Renowned Malaysian horror stories writer Tunku Halim launches his eighth short story collection and a sequel to his best selling book, Horror Stories, today. Titled Horror Stories 2, the book launches at 3pm at Kedai Fixi, Petaling Jaya.

Eksentrika’s sits down to speak to the man himself on what sets this book apart from the previous and if he uses black magic to get ideas for his stories. 

What differentiates this book from all the previous spooky stuff you’ve written? What can readers look forward to?

The book contains not only a retrospective, a selection of some of my earlier stories, but also my more recent 7 Days to Midnight collection. There’s a novella in it too called Juriah’s Song. I’m very excited that the book is out. There’s lots of spooks and chills for the discerning reader. There are long stories, short stories and everything in between!

You won't be able to close your eyes to sleep after reading these two books. Image by Tunku Halim

You won’t be able to close your eyes to sleep after reading these two books. Image by Tunku Halim

The previous instalment, 2014’s Horror Stories by Fixi is considered an all time bestseller locally. What do you feel contributed to its success?

Well, I think it has a great cover! But also, I suppose, I’ve been published for almost 20-years and I suppose readers have gotten to know about my writing… but it has taken a long time!

How did you discover your stories? Were they through real life experiences or through visions? Or perhaps, you own a pet Toyol which tells you all its tales?

Ideas can come from anywhere. It may have been inspired by something that happened to me, an idea for a narrative or just a title of a story that comes into my head. No, I don’t have visions nor do I keep a pet Toyol!

Image courtesy of Tunku Halim

Image courtesy of Tunku Halim

And what does your Toyol foresee on the performance of this book? Can it become a bestseller too?

Anyway, after purchasing a Toyol on eBay, it now tells me that it should do fairly well based on the success of Horror Stories. I do hope the new book gets read by those who bought the first book, because there’re lots of yummy stories there too.

Procrastination is a pain in the bontot for many writers. Clearly, you seem to have transcended this by releasing three books each year consecutively. You also write history books for children. How do you ward of procrastination and keep yourself going? Do you like, jampi yourself or something?

Well, I wish I could! But to be quite honest, both Horror Stories and Horror Stories 2 are essentially retrospectives, so I only had to sit on my bum and watch them unfold like magic. If I’m not writing, I get restless, discontented and unhappy. That’s because writing is what I do and I like to do it. But I’m often a lazy writer and I write slowly too.

Books written by Tunku Halim. Image credit Tunku Halim.

Books written by Tunku Halim. Image credit Tunku Halim.

We learnt that you practised law. What led you to turn to writing? And why pick horror of all genres? Any challenges faced when switching from law to writing?

I started off as a lawyer but whilst practising law and being in the corporate world, I was writing too and wrote 3 books including a novel and short story collection. When the corporate world got too stressful and meaningless, I decided that writing was for me. And it had to be horror or Gothic-like tales because that’s what turns me on, switches on the imaginative side of my brain. Switching from a full time job to becoming a full time writer was definitely challenging. What was once a hobby suddenly became work.

Of all the supernatural beings in Malaysian folktales, which one is your favorite and why?

I love the Pontianak and the Penanggalan. Of course, I adore the Orang Minyak and Toyol too. Each of them have certain attractive qualities which we horror aficionados just can’t do without. There are so many of these delightful creatures out there, including a were-tiger which I’ve included in Horror Stories 2.

A silhouette of Tunku Halim plays on tombstones in Penang.

A silhouette of Tunku Halim plays on tombstones in Penang. Image credit Tunku Halim. 

What were some of the challenges you faced when writing this book and how did you overcome it?

It’s always a challenge writing a short story because each tales needs a new idea. I’ve written lots of short fiction already, and so coming up with new ideas is not always easy.

Is writing a form of meditation to you? I attended a workshop held by you once where you had mentioned that there comes a point where the stories starts flowing from your fingers – as though you’re channelling an entity. You dubbed it being “in the zone”. Do you feel, that beyond our 3 Dimensional reality, there are multi-dimensional entities who appear as thoughts and ideas to tell a story of themselves through the writer? 

Being in the zone is when our best writing happens. Actually, it can apply to most things, whether playing tennis, painting, writing computer code or simply cooking. This is where the mind stops getting in the way of itself. I don’t believe that there are entities out there trying to tell us a story, but I do believe that there’s a lot of stuff out there we don’t know about and also a lot of stuff within our hearts and minds that are a mystery to us. Reaching the zone is not easy. I suppose my only tip to get there is to not try to hard, to not be stressed and not to think too much.

Image credit Tunku Halim

Image credit Tunku Halim

What more can we expect from you in the near future?

I’m working on a new collection of short stories which might be called Horror Stories 3! But I’ll take my time with it as writing is something to be enjoyed. I find fulfilment in it. It’s important for me not to treat it as work or a career. It’s just something I do.

Tunku Halim’s Horror Stories 2, published by Fixi Novo, can be purchased at major bookstores nationwide starting next week. Can’t wait that long? Head over to Kedai Fixi located in Petaling Jaya to get a copy. Want to write a review on this book? Drop us a message at editors@eksentrika.com