Tim Lewis: May King is an enormous personality. She’s a tea expert and also a social media expert in the world of Twitter ( https://twitter.com/MayKingTea). She’s currently in the process of launching a brand of tea infused gin, and a tea infused brand of beer, and she’s well known for her experience in social media and in the tea business over the years. But she suffers from the problem of having too many options to think of in terms of writing a book, and she’s been struggling to make a decision as to which book to for her book project. So today we’re going to take her through the choices of what book she wants to write and see maybe if we can get her to make a decision and come back on the show to actually commit to writing the book. May King is also known for her terrible tea puns, where she will just insert the word tea basically wherever the word the is in the sentence, hence the rather strange title for this show. So now over to the interview.
Tim Lewis: I don’t think there’s really any need for introductions, only because I’ve probably just pasted on one in post production before this, and also I want to really just get down to the crux of our conversation today which is unlike my previous two sort of guinea pig guest mentees on this show. You’re at a much earlier stage, you do want to write a book, but you’re kind of still in the which book idea to think about stage aren’t you? So maybe we could start by just you describing what kind of ideas you’re thinking about for this book that you are going to write in the near future.
May King Tsang: Do you know I have had so many ideas, so many books, and so procas-TEA-nation has stepped in and I’ve had lots of ideas for I would say a good six or seven years and it changes with every person that I talk to because as you know when you’re in business it can often feel like the loneliest place in the planet. So you talk to people, you talk to other business owners and you ask advice, and every person I meet is a business mentor to me because they always give me advice. So, on the one hand I’ve got people who say, “You’ve got to write a tea a book. You should write a tea book.” So then I’m thinking what kind of tea book should I write, I’ve done a lot on research on … tea-search, on the kind of books that I should perhaps right, because there are a lot of tea books out there, but nothing that really, really jumps out at me. And then there’s another school of thought where a lot of people are thinking, well, you should really talk about your business journey, and talk about the highs and lows, and that kind of stuff.
May King Tsang: And then I had my own idea, of being a rival to the Dummy’s Guide because I have never a Dummy’s Guide to book, because I always felt it was patronising, but there is a need for education, there is a need for personal development, and so on. So I thought I wonder if I could have a series of books which are more positive in their title, so Making it Happen for example. So then I procras-TEA-nated. Sorry I get giggly over my tea puns. Laughing at my own tea puns. So I keep procrastinating which book I should write about first in my Making it Happen series, and consequently, I’ve got lots of Google docs all over at shop, with all these titles, and you know, and I started a page in, three pages in, and then I’ve stopped because I don’t which one to finish off first.
Tim Lewis: Okay.
May King Tsang: So that’s me.
Tim Lewis: So that’s the quickest interview ever. Yeah I think you’re a lost cause. I think … I think we’ll all just go home. No, no of course not. So, the Making it Happen series, you say you’ve got several titles in that, that you’ve kind of thought of, and then you’ve got the tea book, and you’ve got whatever that book was, it was clearly important enough for me to forget about it, so. I mean there is a difficult … I mean, I’ve struggled with this … I mean, I’ve written seven books now, and my latest book was basically writing about a topic that I wanted to be known for, so social media networking, as a way to get authority and to get a foot in the door. So, I can see why people would encourage you to write a book about tea, because that is your speciality area, you do stuff all related to tea, and gin, and beer, and various other random tea related items and live tweeting. So, I mean, there is something to be said, this is the woman who wrote the book about it, who wrote the book about tea. With the Making it Happen series that could be successful. I think there is always a big demand for simple Janet and John-like how to do stuff material.
Tim Lewis: I’m not sure that I … I mean don’t … I’ve bought and read a lot of the Dummies books over the years, and I’ve never found them particular patronising, mainly because they’re not always written by the same person, they just basically outsource to … So they’re just a collection of the head hunted books for people. Now it may be that there is a class of people who don’t like the idea of the Dummies books, and they want to read your other rival series. I mean I don’t know. You may want to look at trying to do some sort of research about whether this market that you think is there, is actually there. I mean in some ways, just writing the book, even if it doesn’t sell will be a good experience because you then know the procedure so that if you write your Making it Happen book about advising people how to make the perfect cup of tea or something, so you kill two birds with one stone. But you would learn so much from that experience that then you could go and write … potentially write a book about your experiences.
Tim Lewis: I think that was the other thing that you were talking about, your business experiences. I mean your business journey from an autobiographical point of view, I mean your story’s actually very interesting as well. So, but I … I mean I’ve not written anything autobiographical yet, partly because I want you to kind of get the ropes, learn the ropes about how to self publish and how to write books before doing the whole emotion or thing you’re trying to write something autobiographical, because my own story’s quite interesting to people, but I do it want to-
May King Tsang: It really is yeah.
Tim Lewis: I do want to have to do … go through the emotion or kind of ringer of doing that, and learn to write, and self publish, and do stuff at the same time. So, yeah I mean it … I mean, I would say if I was … If you were coming to me, and gave all that, I would go with the tea book to start with, but there is an argument for saying that … And this again comes back to something we’re talking about in the pre-chat, which I probably should’ve recorded but … If you’re creating a tea book, are you thinking of just a textual book, or are you thinking of something with loads of say photographs, or colour photographs, and examples, and that kind of thing? I mean is it more like a cookbook but tea, or is it just basically a history of the tea that would just be like a textual book? I mean what kind of thing would you be thinking about in the tea area?
May King Tsang: Well again, this is where procrastination set in because of exactly those questions. I could write a tea book, a tea cookbook right now. I’ve got 40 different recipes in my head, can use different styles … different types of tea to infuse with them, or to cook with them, starters, mains, and desserts that I could absolutely start with. There are so many his-tea-ry books out there, but they’re really dry. I want to draw on the fun aspect, the funny stories. I mean we talked about the beer and the gin in the pre-chat earlier about in … Was it the 60’s or the 17th century? The Brits were just drinking beer and gin by the dozen, because water wasn’t sanitised, and you know, it’s just those kinds of stories that I want to draw on rather than the dry historical texts that are out there at the moment.
May King Tsang: So, it really depends, but what’s been brought to my attention recently is actually the second book that I talked about, and I’ve actually got a working title for it, because recently people were saying to me that it might be good to write a sort of autobiographical book, because it combines the tea, it combines the business aspects of it, and it’ll help people to understand me as a person a little bit more, and my journey. I think drawing on what you were saying about how perhaps you’re not ready to write your own autobiographical book at the moment, I feel that I am ready now I think. I wasn’t ready a year ago, but now that I’ve come back to the UK, things have settled a lot more, and I’ve been here two years now.
May King Tsang: I think I might be ready to write that second book, which is from Making Mistakes to Making it Happen. So it’s kind of like a pre-cursor to the Making it Happen series, where I am going to be talking about … It’s going to be a bit about tea, it’ll be a bit about my business, how I got into business, and how I started my business in three different cities. That kind of thing. So it kind of encapsulates everything I think, and I think that, that is sort of drawing my attention at the moment, I’ve even got the word from Making Mistakes to Make it Happen actually as my wallpaper on my phone. And my sister who is my biggest cheerleader, she’s always cheering from the sidelines with pom poms with me, she wants to get involved in camera a little bit more, and experiment with it. So she set herself a goal to actually do me a just a fun little book cover with those words sot hat I can have it as my wallpaper. So rather than the words just jumping out at me, it’ll be my whole … perhaps even my book cover. So I have got … I think I’m going to put the other book to one side and maybe concentrate on this one because I’ve got a working title for it.
Tim Lewis: So, this is kind of like talking therapy where you already knew the answer, but you just needed to be able to talk through, or is this more … you’re going to go after this and you’re going to think, oh well, do I really want to talk about this now? I mean, and I’m of the opinion that both might be correct. I don’t know. I mean, it feels to me from the way you were describing that then that, that is the book that you want to write first and foremost above … I mean, would it be right in saying that … I’ll try and say this and not sound macabre, but it’s going to sound macabre. But if it turned out that you had some sort of tea related disease that meant you’re going to drop dead in a years time, would that be the book that you would’ve want to have written out of those books. It sounds like that is the one that you want to get done before the great tea episode next year.
May King Tsang: So to go back to your question of whether I’d already made a decision, I haven’t. So actually through the conversation that we’ve been having it just made me realise that when we were describing the book, and actually when you’d forgotten the second book that I was going write, I was mortally offended. I thought no, no, that’s the one I actually … And I think I kind of made a decision there and then. But yes, I believe that, that book is the one I want to write. There is a tea induced disease that you could perhaps suffer from.
Tim Lewis: Oh no, I’ve cursed you too.
May King Tsang: No, so apparently you can actually tea drunk.
Tim Lewis: Oh.
May King Tsang: You’d have to drink eight gallons of the stuff, but you can get tea drunk and get so giddy, and be on a high. That kind of stuff. So you can actually … I believe you can drink so much water that you can sort of keel over. So tea’s exactly the same, but you would die happy, because you’re actually tea drunk, because you’re actually on a high. But anyway, that’s another aside. But yes I feel-
Tim Lewis: No it’s an interesting topic.
May King Tsang: I’m not planning on dying.
Tim Lewis: Who knew you could die from drinking too much tea?
May King Tsang: There you go. Yes, I don’t plan on leaving this planet in a years time, but I believe that the book will encapsulate all of my love, which is tea, which is education. So education about tea, education about business, how to start in business, because I came from a corporate world and I fell into starting a business quite by accident, and then I had the opportunity to start my business three times, which has been amazing. And of course, in all of those three opportunities I have made a lot of mistakes, and I am still making mistakes. But, what I have done is learned from some of those mistakes, and that’s where it’s gotten me to today, and now I’m more confident in doing certain things in a particular way, but those opportunities wouldn’t have happened if my personal life happened to sort of take me to those different cities, London, Brisbane, and then back to Sheffield. So, I think it will sort of combine all of those love.
Tim Lewis: Okay, so that was a lot quicker getting your big idea than I expected. So, I was going to let you off with actually setting a deadline for when this was going to be done, but as we’ve finished early, I’m like, maybe we should because … What I was going to do is say, “Oh well, maybe you should go away and we’ll think it,” and you come back and you talk about which idea you’ve selected.
May King Tsang: Right.
Tim Lewis: But as you’ve already selected an idea in the show …
May King Tsang: Well you see one of the mistakes that I am making a lot actually is not having deadlines, and of course as you noted, if you don’t have a goal, you don’t have deadlines, then you never get things done, and I think that’s probably … Well, I am sure that is the reason why I’ve procrastinated for so long to write a book, so I’m really scared now. Now, you’re forcing me to eat that green frog and set a deadline now aren’t you?
Tim Lewis: Yeah, well remember, you don’t have to, but on the other hand, it’s … And we have to be … Well rather than just picking say well, let’s do it next week-
May King Tsang: Which ain’t going to happen.
Tim Lewis: Which ain’t going to happen no, because you’re in the process of releasing your tea infused gin, and beer, and God knows what else you’re doing really, and you’re doing your live Tweeting.
May King Tsang: Yes.
Tim Lewis: So, I’m fully mindful that you’re not going to really start doing anything for probably at least a month or two. I mean are you kind of … This is a question I probably should’ve asked the other two, but I’m kind of making this up as I go on. I’m sure when I’ll do more of these I’ll have a nice little checklist of things to ask people. But are … In terms of organisation are you kind of somebody who has a massive calendar with little red post it notes that you move around, or are you more like, I’ll do this in October, or is it just basically your life is driven by your inbox? I mean, organisation-wise what sort of personality are you and how do you manage your business.
May King Tsang: I am a very disorganised person, because I’m a creative. I aspire to be an organised person, and I like hanging out with organised people, are hoping that it will rub off on me. So I do have a lovely calendar, Google calendar, and I’ve got different colours for different things, that kind of thing. But whether I meet that deadline or not, I’m yeah … I haven’t quite got to that bit yet.
Tim Lewis: What I’m going to do is suggest the same thing I suggest to Jen about-
May King Tsang: Yes.
Tim Lewis: From my discussions with Jen afterwards she seemed to totally ignore my advice on this, and actually started writing the book anyway, but that’s a whole nother issue. Is there … And to be fair I didn’t do this with my latest book, but that was the nature of … With my fiction books, the approach I found fantastically useful was creating a plan for the book. So, what that means in the simplest sense, and you can add this to … you can go ad infinitum to this, and certainly with fiction books you can. So, what do I mean by plan for a book. So, it’s almost like just having a … it could be a Word document, or the software I use is Scrivener, which is quite good for organising these things. So, just planning out the chapters of your book, and a couple of sentences about what that chapter, or that section is going to be about.
May King Tsang: Okay.
Tim Lewis: And that actually often has taken me longer than the writing book. So, rather than saying, May King is going to have a great Making it Happen rather than Making Mistakes book … I’ve already got the title wrong, but that’s … We’re not going to set you a date, but we’re going to set you a date for when the plan should be completed.
May King Tsang: Okay. I like that idea. I do like that idea. That’s great. Okay.
Tim Lewis: Yeah. So-
May King Tsang: And that’s a really good idea. I like that, just having a plan because I think again, with all the other book ideas I’ve had, I’ve sat and thought okay, what am I going to write about? And then I just sort of give up and think I’ll just go and make a cup of tea.
Tim Lewis: Yeah, I mean my … I’ve still got … I think I’ve still got on my computer … Because I used to try and write science fiction and other things, and you sit down and you write a bit, you write a bit. Then you end up, I’ve no idea where I’m going to go now, and that’s when you give up. But, I read this book when I was in my notice period for my job actually called Write, Publish, Repeat, and what they do is they say, yeah create a plan, because a plan helps you … It has something you can go back to and say, so what was I going to talk about next? And I mean you can … And also, if you get kind of blocked in one section, you can switch to another section and write that bit, while you’re blocked in the other section. So, what I try and do…
Tim Lewis: Because of the nature of my latest social media networking book I didn’t do this, because it was mainly interview based. So, there wasn’t a planning what people are saying, it’s basically transcribing what people have already said, and I did basically, I pantsed, or what they call, a seat of the pants writing the beginning and end, which probably shows when you read the book.
Tim Lewis: But, for most books it makes sense to have a plan, and that is literally can be a sentence for each chapter. The more you have … And I mean, for fiction books, you can add things like tracking which characters are in which section. I suppose, if you’re going to be looking for quotes for people for a non-fiction book, you can make a note in each section like, I need to approach Tim to talk about this, or whatever. Or this is something I want to check for that section of the book. Was it really a gin panic in the 17th century or the 18th century? Those kind of things can go in the plan, so that you have an idea about what’s … So when you basically want to get to the point when you’ve got a plan, and then you can maybe book out a couple of days or you’ve got a quiet-ish week and you can spend the mornings, and you just try and write the book as fast as possible.
May King Tsang: Right.
Tim Lewis: And the reason why writing a book fast helps is that it keeps in your mind so that you can remember what you wrote. If you’re writing 50 words a day, then you’re going to have to spend all your time going back reading what you already wrote, because you’ve forgotten what you wrote.
May King Tsang: Oh okay. Got you.
Tim Lewis: So for my perspective, and this is different … I mean, somebody like Stephen King doesn’t write plans, and just turns out 200 words a day or whatever. But a lot of the very successful writers write a plan and then they write the book as fast as possible to keep it all in their mind, and I think it makes better books. So, let’s get to the point and say when do you think you could get a plan done by?
May King Tsang: Blimey. Oh you really are testing me now. Well, okay let me ask you this, when do you think that you are … How many guests are you going to be speaking with before you come back to me? And that will … So is that going to be two months time, is it going to be a months time, is it going to be a weeks time? I don’t know.
Tim Lewis: I … Pretty … Well, I’m going to go to Jen and Ben, makes them sound like some sort of 70s band doesn’t it? Jen and Ben.
May King Tsang: Jen, Ben, and I’m Ken.
Tim Lewis: You’re Ken yeah. You’re no longer May King, you’re now known as Ken. May Ken it Happened. Anyway, that’s an aside. No, so there’s at least six weeks, and I prob … I might have … I kind of promised somebody to do an interview though they haven’t come back to me, but they’re probably going to come back at the last minute about a totally unrelated topic, self-publishing… Because I’m still every now and then going to do the odd interview with somebody unrelated to this kind of grand make all my friends self publish books glam that I seem to be inadvertently running. So, I think it’s going to be at least two months. So-
May King Tsang: Great. So we are in … What are we in at the moment? We are in the late end of the September aren’t we?
Tim Lewis: Yes.
May King Tsang: So October, November … So, towards the end of November. Yeah, I like that. Yeah. Okay.
Tim Lewis: So shall we say … This is why I should get my phone out. This is when … This is where the listeners I should give up listening to this, because he’s just mucking about on his phone. So, the next show is going to be on the third. So that will probably be … Well, that might be … Oh, I don’t know what that’s going to be.
May King Tsang: Well, end of November you give me a date. Tweet the date. Make me accountable on Twitter with all of our SM besties, our social media besties, and that will really keep me on track won’t it? And then hopefully I’ll have people cheering on the sidelines, with pom poms with me saying, “How’s your plan doing May King? May Ken?”
Tim Lewis: So May Ken … Forget about that because we need a definite date because otherwise it’ll slip, or I’ll forget about it.
May King Tsang: Okay.
Tim Lewis: So I’m just going to pick two months from today, when we’re recording this, which is the 22nd of November.
May King Tsang: Right. 22nd of November. Okay. So that is 5 days after my birthday.
Tim Lewis: Oh your birthday’s on the …
May King Tsang: 13th, 13th of November, and I’m going to be the grand old age of 45.
Tim Lewis: Oh you sprightly youngster, I passed 45 in February so.
May King Tsang: You’re always going to be younger than me. You’re always going to be younger than me. Okay, so the 22nd of November you’re going to post on Twitter a very possibly blurred picture if you’re willing to, of your plan. For everybody who doesn’t know, what is your Twitter handle.
May King Tsang: @MayKingTea, M-A-Y-K-I-N-G-T-E-A, and yes, May King is my first name.
Tim Lewis: Yeah, we only ever make the mistake of calling you May once before…
May King Tsang: That’s right.
Tim Lewis: …you see this dreadful stare, and somebody turning into the Incredible Hulk, you start turning the green colour. No, no sorry May King. So, it’s May King, yeah.
May King Tsang: Do you know, it’s really interesting, quite often I’ll go into Twitter, because obviously Twitter’s my favourite platform, and then have a look at the trending conversations that are going at the moment. They’re trending hashtags, and there was one last week, about how two celebrities, and people have been pronouncing their names wrong for so long, and they’ve just let it go. So, is it Ariana Grande?
Tim Lewis: Yeah.
May King Tsang: So people have been pronouncing her name Ariana Grand-ey, and it’s not right apparently, but she’s never corrected it. And then the other lady … Oh gosh I’m going to pronounce her name wrong now, is it Christine Teigen, and her name is actually Tei-gen I think anyway.
Tim Lewis: Oh.
May King Tsang: And they’ve never corrected them, and I thought … And so I actually put out a tweet, and I said, “I’m afraid I can’t let it go.” I would correct people, and I think … Well, the only reason why … Well, there’s a couple of reasons why I correct people, is actually … Well, no three things actually. It’s a personal achievement of mine because I’ve grown up not being noticed, I am supposed to be the, I’m a girl so I don’t count in Chinese culture. I’m not supposed to say anything. I’m not supposed to cause confrontation, smile and all the rest of it. But it’s a personal achievement of mine when I interrupt people and say, “Actually my name is May King.” So it’s personal development for me. That’s the one reason.
May King Tsang: The second reason is my dad wanted to call me May Ling, but my mom said, “No, that’s a really common name. Why don’t we call her May King instead?” And so it’s a really unique name and it’s just a … I like the fact that my mom gave me unique name, because also Chinese names tend to be hyphenated, and they deliberately didn’t hyphenate it either to make me truly unique. So I love that. I love saying that my name is May King, because my mom saw something in me, and she made me unique. And I think it’s just beautiful.
May King Tsang: And then thirdly the reason why I insist on being called May King is because of my business name Making Tea. If I permitted people to call me May, then the Making Tea doesn’t really make sense. So that’s really the reason why I correct people, and also as well people do call my name, say my name wrong the second time. I get to crack my joke where I say, “I’m going to have to threaten to slap you with a wet tea leaf if you get my name wrong again.”
Tim Lewis: How many times have you slapped somebody with a wet tea leaf then?
May King Tsang: Never. Never. I’m a hugger not another fighter.
Tim Lewis: Okay. Anyway, we’ve managed to pass a half hour mark talking about tea and your book. I’m glad that you have seemingly crystallised on a book idea now. I think you just needed the little spark of somebody saying, “Pick one.” And then you were like, “This is the one I want. This is the one I really want.”
May King Tsang: Thank you for that Tim. I really appreciate it. It’s been great. I had a … It’s been a great chat. Thank you for having me on your show, and I look forward to talking to you again when I’ve got my plan all sorted out.
Tim Lewis: Yeah, and then we’ll have to talk about the hard act of actually writing the book, and a deadline for when the book itself will be out. So thank you so much for being on the show today May King.
May King Tsang: No thank you Tim.