We are here today speaking with Steven W. Palmer, a noted regional author and “bon vivant”. His literary output includes The Angkor Series (Angkor Away, Angkor Tears and Angkor Cloth, Angkor Gold). ‘Turning the Tables – A Love Story for the Chemical Generation,’ ‘The Electric Irn-Bru Acid Test (The Glas Vegas Chronicles Book 1)’ In My Sights; A Political Thriller (The Danny Cleland Adventures Book 1),’ ‘QUADTYCH: Four Very Different Stories’, and ‘Me! I Disconnect From You.’ He is a Scottish expat living in Cambodia.
by Leonard H. Le Blanc III
What got you interested in writing?
An amazing English teacher at school called Miss Woods. She set us an exercise to write a short story and I basically plagiarised ‘Shane’ (unintentionally). While she told me off for copying the idea, she saw something in my style and encouraged me to write more.
What has changed in SE Asia the most?
I have lived in Cambodia since 2013 and even in those eight years, you can see the modernisation of Phnom Penh as more and more soulless skyscrapers are added to the skyline. Siem Reap has very few monstrosities and is a very green city (dust from current roadworks apart). As for Thailand, I returned there in 2012 after eight years and felt that Bangkok had lost even more than it had since my first visit in 1994.
What has changed here the least?
It has to be the people. Though (in the cities at least) I sometimes feel that people have lost some of their openness and friendliness, for the most part, in both Cambodia and Thailand, it is the people who make the place.
What are you working on now?
I have just finished my fifth novel, ‘The Riel Thing,’ which, unusually for an expat authored novel has its main character as both Asian and female. It launches officially at the Angkor Writers and Readers Festival – 2021, taking place in Siem Reap between the 10th and 12th December 2021.
I’m having a break from writing until the New Year, and will then jump back into ‘Bangkok Drowning,’ a dystopian novel that is set in mid-21st century Bangkok. I already have 25,000 words for it, so it is not starting from scratch.
What do you do for fun?
I have a weekly radio show playing reggae, dub, ska, etc., and also DJ in Siem Reap. As well as music, I read (of course), and am a Netflix junkie (have around fifteen shows am currently watching).
What are your favorite foods?
From Thailand, my favourite is Khao Soi Gai. From Cambodia my favourite is Fish Amok or Saraman Curry and the rest of world is proper fish and chips or lasagna.
Where are your favourite places to go?
Since I moved to Siem Reap, I plan to buy a one year pass and exploring the Angkor Park properly rather than as a tourist. In Thailand, I love Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. I also love Langkawi and hope to get there again in early 2022.
What writers inspired or inspire you?
Growing up, my favourite authors were Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein. Then I sort of grew into Hemingway, Hunter S. Thomson, Jack Kerouac and Ken Kesey. Iain Banks has to be in my top three writers of all time so has to be mentioned too.
What advice do you have for anyone who wants to move to SE Asia?
Do not jump the gun and just move. Spend some time here and get a feel for the region and the different cities to see what is the best fit. Look at how you will fund yourself if you plan to live here long term. Also look at visas as Thailand is becoming more difficult while Cambodia is fairly easy. If you have health issues of any type, look at healthcare provision in the areas you like. You ain’t in Kansas anymore, Toto.
What do you see is the future for yourself?
Ha, ha, ideally? Selling lots of books and seeing at least one made into a film. In reality, continuing my daytime gig of writing for corporations to make a living and churning out fiction in the hope that dreams come true one day.