Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
My name is Hong Wai Onn. Hong is my surname, by the way. I’m a chemical engineer by training and profession. I was born and grew up in a small family in Ipoh, Malaysia. Ipoh is the city famous for its surrounding mountains, limestone caves and food. I am also proud that Ipoh was listed as one of the best Asian destinations to visit in 2016 by Lonely Planet, a travel portal in the world. After my secondary school, I attended Universiti Malaysia Sabah, where I studied chemical engineering. I started my career in palm oil industry and this exploration eventually formed the basis of my new book, “A Chemical Engineer in the Palm Oil Milling Industry”. This is the first book, and only one so far, that I have published.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
“A Chemical Engineer in the Palm Oil Milling Industry” is the first and also the latest book that I have published (in August 2020). Palm oil is a big business. Palm oil has been widely used in food and non-food industries. More than half the products on sale in supermarkets are made with palm oil—yet many people hardly know anything about this industry. They don’t even know chemical engineers have a significant role to play in this industry. Hence, I am motivated to write a book to provide a series of episodes for readers to discover the opportunities chemical engineers have in the palm oil milling industry. I hope this nonfiction memoir book could bring readers closer to the most enigmatic profession of all time. The title “A Chemical Engineer in the Palm Oil Milling Industry” might sound daunting, but it’s an eminently user-friendly read! Well, I am also excited to share that my book has received Literary Titan Gold Award and a 5-star review rating from Readers’ Favorite. The book is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and other major retailers.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
Being a part-time writer, I tend to write late at night and on weekends, but many writers do that, so I am not sure whether that would be classified as unusual. While many writers like to work on outlines for stories, specific parts of chapters, and so on at cafes, I prefer to do this in my home office. I must confess I am coffee lover. I need at least a cup of black coffee before I could sit down to work, regardless of how late it is.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
I have been influenced by every single book I have ever read. However, to keep this section a reasonable length, I’m counting Mahbob Abdullah and John C. Maxwell. Mahbob Abdullah wrote few books that made me want to write and publish my work. He shared his life as a plantation manager from a view of a very experienced Malaysian planter, rather than a European one. There are almost perfect stories in “Planter’s Tales” and “Planter Upriver”. His book “Now You Too Can Write!” has influenced me greatly too. John C. Maxwell wrote many books. He has influenced me the way I receive and participate in leadership along with public speaking.
What are you working on now?
Although I am a part-time writer, I have a plan to write a couple of new books that focus on roles of chemical engineers in business and project management. I will also continue to write articles on palm oil processing. As always, I will provide links to my published articles, and you can check out at my author website.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
Well, since this is my first publication with the official launch on August 19, 2020, I don’t know what my best method will turn out to be yet. However, I think we need to get out there on as many platforms as possible. I have my author website up and running: https://hongwaionn.com/ alongside Facebook and Twitter. I also market my book at speaking engagements as part of my book marketing activities.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
I don’t think I can advise. However, I believe many people say they want to write but wish they have the time, and perhaps they will do it after they retire. Mainly this can be an excuse. The best way is to have a piece of paper, and a pen on you, and when there is an idea, put it down. There is no reason any more not to write these days because even if you do not have a paper with you, the mobile phone can do the same. So, try to get the book out that you have always had in your mind.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Many books on writing emphasize the importance of correct grammar and spelling to the point that you are frightened to try. They are indeed trying to put you off. But Mahbob Abdullah once said that the most important thing in the book is the story, and your flow of thought as you tell it and build it up. If you have to struggle with grammar or spelling, there are others who can help you, but few can tell a story.
What are you reading now?
The Leader’s Greatest Return: Attracting, Developing, and Multiplying Leaders by John C. Maxwell. Meanwhile, I am also thinking about my next book.
What’s next for you as a writer?
I will keep writing and put my stories out there. I will also continue advancing development of the palm oil processing industry by ensuring greater participation by young people and marketing my book through speaking engagements.
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?
Good question! I will bring along a few how-to books. They might not be my favorite books of all time, but I am hoping these books can save my life!