Hi! I’m Rachel Tey. I work as a full-time editor of research publications at a local university. I am also: a book fiend; English history nut (particularly the middle ages); dog lover; and Francophile. I live in Singapore with my husband, 8-year-old son, 3-year-old daughter, and an imaginary dog called Barky.
Here’s the story of how Tea in Pajamas came to be.
Tea in Pajamas came to mind in 2012, the year I made the conscious decision to recover from an eating disorder that plagued me in between my two pregnancies. I wanted to present a light-hearted action adventure novel for children aged 8 years and up (and adults young at heart), which was an allegorical depiction of my journey of recovery.
After suggesting the idea of writing this book to my husband over our Valentine’s Day lunch, he agreed to be the book illustrator. I then scribbled down the characters and plot points on my placemat (a lot of it didn’t make it into the eventual story, but it was a start!), and spent the next few months feverishly working on the chapters.
Because this story meant so much to me on a personal level, I had a very strong vision of how I wanted it to look and be presented. I did make a few inquiries with some local publishing industry insiders, but did not get a sense that this book would fit any local publisher’s catalog. Most notably, I was told that my being Asian would get in the way of telling a story that had heavy French and continental influences. But I wasn’t prepared to alter my story or vision. In the end, I decided that self-publishing was the most suitable platform for the book.
However, I had my work cut out for me. Even though I have worked in publishing for over 12 years and know the ins and outs of book production, self-publishing was entirely new to me. I had to research for the most suitable self-publishing platform, learn how to set up an author website, email and mailing list, and maintain social media channels to establish an online presence and following. But definitely, the hardest part was having to market myself without the backing of a well-known publisher’s branding, i.e. to convince others why they should care (about me or my little book). Now, I also have to monitor the sales and distribution of my book, and constantly ensure I have new content on social media to keep my followers interested.
It’s certainly been a labour of love, and not something I ever dreamed I could do, especially when I was so attuned to the limiting beliefs that come with an eating disorder. This book is a testament to the fact that you can achieve anything you set mind to, and you are worthy of success, however big or small.
Now enough about me, let’s move on to the lighter stuff!
Pajamas or Pyjamas? That is the question.
US readers may not grapple with this question so much, but where I come from (a tiny island in Southeast Asia and one-time British colony), “pajamas” is more of an anomaly. I was certainly taught to spell “pyjamas” with the “y” in school.
But did you know—at least according to Wikipedia—the original word “pai jamah” was incorporated into the English language via the British Empire from c.1800 through the Bengali pajāmā, itself from the Persian word pāy-jāmeh (پايجامه lit. “leg-garment”)? This was around the time PJs became popular across Europe.
So let’s talk phonics. Pai jamahs might have read as PY-JAHM-AZ to Westerners—perhaps accounting for the usage of “pyjamas” outside of North America. “However, you will notice that within the spelling of both pai jamah and pajama, the initial vowel sound is represented not by the letter y, but the letter a—lending credence to the present-day US spelling,” claims the author of this article. He goes on to say pyjamas “contains a needlessly complex representation of the initial vowel sound” and was later altered by American lexicographers. And actually, the US variant is more in line with early versions.
The truth is, my choice wasn’t based on etymology. I simply felt Tea in Pajamas as a title worked so much better than Tea in Pyjamas. And if it was going to be retailing on Amazon.com rather than Amazon.co.uk, “pajamas” was a definite frontrunner. In any case, I hope my non-US readers understand: pyjamas-pajamas, potato-potahto, tomayto-tomahto … as long as we know we’re talking about the same thing.
Spoiler: If we can indeed get past spelling, you’ll come to realize this little action adventure is one which goes beyond its characters’ pajamas—literally. So whether you’re 8 or 80, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it!
Find me on:
My book is on:
If you’re from Singapore, check out these
bookstores where Tea in PJs is stocked:
Booktique (CityLink Mall)
Tango Mango (Tanglin Mall).