Benny Lau, an established horror author who has earned the reputation of being Hong Kong’s master of horror novels, obtained a BA in Humanities from the OUHK in 2006. Since 1999, he has been writing under the name But Ming. He explained that the pen name, taking the meaning of its homophones, represents his mood and attitude of ‘not understanding anything and yet having a curiosity in everything’. Having published nearly 30 books, he has been on the list four times for ‘My Favourite Author’ in Hong Kong’s ‘Top Ten Book Picks’ and many of his books are best-sellers.
Benny launched his career in the publishing industry after graduating from university, and is currently the Publishing Director of an education publisher. In 2001, his journey to become a writer began when he and his friends founded in their spare time the HKCZone, an online platform for young writers, which later caught the eye of a book publisher. Invited to jointly write a print book, Benny and other emerging online writers had their first co-written romance novel published and it received enthusiastic response. ‘The editor considered my realistic writing approach impactful and later encouraged me to try genres not limited to romance. I then attempted to write horror novels as I am into this genre,’ said Benny.
His horror fictions are not only about stimulating the senses. More importantly, they delve into good and evil in human nature. ‘Fond of criminal psychology, I believe deep in one’s heart is a hidden demon lying in ambush. There might not be ghosts in my novels, yet an eerie look is frightening enough to trigger imaginations. The human soul is often more horrifying than evil spirits,’ he explained. His novel The Wicked Contract, for instance, explores the journey into the heart of darkness that originated from human greed.
In recent years he integrated local elements in his novels, encouraging young people to learn about the history of Hong Kong. Lockhart Road, for example, is about the stories of comfort women during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong. Having published for a couple of years in Taiwan where there is a wide range of talented writers, Benny is glad to have improved in sophistication as a writer and to have helped Taiwanese learn more about Hong Kong. Doomsday Massacre (The Finale), a series to be published in Taiwan that took him five years to edit and compile, is by far the fiction which he is most proud of. The 500,000-word story explores the apocalypse and questions what constitutes righteousness, bringing together elements of science and philosophy.
Benny has sound advice for people who aspire to be writers. He affirmed, ‘Write. This is most important. I will write 6,000 words in an evening after work. Be curious and observant. Insights and imaginations are more crucial than writing skills.’ He supplemented that Internet literature has flourished in the past decade, and a creative work’s original concept and content may sometimes be influenced during the course of publication due to frequent interactions between the author and readers. He believes writers should insist on being loyal to themselves. It is this faithfulness that makes writers respectable. ‘An author’s distinctive soul is irreplaceable.’
The OUHK’s part-time degree programme has helped Benny to further his capability for self-learning, a skill and attitude that has proved to be most beneficial for his lifetime. ‘These trainings are tremendously useful for my publishing work, as well as for the preliminary research and information collection before I start to write.’ He recalled that he almost quitted when taking the toughest course in bibliographical study, but then to his delight he ultimately came first in the class and took home a scholarship upon graduation.
What has he gained as a novelist for years? He answered with a smile, ‘It means pleasure, achievements, and more.’ Writing gave Benny the opportunity to meet his wife, who is also an author herself, and make up a happy family of four today. He is by all means enjoying a happy life.