Meet CLEO Hot Shot 2018: Jeyna Grace

Jeyna Grace, 28, Author

Ruffle checkered skirt, Kittie Yiyi; crop top, Jeyna’s own.

The first time Jeyna Grace discovered the power of language was when a blog reader left a comment on one of her short stories saying it made her cry. The impact it had on a stranger gave her the  support she needed to spearhead her career as an author. As a big fan of spin-offs and retellings, Jeyna often finds inspiration from reading, researching on new topics and watching documentaries.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

Every book of mine has been a learning experience. My first novel, The Dreamer, taught me the ins and outs of publishing; The Battle for Oz that taught me to create denser worlds, to build relatable characters, and to be more creative with my words—to pay more attention to the little details than rushing through them.

Was there an early experience where you learned that language had power?

The first time I realised the power in language, and the written word, was when a blog reader left a comment on one of my short stories saying it made her cry. Looking back, the story wasn’t well written and could probably use many more edits. But the fact that my words could reach across the screen and touch someone on the other end, from another country, was just… wow.

Can you talk about the process of writing ‘The Slave Prince’?

As a fan of spin-offs and retellings, I often find inspiration in tales already written. With The Slave Prince, it was inspired by the biblical story of Moses—the fight for freedom and the faith that nothing is impossible. I wanted to retell this story in a way that pushed readers to believe in themselves, allowing them to achieve great things no matter their flaws and shortcomings. After all, I believe, everyone is born a hero.

There’s power in words. There’s power when we communicate. There’s power when we reach out, speak up, and share our stories.

– Jeyna on the power of language.

One thing would you give up to become a better writer?

Though I often tell myself to stop caring and to keep writing, I’m as human as everyone else. I can’t help but fear bad reviews and the hurtful words some of them may contain. So if only I could give up all fear of judgement, I could be free to write whatever I want without second guessing myself.

What does “pushing the envelope” mean to you?

Writing stories that may be unconventional, may ruffle some feathers, and may not ‘sell’ well, for a message that is worth sharing. It’s living out your purpose in life, even if the world doesn’t believe in you. It’s pursuing those crazy dreams and ideas, even if they seem impossible. It’s when you choose to break free from your circumstances in pursuit of your passion. Pushing the envelope is when you shatter those enclosing walls for an adventure that lies beyond.

Can you tell us any habits you have that keeps you creative every day?

As a person of many written words, I am someone who is accountable to what I say I would do. So whenever I decide to start a project, I’ll be sure to finish it. There’s no such thing as giving up in my vocabulary. Starting and finishing ensures that a story gets told, which is a success in itself.

But in terms of creativity, I like to watch and read interesting stories–strange documentaries, weird historical events, and odd scientific studies. Whenever I’m learning something new–the more bizarre the better–it keeps my brain thinking, allowing new concepts to spark new ideas. So whenever I’m bored or feeling uncreative, you’ll find me on the strangest corner of the internet researching topics you never knew existed.


Special thanks to Alila Bangsar for venue assistance during the whole production.
Official sponsors: Wet n Wild Malaysia and Sasa Malaysia.