A half-Chinese, half-Scottish Londoner, Asia studied Anthropology at Durham University, after which she started a career in television. She presented and produced lifestyle programmes in Shanghai before moving back to London where she worked for Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman as Project Manager on their round-the-world motorbike documentaries.
Asia wrote her debut novel Killing It on maternity leave and undertook a Faber Academy course to help her finish it. She has since been runner-up for the Comedy Women in Print Prize for Killing It and has now written The Nursey, the second book in the Killing It series. Asia lives in London with her husband, four young children and two dogs.
It is wonderful to pick Asia’s brains and discover more about her life.
Describe a typical day for you?
WAKE UP MAMA HUNGWWWY. Porridge. You’re spilling the milk! That’s too much honey. Don’t hit your brother. Toast. Don’t hit your sister. You need to finish your homework. Yes now. Toast. Where are your shoes? Did you brush your teeth? No, you didn’t. Back upstairs now. Don’t forget your PE kit. You’re wearing the wrong shoes. We’re late. We’re so late. COME ON. Your bag, you forgot your bag. Goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye. Tea. Lots of tea. Writing. Messing around on internet. Little more writing. Emails. Lots of emails. Lunch. Chocolate. Writing. More chocolate. More emails. Blank staring at laptop. More tea. Pick-ups. Have I got all of you??? Homework. Dinner-time. I don’t care that you don’t like it. Bath. Not the eyes! Two stories. Okay okay, five. Bed now. I MEAN IT. Wine. Dinner. Writing. Sleep. GO BACK TO BED IT’S THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT. Sleep.
What do you feel are your biggest achievements?
We have four kids (aged 2, 4, 6 and 8) and two dogs – things tend to be pretty chaotic and noisy. Very noisy. The gritty early years of four under six felt like an extreme parenting challenge where you’re just constantly pelted with rice cakes and LEGO and nappies whilst sobbing ‘why do I have to keep repeating myself?’…. So yes, having survived that definitely feels like an achievement.
In my work-life, I’d say becoming a published author was a major dream come true moment. I was offered a two-book deal the day before I gave birth to our fourth child. The last two years have involved editing and releasing my first book, Killing It whilst writing and editing my second, The Nursery. There have been stressful times but I feel very lucky – until I started writing Killing It I hadn’t written anything since school. Taking a leap into the unknown and now having two books to show for it, is something I hope will encourage anyone thinking of starting something new to give it a go.
What’s in your handbag/ satchel?
If I’m with the kids I use a large battered tote bag which right now, contains a pack of Water Wipes, yoghurt rice cakes, a lollipop, a pair of Minnie Mouse pants (clean), a Peppa Pig book, a bottle of water, three Hot Wheels cars, one slightly squashed tangerine, crushed Pom Bear crumbs, and five conkers.
If I’m kid-free, it’s a small cross body bag with an Urban Decay 24/7 black eyeliner, lip balm, debit card, house key, mobile phone. If going on public transport, I also squeeze a book in – reading means long journeys aren’t such a pain – and I can feel superior for not doing the usual blank dead–eyed stare and swipe at my phone.
What are your ambitions in life?
To be a great mum – you know like a cool mum who my kids want to tell everything to, one who never loses her temper, who can rustle up delicious home-cooked meals with no warning whilst doling out considered intelligent advice that they always listen to as think I’m so awesome. Failing all that, I just hope I don’t screw them up too much.
In terms of my writing – I can somewhat unashamedly say I would love to one day win an award as I think it would really impress the kids (who doesn’t love a trophy) and having been a first runner-up for both Richard and Judy’s Search for a Bestseller and the Comedy Women in Print Prize, it’s been a little ‘always the bridesmaid never the bride’ (although VERY happy to have a dress).
What do you wish you’d known at the start of your career you now know?
Just because you’ve started in X doesn’t mean you can’t switch to Y. I’ve gone from television, to managing a small company, to writing books and to now also launching Book Forest – an app to catalogue and encourage kids’ reading. In each job I’ve been able to learn something that’s helped with my next one – even though it’s been a totally different industry. You’re learning all the time and as long as you’re giving it your all you can take away something from it.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
5 years ago I had no idea I’d be an author. So who knows what I could be doing in another 5 years. It’s exciting to think about what could be ahead although I feel I will probably be doing just what I’m doing now – writing books and raising kids, but peri-menopausal so grumpier.
What advice would you give a budding author?
Just write. You don’t need to wait until you have a fully formed idea for a book – I started just with a character. I was crawling across the kids’ bedroom floor – trying to leave without the baby waking and thought how if I had special ops training I might actually manage to make it out of there. I imagined a secret agent, who was also a new mum, working on a high stakes mission and still trying to rush home in time for bath time. I kept thinking about what juggling those two lives would be like. A gun in the nappy bag… A breast pump being mistaken for a torture device… I started writing scenarios where these two very different lives could collide and eventually from that, a plot came together.
What do you wish you’d known about motherhood before having kids?
Do what feels right for you and keep reminding yourself you’re doing the best you can. Don’t compare yourself to others. There’s always going to be one friend whose baby sleeps through the night by week two, another who finds breast-feeding easy and not at all painful (hah) and yes, there’s always one who snaps back into shape the second she leaves hospital (if you have one friend for whom all this applies then just ditch them. They’re too superhuman to cope with).
Finally, happiness is… EVERYTHING. Chase it wherever you can, in the small things, in the big things and in everything in between…. Yes, fully aware this sounds like a motivational Instagram post..
The Nursery by Asia Mackay is out now (£7.99, Zaffre).
Read more Wonderful Women interviews in the series.