From award-winning designer to best-selling poet, Lang Leav’s leap of faith to put her artistic skills to the test has paid off. Vasenta Selvanayagam finds out more about the challenges she went through to gain recognition as an international bestselling author for her short stories and poems.
“If a boy ever says you ‘remind me of someone’ – don’t fall in love with him. You will never be anything more than second best.” – Lang Leav
As I walked into the Mandarin Oriental Hotel wondering how wonderful it must be to be in Lang Leav’s shoes (having a house right beside the beach in New Zealand, living with the man of my dreams and above all, earning a living by writing poems and short stories day in and day out), I was stunned to find out the amount of times this 29 year old had switched careers and explored different skills she’s been gifted with to find a foothold in her career. Having the courage to do what you think is right for yourself, pulling yourself out of negativity and taking one day at a time were the three important things I learnt from this bubbly writer in our hour-long chat.
FEMALE: Did you always have a passion for writing?
Lang Leav: “Between 2006 and 2007, I had my own fashion label called AKINA. It was an illustration-based label where I used to narrate the story of Akina, a girl who loved buttons and how she would steal them for her teddy bears. That’s just part of it, and then in 2009, I started producing art pieces using ink and pastels and even made handmade books, which have always been a personal passion (one of the books even got presented to Tim Burton, the American film director). Then I moved to writing and social media came about, and my work started to go viral. Everything I’ve done so far has always begun with me using a blank piece of paper and pen. So writing ultimately is my first love.”
F: Share with us a li’l on your background.
LL: “I was born in a refugee camp in Thailand. My parents fled to Thailand after fleeing the Khmer Rouge regime and later we immigrated to Australia. I grew up in Sydney. I went to the College of Fine Arts in Sydney where I studied art and textiles. I love materials – paper, fabrics, and the first thing that strikes me when I touch any material is the type of things I can create with it. After graduating, I freelanced at a packing company but it didn’t last long. I was fired and it was upsetting at that time, but today, I’m here!”
F: What made you make the switch from fashion to writing?
LL: “I’m actually very glad I did it. I remember, at that time, I had my second range ready to go and there was a lot of pressure. That’s when I decided to just drop that and while others told me that I was insane, I just had this strong urge to start making books. It takes a long time for you to work out who you are, where you belong and to fit into the world. You can only do that by trying different things all together.”
F: Who are some of the greatest artists you’d like to meet?
LL: “I like Haruki Murakami. He came to Auckland but when he left, I was like, ‘God, I’d love to invite him over to my place and have some dumplings.’ I’m not sure if he would have said yes, but it’s still worth the try!”
F: What are some of your upcoming projects?
LL: “I think I’m just going to continue what I’ve been doing. This year, I’ve got a novel coming out. It’s a new project but that’s it, I’m going to keep the suspense.”
F: Tell us one thing no one knows about you.
LL: “Hmm! I used to play softball back in school and I really loved table tennis too. I’ve never been much of a sporty person to be honest, but in the couple of years, I’ve even gotten into running. That’s something I hated doing but I finally did it. It’s great for the endorphins and therapeutic.”
F: What’s the craziest thing you’ve done in life?
LL: “That would probably be taking the plane to meet the guy of my dreams (I definitely won’t recommend this to any young girl!). We’d known each other for a long time and I decided to go to Auckland to see him. Although we knew each other, flying just to see him seemed a li’l too much, but I did have a backup plan. If worst comes to worst, I’ll stay in a hotel and just have lunch with him if things seemed dodgy… but it all turned out well. Today, I live in Auckland with him.”
F: It’s amazing how you’ve managed to come up with four books to date. Where do you get your inspiration?
LL: “I’ve always been an avid reader and the Internet has been such a huge distraction. I grew up with Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl. Reading was an escape for me as I was growing up and it’s wonderful getting lost in other worlds. I love fiction and it’s amazing when you keep the characters in a story alive by writing.”
Lang Leav’s books include Love & Misadventure, Lullabies, Memories, and The Universe Of Us.
From the print edition. Text by Vasenta Selvanayagam.