Thursday 9 November 2023

Our Black and White House

My talented daughter created this beautiful artwork to celebrate the launch of my new novel “The Black and White House”. The attentive reader will notice how it looks very much like the cover of the book, but with another title, and showing a different house. The real book cover features our old house in Adam Park, where the novel is set. So what is the mystery house in this image?

Well, this particular house comes with some exciting news: we moved back to Singapore! My daughter drew the house we live in now. That same attentive reader might recall the last few posts I wrote here, and me complaining about the cold and dark weather in the Netherlands. You can understand my elation at being back. To me, it feels like a homecoming. Suppressing the guilt caused by dragging the slightly reluctant teenagers along gets easier now they seem to have settled in quite happily at the new school, and I can’t praise my amazing husband enough for making this move possible. 


So although I am very excited about this new house we now live in, I need to sell books, so first, I am going to take you back to Adam Park. When newly arrived expat Anna moves into her Black & White, it feels very far from a homecoming. Living in Asia for the first time, with her husband working long hours, she slowly unravels alone in the rambling house. There are strange noises in the hallway, and Anna isn’t sure all of them belong to the many critters and creepy crawlies that she shares the house with. 

Many of us will have shared Anna’s troubles of moving to a new area, particularly in a new country. She struggles to find her own job, being very blonde and without any local experience, speaking all the wrong languages. To add to her turmoil, memories of her grandmothers colonial childhood in Indonesia keep popping up, making her confused about how she can fit into modern Asia. 


Then, Anna meets Salimah. Salimah has her own history with the house, and a number of ghosts from the past she needs to battle with. When one of those ghosts seem to target her teenage daughter Nazra, Salimah too feels her carefully constructed life starting to crumble around her.  

The novel follows the two women forging a fragile friendship, despite their cultural differences, until they get pitted against each other over the adoption of a baby. I won’t give too much more away, do please read the book if I got you hooked.  


Curious about this new house in the picture? You will need to be a little more patient. There is plenty to explore in our new neighbourhood, from deserted reservoirs to mysterious Japanese tombs and Malay graves in the middle of the jungle. My fingers itch, just like my legs from walking into the deep forests both inside and outside our garden. Stories will follow! 

"The Black and White House" is published by Monsoon Books and was released this month. It can be bought at bookstores in Singapore and online bookstores worldwide. For instance here

Thursday 6 July 2023

‘The House’

I have a thing for houses, which is odd for a self-proclaimed nomad. I have at times compared myself to a snail, one that carries her house on her back, but the reality is that what I carry around is a forty-foot shipping container full of furniture and knickknacks. Next week, the movers will come to pack it all up again to put it on a boat back to Asia.

Most people I tell this look at me with astonishment. You only just finished renovating your house here? Yes, after nightmare renovations that took years longer than anticipated, that are in fact still not finished, that took many sleepless nights and much more money than anticipated, we are leaving, yet again. Warmer shores beckon. Why? That’s another story, for another time, it suffices to say that Dutch winters are not great for the arthritic, nor is the Dutch medical system, and our villainous contractor didn’t help enamour us with this country either.

It's summer now. The sun is shining. The almost-finished house has turned out beautiful, with all its light, glass and green. As much as I love going, leaving is always hard. Leaving a life, but also a place behind. We have stayed in some very special houses that have inspired my writing over the years. My novel ‘A Yellow House’ was set in our first condo in Singapore, the yellow house in the title refers to the actual dream house our domestic helper Indah has built in Indonesia from her Singapore earnings. My children’s series JungleGirl Mia is set in Adam Drive, a bungalow where we lived surrounded by the jungles of a national park. Wildlife often sprawled into our garden, inspiring the adventures Mia has with her friends.

Our next house at Adam Park has an even more illustrious history. A veritable battle took place between the Japanese and the British, and later prisoners of war stayed there before being shipped off to Birma to build a railroad. Many say these houses are haunted, and as a novelist, what else can one do but write a novel set in such a place? ‘The Black and White House,’ which will be launched later this year.

So, what is next? I’ve been spending a lot of time in the last few months on Singapore real estate websites, and whilst we explore exciting new places to live, I ponder another question: what to write? Write about the place we have begun to refer to as ‘The House’, the one that despite endless streams of builders we will have to rent out before it’s even finished? One that despite my wish to leave I have come to love. Though the adventures with our villainous contractor would make an excellent thriller, to be honest, it’s a chapter I’d rather close. Sitting in my favourite chair in my favourite spot next to the large bamboo bush, I dream of another place, the one that inspired the design of this green Dutch house. An idea for a new book germinates in my brain. Working title: 'A House in Bali'.

In the meanwhile, do pre-order: ‘The Black and White House’. It’s a haunting tale of fear and friendship set in Singapore. That house in Adam Park, unattainable now rents have exploded in Singapore, will always haunt my dreams as the most beautiful place I ever lived. For now. Let’s see what’s next.