Answers to four burning questions about My BFF is an Alien
Here are four interesting behind-the-scenes of My BFF is an Alien - some might just surprise you!
I've always enjoyed reading the acknowledgements of books and finding out more about the behind-the-scenes of movies. Was the book or movie based on real life events? What was the writer's thought and research process? How did the author build this world and come up with the book's interesting characters?
With the second book of My BFF is an Alien - Sabotage - due for release in October (hurray!), I thought I should write up some fun behind-the-scenes of the first book of the series. If you or your child had read and enjoyed the book, these may surprise you. But in case you haven't read the book, I'll try my best not to give away spoilers 😁.
How did names like Abriana and Viridis come about?
Abriana. If you had read some of the interviews I did, you'd know how I had basically conceptualised the entire story of My BFF is an Alien in one night as I laid in bed brainstorming for a new story idea. As I made up the story in my head, I also came up with the names Abriana and Octavia. Abriana was a name I made up and has some influence from the name Adriana and its short-form of Adri. The 'A' in Abriana is not pronounced 'Ah' as in the 'a' sound in phonics, but really pronounced as the letter 'A', like the 'A' in the name Adrian.
Octavia. As for Octavia, it's a real name but not exactly common. I remember watching the first episode of the TV series "The 100" (I believe it's a book as well? But I haven't read it) and there was a character whose name was Octavia. I thought the name had a rather sci-fi quality to it and this name just hit me as I made up my story.
Viridis. Honestly, I struggled to name the planet Octavia came from, likewise for some of their high-tech stuff but eventually I decided to name them in another language which would encompass the general idea of the place/item. Viridis is actually Latin for "green". Viridis is an environmentally-friendly planet that boasts of beautiful natural landscapes. With its technological advancements and inhabitants with special powers, Viridis sounds like utopia. But is it, really? As the series progress, you might find that this seemingly perfect planet is not as perfect as it seems.
Anteris. Anteris is Latin for "support", which is what the element really does as it supports the wormholes the Viridians use for space travel. Later in the series, you'll also see that the anteris has another 'support' use as well.
The Others. Have you watched this 2001 thriller/horror movie called The Others? This is one my favourite movies and I absolutely love its twist at the end. I had felt that the main villains in my book - the alien beings that invaded Viridis - had a similar quality to those who invaded the house in the movie. The villains looked like humans in the house - in my book it's the Viridians in Viridis - but they actually aren't them (btw trying my best not to give away spoilers for the movie here!). And if you imagine yourself being surrounded by alien beings who have disguised themselves to look just like normal people and there is no way you could know who they really are, it does feel kind of creepy. I had wanted to rename the villains after I had a better feel for them but the name just kind of stuck as I wrote my draft, so I kept it as it is.
Katy and Justin. The girls in the book are fans of Taylor Swift. It only seemed right that I include other pop icons - Katy Perry and Justin Timberlake. Pop culture fan here. Nuff said.
Do places in the book really exist?
In the story, when the lead characters traverse Singapore in search of the anteris, they visit famous Singapore landmarks like Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Botanic Gardens and Sentosa. I think when reading Singlit, part of the fun for a Singaporean or someone who lives here, lies in being able to relate to familiar places in the story. I do try to be as accurate as I can when it comes to places the characters visit in Singapore e.g. when the lead characters enters Botanic Gardens from the Bukit Timah gate, I do take into account the fact that the gate is far from Swan Lake and the amount of time they would need to reach their destination, and I also kept in mind the distance the girls have to cover to reach one of the quarries at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.
But this is ultimately a fiction book and I had to take creative license here and there for the sake of the plot. It would be almost impossible to write a story that follows existing roads and landmarks to the T, you can do that I'm sure, but it would be terribly inconvenient. As much as I try to stay as true as I can to real life settings, fictitious buildings or roads are often still necessary for story development. E.g I had made up the detour route the two girls had went on halfway through their tour of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. Another example would be the Goliath structure at camp. The structure is really inspired by a real life obstacle course at Sentosa but I had made some changes to the structure to make it my own and also for story development.
For the major landmarks mentioned in the book, I do try to keep the settings and locations as accurate and as authentic as possible. But like I said, this is ultimately fiction, so don't go searching for the detour route at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve or the short-cut the girls take at Siloso Beach! But if you'd like to visit the major landmarks like Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Swan Lake at Botanic Gardens, the suspension bridge and two towers at Palawan Beach at Sentosa - you can! These are obviously all real.
Is BTSGS based on a real school?
If you had read the About the Author bit at the end of the book, you would know that my alma mater is in Bukit Timah. I find that if you have a clear picture in your mind on how a particular place looks like, it helps a lot when it comes to describing a setting. So I had really based the physical aspects of BTSGS on my alma mater - it was after all a school that I was most familiar with. And as with what I do with the major landmarks mentioned in the book, I also do try to keep the school setting as true to my alma mater as I could - like how the indoor sports hall, canteen and sports facilities look like and even the outdoor pathway leading to the school - or at least, as accurate as my memory allows me to.
Are there really HDB flats in Bukit Timah?
With the school located in Bukit Timah, the girls had to live nearby as they walk to school. There was no doubt I had wanted them to live in HDB flats, after all 80% of the population in Singapore live in HDB flats. All that sounds very easy but one of the first thoughts I had was, were there HDB flats in Bukit Timah? The area is really better known for its landed residential estate and condos. So I was pretty pleased to find during my research that yes, there are indeed HDBs in Bukit Timah, which is at Toh Yi and Queen's Close. I finally decided on letting the girls live in Toh Yi, and whenever I needed them to travel to another place from home or from school, I would reference to Toh Yi and my alma mater to decide on the amount of time they needed to travel and distance they had to cover. These two factors - the time and distance the girls have to travel from home and school - will be play an important role in the plots of book 3 and 4.
That's it for now! Is there anything else that you would like to know about My BFF is an Alien? Drop me a message or comment and I'll try my best to answer them!
Note: My BFF is an Alien is a four-book series published by Epigram Books. The first book published in March 2020 is available from Epigram Books, Huggs-Epigram Coffee Bookshop, LocalBooks.sg and leading Singapore bookstores including Popular Bookstore, Kinokuniya and Times Bookstore. The second book of the series titled Sabotage is scheduled for release in October 2020.
©Vivian Teo. All content and photos are copyrighted to Vivian Teo unless otherwise specified.