The girl behind “Don’t Offend a Girl in Love”

Whispers in the Shadows

was published on October 13, 2017.

It’s a Friday. Mwahahaha.

Listen to the interview here:

Questions about the anthology:

Please tell us about your story.

A math boy nerd is attacked by a fellow girl nerd. So how can nerds attack each other when all they do is sit in front of the computer?

5… 4… 3… 2… 1.

You nailed it. Cyberwarfare.

Where did you get your inspiration?

I’ve been studying computer subjects since I was in high school, and I’ve professed an interest in cybersecurity, in particular cryptography, the technology of concealing confidential information. Cybersecurity is one of those intriguing disciplines that combines the sciences and the humanities, in that it’s engineering with ethical implications. (Another is economics, a subject I touch on briefly in my story. Why? That’s a brain teaser for you.) Recently, ransomware, such as WannaCry and Petya, has also plagued computers around the globe, so cybersecurity is definitely a topic worth writing about.

What was your biggest challenge in writing this story?

One of the frightening parts of a cybersecurity attack is the criminal mind behind the problem. To produce a convincing yet sympathetic villain, I needed to get in the head of one and explore the ideas that could drive him or her. In other words, I had to go where angels fear to tread. Does that make me a fool? Or someone much more?

Here are a few famous videos to listen to while you ponder.

The scariest experience was asking the Hong Kong Police for their input on how they would handle the cases involved in my story and their outcomes. I know thriller and mystery authors do that, but I didn’t know what their experience was like, and it was the first time I was doing so. What if they deem me a waste of their time, and give me a hard time for that?

Yet it turns out that they were helpful and willing to answer my questions. The senior officer who showed me the right department to contact even asked, “You’re writing a story in English [for a global audience]?” To which I answered, “Yes!”

What is your experience with the horror genre?

I didn’t know I read horror—I read across multiple genres. But horror-wise, I remember Coraline by Neil Gaiman best.

While I was doing my research on how to write horror and writing my story, I got a teaching job. My boss’s seven-year-old daughter, who’s one of my students, loves horror and even lent me a copy of R. L. Stine’s The Haunted Mask. Although she’s talking middle grade horror here and I’m writing young adult horror, I’ve promised her that if she gets full marks in her next batch of assignments, I’ll teach her to write the scariest, grisliest, grossest and most sinister middle grade horror story she could ever think of. Perhaps I’ll be coaching a future Anne Rice.

What scares you?

I’m not supposed to be scared because I’m a Christian and God says “Fear not” (Isaiah 41:10). However, certain things can evoke fear in me quickly:

  • The frozen monitor. I just can’t stand the impatience boiling in my chest.
  • Being late. There are consequences.
  • Losing money because of bad decisions. The implications are obvious.
  • Doing something immoral and/or unethical suddenly. Don’t think that because of my noble faith that I’m immune to bad thoughts and words. Such temptations are only stronger because “your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

The dark doesn’t scare me. The bump in the dark does.

What do you think of the anthology cover?

It’s scary, especially the font. The title looks as if someone had scrawled those words in blood! The dimly lit photos in the background also evoke an eerie atmosphere, and the swirling tessellation pattern in front is mathematically interesting, because I used to think that tessellations had to be somewhat angular. All in all, the design is aesthetically pleasing and gives me just enough goosebumps to want to keep the lights on.

Do you have a quote you would like to share? If so, what is it?

Most definitely! This is my fiction-writing motto: “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”―Toni Morrison.

Get your copy of Whispers in the Shadows now!

Questions about the author:

What drives you to be an author?

The desire to inspire. I read voraciously as a little girl and as a teenager, and I want to get my readers to think and rethink diverse issues. If you delve deeply enough into anything, you can always come up with something insightful to say.

What’s the coolest villain or antagonist you have written? The coolest character name?

Coolest villain: So far, Alyson Cheung. I was inspired by Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl as I structured Alyson, who is an Amy Elliot Dunne-like villain in her own right. You can see some parallels between my LinkedIn profile (http://linkedin.com/in/yieng) and Alyson’s fictitious one, except that I made her sound more impressive. (Oh, and I might have been thinking of a math joke when I was posing for my profile photo. Not sure what the joke was, but it certainly wasn’t dirty.)

Coolest character name: Prosper. Yes, I mean the boy protagonist of my horror story. Wacky names are quite the fad in Hong Kong—I’ve come across people calling themselves Phoenix, Because, Natural, Amen and even Evergreen—so I decided to pick an unfamiliar name that’s an English word for the Hongkonger protagonist. At this point you may think that “Prosper” is just another of those odd names, but it’s an actual English and French boy’s name according to http://www.behindthename.com/name/prosper. I hope no one in Hong Kong gives their son that name, lest what happens in my story happens to the poor boy!

If you were to recommend a book or author, who would you suggest?

Roald Dahl—both his children’s and adult stories. No one can beat his mastery! Some say they prefer J. K. Rowling to him, and I don’t fault them because J. K. Rowling is good when you digest entire books by her. However, Roald Dahl is excellent on the sentence level as well.

Another is Kazuo Ishiguro. The Remains of the Day is marvellous; it shows you how a butler has a crush on his colleague without explicitly saying so. A true masterpiece.

What’s it like being part of a writing coalition like the Just-Us League?

Best. Team. Ever. I feel like we’re the 21st-century version of the Inklings, the writing group Lewis Carroll and J. R. R. Tolkien were part of!

 

Fun facts about Cassandra

  • She prefers to let down her hair when she is photographed or filmed.
  • Her first language is English. She thought she was Caucasian when she was little, until her mother put her in front of a mirror and told her, “You. Are. Chinese.”
  • Her personal Facebook feed is swamped with business and educational links, so that it is impossible for her to procrastinate without learning something new as well.
  • The University of Oxford (2011) and Princeton University (2016) have recognized her writing and research in math, and she studied at the University of Cambridge for two months in 2013.
  • You won’t want to look at her schedule because it’s so packed it could be deemed “punishing”, yet she strives for excellence in her work.

Get Cassandra’s story in Whispers in the Shadows now!