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An interview with R.S. Vern

An interview with R.S.Vern

1 June 2012

Haee interviews R.S. Vern in a rare sitting at home. This is one of the first few times they communicate. Otherwise, they pretty much ignore each other most of the time.

Minuted by Middling Industries

Haee: Why do you write a book on middlings?
R.S. Vern
: I live in a small country where majority of the population is middle class. Many of us work hard in pursuit of a better livelihood, or migrate in search of a dream/ career. Sometimes, we end up feeling bored, confused, alone, unattached and unachieved. But I would like to think this is perfectly all right and a lot of us feel the same way. After all, life is not about having that perfect ending, but having that extraordinary journey.

Haee: What’s your definition of middlings?
R.S. Vern: Middlings live in the city. They have a comfortable standard of living and rely on their own expertise to sustain themselves. They place great emphasis on independence and have great concerns for the environment. Whilst they appear well rounded and established, they often have insecurities locked within.

Haee: When did you start writing this series?
R.S. Vern
: I started conceptualising this series in 2008 during one of my trips to Japan. I was sitting at a café on a weekday afternoon and I saw Japanese salary men in their work suits and brief cases, gazing out of the window listlessly, seemingly waiting for time. When it was six o’clock, many of them stood up and left as if it was time to go home. I later realised many of these men were unemployed and simply needed to either pretend they were going to work so that their families wouldn’t judge them as incompetent or follow a routine which they had become so familiar with. I thought that was rather peculiar and yet, so poignant in this society we live in.

Haee: Why do you constantly have rules that your characters are being subjected to?
R.S. Vern
: Whilst we are all free to make our own choices, we also need a set of rules to live by. And that is the dilemma most of us face. We hate being caged in by rules and regulations and yet, we feel lost and aimless without them. In new environment, all the more we need a set of rules to discipline our thoughts and make sense of the new. We are always conditioned to adapt at the end of the day.

Haee: Why do you use me as the protagonist in your series?
R.S. Vern
: This series is about middling lives and it is something that is quite close to my heart. I feel it is less brutal to see life through the eyes of a cat.

Haee: So are you writing you as me, if you know what I mean?
R.S. Vern
: Actually yes, I know what you mean. The answer is yes and no. Yes, because I am somewhat very much like you, independent, restless and free-spirited. No, because I think I am somewhat like Tom and Jane too as I am often bounded by the demands and realities of living in the city I am in.

Haee: In Book 1 “Haee The cat with a crooked tail”, Tom and Jane are portrayed as middling characters that constantly wish they were doing something else. Is there an underlying message behind this?
R.S. Vern
: Middlings often ask themselves this question: “Are we not as happy as those who are much better off in this world?” We often find ourselves doing something we may not enjoy best because of the realities and demands of living in the city. But I think most of us have a secret desire to live a life that is less demanding and more frivolous.

Haee: Just for the record, I do not have a long and crooked tail. Why does my character in your book have a long and crooked tail?
R.S. Vern
: Middlings are never perfect people. All the characters in this series have physical imperfections about them. You have a long and crooked tail. Tom has claw-like hands. Jane has chronic hives. Whie has a big red nose that almost covers her face. It is fiction after all.

Haee: Thanks for the session. Look forward to Book 2. Chill.
R.S. Vern
: Ok. Chill.

How middling cat Haee spends his 24 hours in day

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What middling cat Haee does in a day.

Middling Industries recently conducted an observation on what its famous cat does in a day. This was charted across a duration of 1 month, in the house of R.S. Vern (owner/ writer of Haee). At the end of it, we asked Haee if he feels happy and contented doing the things he does everyday. This was what Haee said:

“Although I go through a standard and comfortable routine everyday, it does not mean I am totally happy with what I do. Although I am well-fed and never have to worry about going hungry, it does not necessarily mean I am fully contented.  I often wish I have more time in a day. If I could have an extra 2 hours everyday, I would choose to exercise and get fit.”

We believe what Haee meant by exercising is simply wandering around the house. But this is based on our assumptions only.

A 5 star book review rating for “Haee’s quest for the greater prairie” by R.S. Vern

5 star book review for Haee's quest for the greater prairie
5 star book review for Haee’s quest for the greater prairie

Newly launched book “Haee’s Quest for the Greater Prairie” received another 5 star book review rating from Readers’ Favorite. Read and reviewed by readers, this 3rd book from trilogy series “Haee and the other middlings” is an endearing and poignant story about a cat’s life in a middling city. Through the eyes of  black cat Haee, this final book sums up what many of us experience in life’s various stages – our constant thirst for the extraordinary mostly, out of boredom and curiosity; only to culminate in a much poignant view on a somewhat very un-extraordinary middling life.

Read full review at http://readersfavorite.com/book-review/14013.

Watch book trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KocLs1twAU4.

Not a classic in the canon of illustrated kid’s fiction

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The art of children’s fiction lies in its emotional resonance and imaginative scope. Quite simply, a book without either of these factors is simply an illustrated waste of time. “The Unconventional Life of Haee” is the story of a cat who leaves a comfortable home in search of adventure. He wanders into a back alley where other cats hunt insects, vermin, and chew on the leftovers from a poorly-run pizza shop. An outcast cat named Whie temporarily manages to convince the other cats to give up their hunting in favor of a vegetarian, all-pizza diet, thus creating a utopia known as “Green Alley.” Eventually, a huge, somewhat thuggish interloper cat named Samzie invades the alley and refuses to abide by the rules. The pizza shop closes, the cats scatter, and Haee, the titular cat and hero of our story, moves on.

In terms of emotional resonance, “The Unconventional Life of Haee” is immediately engaging to the reader. The cats humorously impersonate feelings of wanderlust, unconventionality, and stubbornness. The imaginative quality of the story is less stellar, in part because many of the accompanying illustrations are repeated. Whether this repetition occurs in order to save the effort of coming up with a new image or as part of a weak stab at humor is unclear. However, when the cats interact with one another, the book is funny, if only because the interactions hint at the complexity of real human societies.

While “The Unconventional Life of Haee” is bold in its attempt to tackle serious issues of conservation, group dynamics and the importance of hygiene in the work place, it is not a classic in the canon of illustrated kid’s fiction. However, it does provide a welcome chuckle, even to the most hardened reader.

Reviewed by Julia Lai for IndieReader.

R.S. Vern wins the IndieReader Discovery Awards 2013!

Haee The cat with a crooked tail book cover wins
Book 1 of “Haee and the other middlings” series wins IndieReader Discovery Awards 2013 Kid’s category

Middling Industries proudly announces “Haee The cat with a crooked tail” as the winner of IndieReader Discovery Awards 2013 under kid’s category. First published in June 2012, this is the first book in its series “Haee and the other middlings”.

R.S. Vern, creator and author of this series, says she is deeply encouraged by this win. When she first started writing this series, her purpose was to deter children from wanting to grow up too fast and furious. Through the ingenious eyes of a cat, she pans out a story about the endless frustrations and dilemmas adults face in this middling world of the 21st century.

R.S. Vern calls herself one serious middling – urbanised, bored, most of the time, confused. She recounts a particular incident at a dinner party which left her a deep imprint that fueled her writing on middlings.

“I was at a dinner party surrounded by great friends, drinking myself silly when I suddenly looked around me and I felt very alone. I was listening and not listening at the same time when the hostess was giving her speech and I had all kinds of silly thoughts running through my mind. What if I was born differently? What if this was the 1940s? What if George Clooney truly asked me out for breakfast? Would I say yes? What if Lady Gaga was my girlfriend? Would I start wearing her underwear? But there wasn’t any what-ifs. There was only as-is. The present, the truth and you.” – R.S. Vern

Middlings, as R.S. Vern defines, almost always wish they can have a different life. Even when you drive a fast car, have a great career, a great bunch of friends to hang out with, you’ll still think of having another life. And you feel trapped when 99% of the time, you are almost never going to have that other life. You go on searching for new experiences, at times feeling lost and aimless. But Vern believes there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

So for you alone, bored and lost people out there, take on chance on this very peculiar indie read.

About IndieReader Discovery Award
The goal of the annual IndieReader Discovery Award (IRDA) is to find talented writers and great books and is open to all self-published books with a valid ISBN. Judging is based on the quality of writing and the originality of the story. The judging panel includes top agents, traditional publishers, PR people, bloggers, and book reviewers. More information at http://indiereader.com/2013/06/meet-your-2013-irda-winners-and-buy-their-books/