Why Newt Scamander is my new fictional crush

Today, I just want to draw your attention to this video:

I haven’t felt this strongly about a character since … well, since reading Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (shoutout to sweet, poetry-loving, song-writing wolf-boy Sam) – so much so that I am compelled to write this post.

Newt Scamander is the protagonist I never realised I needed. But I am absolutely in love with him. I daresay I love him even more than any of the characters in the Harry Potter series (Luna Lovegood and Cedric Diggory come pretty close though).


I really believe that Newt Scamander is, in his charmingly innocent and pure-hearted way, the antithesis of toxic masculinity. His key traits are compassion, empathy, and gentleness. And those are such under-appreciated traits in this day and age.

Newt is a Hufflepuff through and through – kind, honest, and fair (he adamantly refuses to take a side). I mean, okay so he also dresses really well and is pretty easy on the eyes, but those aside, his personality is what makes him so attractive and easily a character you want to root for.


In the media, men are lauded for being stoic and rational and brave. There’s a lot of bravado and chest-thumping involved, and the hero of the story typically carry those traits.

But Newt’s not quite the hero. He’s quite an antihero, actually. All he wants is to protect his beloved magical creatures and educate his fellow wizards about them. He’s not the most law-abiding person, nor does he care to be part of any establishment. He’s super awkward around people (ha, relatable) and is quite content to be wrapped up in his own little world (again, relatable).

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Plus, his budding romance with the auror Tina Goldstein is JUST ADORABLE. Put two socially awkward people around each other who gradually realise how similar they are in many ways and you’ve got a sizzling slow-burn romance to look forward to over the next few movies.




Even his friendship with no-maj (aka Muggle) Jacob Kowalski feels so pure. Newt is so accepting and inviting towards Jacob, even showing him his creatures and teaching him how to care for them, despite the “backwards” law in 1920s New York that states magical folk are not allowed to befriend non-magical ones.



Eddie Redmayne is the PERFECT Newt. I can’t think of anyone who would play him as exquisitely as him. From the slope of his shoulder to the gentle way he talks, the softness of his gaze, his characteristic walk, the way he avoids eye contact with people, and all the other minute mannerisms, Eddie nailed the character.


J.K. Rowling said that she had been taken by the character of Newt for a while, and he’s a character that she is fiercely protective of – which is why, thank goodness, she has declared that he will remain the protagonist of the Fantastic Beasts series despite lacklustre reception towards him from some critics.

All I can say is, if you think a loving crafted character like Newt is weak and undeserving of protagonist status just because he’s “too nice” and “boring”, then you’re missing out on a character with so much more depth and heart than you realise.


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Cold War 2 Gala Premier from a Fangirl’s POV

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I’ve been busy all week preparing for this major event at work. Encore Films invited us to cover the gala premier of Cold War 2, which stars Taiwanese-Canadian hottie Eddie Peng (whom I’ve gushed about here, here, and here), veteran actor Tony Leung, the legendary Chow Yun Fat, and Aaron Kwok, one of the four “Heavenly Kings” of Hong Kong.

With a star-studded cast and high-octane scenes, Cold War 2, the sequel to the 2012 box-office hit, is set to be this season’s blockbuster movie. The highly anticipated police action-thriller picks up where Cold War left off, and is certainly not shy about pulling out all the stops in terms of cinematography, production, and scripting.

Everyone was perfectly cast, and the script is intelligent and well-paced, with lots of room for dramatic tension. The actors also interpreted their characters well, and delivered very nuanced impressions that gave the story more depth so that it was more than just a movie with cars and explosions (and exploding cars) and corrupt policemen.

I didn’t catch Cold War back in 2012, but knew that there was a lot of buzz surrounding it. It was the highest grossing Hong Kong film in 2012, and raked in US$50 million worldwide. It also swept away nine awards at the 2012 Hong Kong Film Awards, including Best Film, Best Director (Longman Leung, Sunny Luk), Best Actor (Tony Leung), Best New Performer (Alex Tsui), and Best Screenplay.


I was STOKED to be invited to the press conference, not just because Eddie was going to be there (but yes, OMG TO BE IN THE SAME ROOM AS HIM, TO HAVE HIM RIGHT BEFORE ME IN THE FLESH), but also because I really wanted to experience being in a press conference! It’s good research material too, for a book I’m working on. *hint, hint*
So on 5 July at Marina Bay Sands, I sat in on a super-fun and lighthearted press conference, where Chow, Aaron, and Eddie shared hilarious behind-the-scenes anecdotes, answered questions from reporters and took countless selfies with us.


Chow: “Eddie Peng is representative of the next generation of superstars.”


Looking at Peng, Chow lauded the next generation of actors as promising. “They are exceptionally talented, full of energy, and good-looking. I think they’re ready to be the next batch of successors.”

*insert proud beam here*

Eddie, who at 34 boasts a whole list of accolades with award-winning films like To the Fore (2015), Rise of the Legend (2014), and A Wedding Invitation (2013), in turn said that working with Chow was a dream come true.

He reprises his role in Cold War 2 as a high-IQ villain who works with a mysterious kingpin to foil Aaron’s character.

If you thought Eddie’s acting was impressive, his performance in this movie will BLOW YOU AWAY. Every gaze, every gesture, every intonation is solidly in character. He made the character of Joe so compelling, he practically stole every scene!

Eddie said he studied the movie A Clockwork Orange, Heath Ledger’s performance in The Dark Night, Anthony Hopkins’ in Silence Of The Lambs and Edward Norton’s in Primal Fear in preparation for his role. And evidently his efforts paid off.

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Eddie is a long-time fan of Chow Yun Fat


Eddie also shared a particularly poignant childhood memory about his grandmother bringing him to watch Chow’s movies at the cinema across the street from his old house. Like, how cute is that! UGH.

When asked what he learned from Chow, Eddie replied, “There’s so much to learn. You guys can see how easy-going he is. More than anything, I learned from him how to get along with everyone by always being polite and humble.”


Chow Yun Fat: the King of Selfies

And indeed, despite achieving superstar status with Hollywood movies like Anna and the King (1999) and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007), Chow remains incredibly down-to-earth and good-natured.

He even lived up to his recent title of “King of Selfies” by demonstrating his selfie-taking skills with the 50 or so reporters present.

In fact, he declared that he could take a selfie with everyone in the room in three minutes before proceeding to leap off the stage. Even the moderator was left flummoxed!


Selfie with the King!


Aaron and Eddie automatically rushed to take a selfie with Chow as soon as the latter had his camera up!


Eddie enjoys playing the villain!

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As one of Asia’s fastest-rising stars (to quote someone I overheard, he’s “hot stuff these days with all the high-profile movies and endorsements”), Eddie said he is grateful for his role in the series as he got to learn from several of the biggest Asian actors in the world. He particularly embraces the challenge of playing a smart, manipulative villain.

“Playing a villain, I get to do (illegal) things regular people won’t do,” he said earnestly. “A villain can be charismatic and human, and when played well he can evoke empathy in the audience.”

And he wants to keep his audience guessing.

“It’s like a boxing game. You want to throw a jab, you want to throw a hook, to surprise the audience. You don’t want people to know what’s your next move. The only pressure being in this role is making sure I don’t become invisible next to so many great actors.”

You? Invisible?! I don’t think so, honey.



Up-close and personal with Eddie Peng

After the press con, we had a more intimate interview with Eddie, who was rushed from room to room to be interviewed by various reporters in the hour and a half space between the press con and the gala premier.

He looked worn out by the time he got to us. Despite that, he was unfailingly polite and professional, friendly and candid. He toggled fluently between English and Mandarin as he answered questions about his upcoming movies and awkward fan encounters!



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彭于晏 本人不仅又高又帅 而且谦虚 大方 友善 活泼! He graciously obliged to taking selfies with each of us in the room even though he was evidently tired after a string of interviews. (Too bad for his shaky hand and my overeager grin though LOL) His answers were introspective and insightful, and he toggled fluently between English and Chinese. My fangirl – ahem, journalist – dreams are complete. Couldn't help but recall this quote of his: "有些事本来离你很远。你争取 它就会离你愈来愈近." (Some dreams start off very far away, but they become closer when you strive for them.) When speaking with him, it's hard not to notice his unrelenting drive and passion for acting in those big bright eyes. @yuyanpeng

A post shared by Joyce Chua (@thewritesofpassage) on

THAT GIANT GAP BETWEEN US IS MOCKING ME. WHY did I not dare to go closer? He was already leaning in!!! It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to snuggle close!!!

But everyone was in a mad rush (because the press conference ended late, which delayed the rest of the subsequent interview) to make it in time for the gala premier, and I was too shy to ask to retake the photo. And just like that, Eddie was whisked away from me by his bodyguards.

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Good game, Joyce. *cries a river*

Still, that aside, I was really honoured to have been given the chance to meet with this inspiring actor. He is a really introspective guy with big dreams and a humble heart. Here is someone who is really passionate about what he does, who goes the extra mile to perfect his role and deliver his best performance every single time. Here is someone who keeps his head down and works his ass off, pays his dues and persists in his dream even when the going gets tough.


5 to 6 thousand people showed up at the red carpet event that evening!

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eddie peng fans

The afternoon press conference was followed by the gala premier in the evening. Scores of fans who hail from all around the world (including a girl from California – see her face-splitting grin?) flew in specially to see their idols! Members of the audience got to take photos with the stars onstage, and some contest winners even walked away with prizes including a Longines watch and Cold War 2 paraphernalia!


Can you blame those security girls for being so starstruck!


So, yes. I’ve been busy fangirling working all week. Now it’s back to reality, and the manuscripts! Need to catch up on all the emails and word count.
One last article before I go. Have a good weekend!  :0)

how Girl, Interrupted completely wrecked me

Girl, Interrupted Poster

So thanks to my friend’s recommendation, I watched Girl, Interrupted (1999) over the weekend. She kept raving about Angelina Jolie’s performance and told me that since I was so interested in psychological disorders I should watch the movie.

So I did and now I don’t know if I’m still out of that funk. You know how some stories wreck you from inside you and stay inside you for days, maybe weeks or years? Girl, Interrupted messed me up and turned me into a complete emotional wreck.

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Speaking of Misha, he had a tiny role in the movie too. I couldn’t help it – I burst out laughing when I saw him try to seduce Winona Ryder.

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Castiel, socially awkward since 1999.

What It’s About

Susanna (played by the beautiful Winona Ryder) is admitted to Claymoore and diagnosed with borderline personality disorder after a failed suicide attempt.

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There, she is thrown into a contained, isolated world far removed from reality as she struggles to make sense of her emotional turmoil. She meets a host of patients each with their own diagnoses – a pathological liar (Clea DuVall), a bulimic cutter (Brittany Murphy), a burn victim who behaves like a child (Elisabeth Moss), an anorexic (Angela Bettis) …

And then there’s Lisa (Angelina Jolie), charming, manipulative, rebellious, “dead inside” Lisa, a sociopath who has been in and out of Claymoore for eight years.

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Lisa takes an interest in Susanna, who now lives in the ward vacated by Lisa’s best friend who killed herself. Susanna finds Lisa exciting and magnetic, but is drawn into a downward spiral the more she hangs out with her.

How It Broke Me

The scene where ***spoiler alert (for the rare few who haven’t watched it)*** Susanna found Daisy the bulimic cutter dead in the bathroom after she hung herself completely broke me. It just made me think about all the people out there who battle their inner demons daily, pushing away the voice in their head in an attempt to feel normal and be normal.

Some parts got close to the heart, because I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels alone or sad or like a failure sometimes. Some days, all you want to do is just curl up and be alone with your feelings, to cry yourself to sleep and let the debilitating self-doubt and sadness consume you. Other days, you just want them to go away and wish that you didn’t feel anything.

But it’s probably easier to give in to these emotions than dust them off and press on. The trick, I guess, is to keep moving and not stay stagnant with those feelings curdling around you and holding you back.

Favourite Quotes

“Crazy isn’t being broken, or swallowing a dark secret. It’s you, or me, amplified. If you ever told a lie, and enjoyed it. If you ever wished you could be a child, forever.”

What Susanna wanted to say to Daisy (after Daisy killed herself):

“…I will never know what it was like to be her. But I know what it’s like to want to die. How it hurts to smile. How you try to fit in but you can’t. You hurt yourself on the outside to try to kill the thing on the inside.”

Psychiatric nurse Valerie’s advice to Susanna:

“I think what you’ve gotta do is put it down. Put it away. Put it in your notebook, but get it out of yourself. Away so you can’t curl up with it anymore.”

I wanted to give Valerie a hug too after she said this!

Scene between Susanna and her psychiatrist:

Susanna: I’m ambivalent. In fact that’s my new favorite word.

Dr. Wick: Do you know what that means, ambivalence?

Susanna: I don’t care.

Dr. Wick: If it’s your favorite word, I would’ve thought you would…

Susanna: It means I don’t care. That’s what it means.

Dr. Wick: On the contrary, Susanna. Ambivalence suggests strong feelings… in opposition. The prefix, as in “ambidextrous,” means “both.” The rest of it, in Latin, means “vigor.” The word suggests that you are torn… between two opposing courses of action.

Susanna: Will I stay or will I go?

Dr. Wick: Am I sane… or, am I crazy?

Susanna: Those aren’t courses of action.

Dr. Wick: They can be, dear – for some.

Susanna: Well, then – it’s the wrong word.

Dr. Wick: No. I think it’s perfect.

I love how this exchange shows how we are in control of what we think, what we allow ourselves to feel, and the reality we construct for ourselves.


Girl, Interrupted is the kind of story that you don’t know whether to love or hate, like this little book called We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. On one hand, you love it because it is so well executed and emotional and moving; it opens up your eyes to the lives of mentally ill people and makes you see the blurred lines between what’s real and what’s in your head. On the other, it totally runs you over like a freight train and leaves you in pieces all over the ground; it worms a little too close into your heart for comfort, and I found myself sobbing during more than one scene towards the end.

I love stories that take you through a whole range of emotions. They make you feel so pathetically human, yet so wonderfully alive.

Okay, I think I’ve written my way out of this emotional fugue. Back to normal life!

Have you watched Girl, Interrupted? What are your thoughts about it, or of mental illnesses in general? I’d love to hear from you! Oh, and if you have any more recommendations on similar subject matter, feel free to share!

5 places to find inspiration when writing a Peter Pan retelling

So Epic Reads was pretty awesome in doing this:

Click on the image to see it in full-size!

Speaking of fairy-tale retellings, now that I’m writing a contemporary YA novel that’s inspired by Peter Pan, I’m starting to appreciate this genre more.

I’m still partway through Fathomless by Jackson Pearce –

Let’s take another minute to admire this gorgeous cover again.

And dammit now I need to own this lovely book. It’s not so mind-blowing or insanely gorgeous that I want to put it in a shrine the way I want to for Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

or the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor

Shrine-worthy covers, no?

Fathomless may not induce this reaction:

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But it’s original and riveting, and contains the magic of the original fairy tale with its own tinge of darkness and drama.

Dark and dramatic, with romance and high stakes, terrible beauty and the threat of losing one’s humanity – just the way I like my YA fantasy novels! If – when – I write Indigo Tides, that is all I can hope for it to be.

But* a mermaid story is a novel for another time (Indigo Tides, wait for me!). Right now, Peter Pan is taking centre stage, so I’m looking for books that were inspired by the boy who wouldn’t grow up. Scouring through Goodreads, I came up with 5 books to sink my teeth into while working on No Room in Neverland.

*That is one too many buts.

When someone mentions Peter Pan, you’d probably think of this:

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(Ah, Jeremy Sumpter. I had the hugest crush on him because of this movie!)

Or you might think of this:

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Or, in my case, you’d think of this:

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(That’s my Thomas – from No Room in Neverland – by the way.)

And this:

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But I always thought Peter Pan was quite a sad story, not least because Peter and the Lost Boys were, well, lost. They might seem wild and carefree in Neverland, little kings and princes of their isolated domain, but they’ve never really known love, or had parents to guide them – they’re just sort of cosseted in their insular world until the Darlings come along.

(That’s definitely what I’m tapping on in my novel, only, as in most character-driven romance novels, both the main characters end up transforming each other, for better or worse.)

These modern retellings of the classic story are not just sad, but also pretty dark – YUM:

1. The Child Thief, by Brom

How gloriously dark and sinister does this look! A devilish version of the Disney classic where Peter Pan comes with a dark past of being raised by wolves and shuttles between the realms of faerie and man, where Peter leads a “savage tribe of lost and stolen children” and recruits a human boy to save Neverland from turning into a wasteland? Three words: sign me up.

2. Tiger Lily, by Jodi Lynn Anderson

I read Peaches back in 2005.

It was a sweet and – dare I say it – forgettable contemporary YA summer romance. But Tiger Lily looks a lot less run-of-the-mill, largely because it has an unexpected narrator: Tinkerbell!

(Except she’s not called Tinkerbell here, but Tiger Lily.)

I’ve always viewed Tink as the antagonist, because she showed me that fairies weren’t always nice (just like mermaids – those bitches in Peter Pan belonged in Mean Girls!) and were ruthless when it came to protecting the boy they loved.

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But I guess that might be why Anderson chose to write from her POV.

3. The Lost Girls, by Laurie Fox

I think this book might have been the cause of my Peter Pan obsession. I read it when I was in university, and have been searching EVERYWHERE for it in bookstores. I borrowed it from the library then, but it’s not there anymore.

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(Ugh, don’t you just hate when you can’t find your favourite books in the library anymore?)

The Lost Girls is actually adult fiction, about three generations of Darling girls who continually fall for Peter Pan’s charm. It’s all family drama, secrets, estranged mothers and girls coming of age in a dysfunctional family – the sort of adult fiction I love. (Amazon provides a better description of the story than Goodreads, so go here to learn more!)

4. Finding Neverland (2004)

It’s about J.M. Barrie’s friendship with a family who inspired him to write the iconic novel. So good research, I suppose?

5. Peter Pan, acoustic cover by Silv3rT3ar

Ah, this song. I loved it the first time I heard the original version in Korean, and even more when I heard this version.

And then there’s this:

Which is on Replay while I write Neverland. No kidding.

Yes, I believe I’ve got Peter Pan on the brain