Besides writing, which she is very passionate about, Ms Soong loves to bake, run, and listen to music. And she can’t go without breakfast! In an exclusive interaction with B Sudharsan, the twenty-three-year-old author, nay twenty-three-year-young author of the book ‘Let Sleeping Pharmacists Lie’ talks about everything under the sun – from her routine to her blog to the United Kingdom, which, by the way, is the country she has lived in all her life. But most importantly, Ms Soong, who has a First Class Honours degree in Pharmacy (MPharm) from King’s College London, gives me an insight about her debut book, which was written during the lockdown, and says why budding authors should not be cowed down if they face rejection or if their works get broadsided. Excerpts from the edited interview:
B Sudharsan: Hello, Ms Soong. Let’s start with the basics, you see. Writing, as we know, is a task, and it takes immense patience and perseverance to come up with a book of the kind you have come up with. Could you please begin by telling me how ‘Let Sleeping Pharmacists Lie’ happened?
Janelle Soong: Quite frankly, I had just finished university exams, and I wanted a creative project to get my teeth into over the summer. Due to the country being under lockdown and current circumstances, I found myself with a lot of time on my hands. I had always wanted to do something to elevate the profile of pharmacists and the pharmacy field in the media, as it can be an area where societal perceptions don’t do the profession justice.
B Sudharsan: And ‘Let Sleeping Pharmacists Lie’ began to take shape if I am not mistaken. I don’t think I would be wrong if I said the lockdown worked in your favour. And to add to that, this book, I surmise, assumes special significance given the current state of affairs. What’s it about though?
Janelle Soong: This book is me doing my bit for the pharmacy profession. I believe the world needs to know what pharmacists are truly capable of before we are able to change these perceptions. I hope ‘Let Sleeping Pharmacists Lie’ is a step in the right direction. To put it simply, it is a collection of funny and personal anecdotes from my time at Pharmacy school, as well as some thoughts on the healthcare sector. I hope it gives my readers a good giggle, allowing them to reflect a little afterwards.
B Sudharsan: That’s what we need now, don’t we? A good giggle! (giggles) By the way, I see you are very young. Have you been writing since your schooldays?
Janelle Soong: Writing has always been my passion, and I have been writing for as long as I can remember – not long after I learnt to walk if you ask my parents. I used to submit short stories, poems, and art to a children’s column in a newspaper, so writing has always been very much part of my life. This passion for stringing words together to make something out of nothing followed me into my teenage years, where I discovered my love of English literature. I eventually started my blog (https://thenellybean.com) two years ago. This is a platform that allows me to indulge myself in writing more humorous, opinionated pieces that I wouldn’t otherwise get to write. I guess you could say that ‘Let Sleeping Pharmacists Lie’ is the culmination of that – at least for now.
B Sudharsan: Could you tell me about a few authors who have inspired you to write?
Janelle Soong: Adam Kay was a huge source of inspiration for ‘Let Sleeping Pharmacists Lie’. His tone really resonates with me, and I thoroughly enjoy his work. I recently read ‘The Hatch’ by Michelle Saftich – I had never heard of her before, and I don’t typically tend to choose sci-fi, so that was certainly a pleasant surprise, and I look forward to her next work.
B Sudharsan: This brings me to my next question. Did you consciously decide to become an author?
Janelle Soong: I guess you could say it was conscious in the sense that I chose to self-publish ‘Let Sleeping Pharmacists Lie’, that is, dive headfirst into the Amazon KDP jungle. I had attempted to write several books prior to this, but none of them ever made it to publication. Probably for the best – one of them was about two earthworms named Erin and Ernie discovering the world beyond their home and befriending a human child. Good lord!
B Sudharsan: Well, that makes me giggle again! (giggles) Moving on, how do you juggle between writing and other tasks? And what do you like doing besides writing?
Janelle Soong: I believe in the importance of making time for the things that make you happy, so I always plan writing time into my schedule. Besides writing, I enjoy baking, running, listening to music and the odd spot of art here and there.
B Sudharsan: Quite interesting, I must say. Anyway, I see you have lived in the United Kingdom all throughout your life. If you were asked to describe the UK in three words or phrases, what would they be?
Janelle Soong: Land of fish and chips, alcoholism, and bad teeth!
B Sudharsan: That was quick! And apologies for getting off track! Let me now ask you a few questions that have to do with writing and, obviously, you. When do you generally write? Are you bound by a schedule, or do you pen down your thoughts when you feel the urge?
Janelle Soong: I don’t tend to set myself a schedule, but I aim to write as regularly as I can. I typically publish one blog post a week, so this keeps me writing fairly often. When I wrote ‘Let Sleeping Pharmacists Lie’, I found myself spending most of every day writing – I finished the first draft in close to two weeks. I just had a lot to say, as it is based on a subject very close to my heart and a lot of the material is very personal. As is the norm with any creative endeavour, sometimes you find yourself overflowing with creative juices and the material just writes itself – and sometimes the desert seems to go on forever.
B Sudharsan: Sounds fascinating, to say the least. Nonetheless, are you working on any other books? And do you plan on becoming a full-fledged author?
Janelle Soong: I am not currently working on any other books – at least not yet! Though I always have a blog post in the works and I churn those out on a weekly basis. I am not sure whether the fully-fledged author lifestyle is for me yet, so I am taking each day as it comes.
B Sudharsan: That was pretty straightforward. But as you know, many budding authors lose motivation if a few of their works don’t do well. What would you like to tell them?
Janelle Soong: I think rejection is a huge part of any creative industry, and competition will always be fierce. If you have a passion for something, go for it with every fibre of your being. Rejection doesn’t define you, the way you react to it does. Get up and get writing again. Life is too short for moping.
B Sudharsan: I agree with you on that. Given that you have a strong voice and a very charming personality, readers might just want to know what a normal day in your life looks like.
Janelle Soong: I tend to get up around eight in the morning, mostly because I’m hungry – breakfast is something I can’t go without. I’ll typically spend the day doing some writing or working on an online learning course of some kind. I love going on walks, so I’ll make some time to do that in the late afternoon. It’s also a great excuse to meet up with a friend. Occasionally, I’ll go for a run too – mostly to justify the chocolate I’ll be craving after dinner that evening. Of course, my schedule is about to go through a complete overhaul when I start full-time work in a month or so.
B Sudharsan: You’ve been very patient in responding to my questions. But here’s my last question, which happens to be one of my favourites. If there’s one thing that you would like to change in the world, what would that be?
Janelle Soong: I would love to put an end to all racism, homophobia, and discrimination of any kind. There is no place for it in modern society, and it’s about time we learned to be kinder to one another.
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