Felicia Yap Meet the Author


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Felicia Yap

Rebecca Jones talks to Felicia Yap about her new murder mystery Yesterday.


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spooked by the simmering tension between the

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spooked by the simmering tension between the US

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spooked by the simmering tension between the US and

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spooked by the simmering tension between the US and North

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spooked by the simmering tension between the US and North Korea.

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Now it's time for Meet the Author.

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Felicia Yap's CV reads like a character from a book.

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After a childhood spent in Kuala Lumpur, she's been

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a biochemist, a war historian, a catwalk model, and she won a half

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blue in competitive ballroom dancing at Cambridge University.

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If that wasn't enough, she's now written her first novel,

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which was snapped up for a 6-figure sum, after a bidding war.

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It's called Yesterday and it's a murder mystery with a twist.

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It poses the intriguing question, how do you solve

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a crime when you can only remember yesterday?

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Felicia Yap, Yesterday is set in a world where there

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are two types of people.

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There are Monos, who can only remember yesterday,

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and there are Duos, who can remember two days ago.

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Where did this extraordinary idea come from?

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Well, it all happened literally on the move.

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So I was on my way to a dance studio in Cambridge when this question

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just arose to my mind.

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How do you solve a murder when you only remember yesterday?

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And that question just so intrigued me, when I got

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to the dance studio I couldn't stop thinking about it.

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My mind was full of all the possibilities,

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the rich possibilities, which were inherent

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to this speculative world.

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So we got to the studio, started practising our tango.

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My mind kept returning to the question, and you could say

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that I worked out the early contours of that story on the dance floor

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and that twists and turns were built into the fabric of the novel right

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from the start.

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I started writing the next day, literally, and 15 months

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later I had a thriller.

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Good lord, well, we'll come back to some of the points you've

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just raised in a moment.

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But just to explain to people what happens in this book.

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In the world you create, people's memories become full

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by the time they're 18 and this is down to a protein.

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I wondered at this point how much you were drawing

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on your background as a biochemist?

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Quite a bit.

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So actually trying to work out the rationale for this novel

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and also how it could potentially function, I found my previous

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training as a biochemist to be incredibly helpful,

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because I actually write a lot of research papers about memory,

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what proteins in our own world actually could have an impact on how

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we ourselves make memories, and from all these papers

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I was actually able to put together this hypothetical protein in this

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world which I've created, which is responsible for the storage

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of short-term memories.

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And in this world you've created, it's segregated by memory.

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It's nothing to do with wealth or education or religion,

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and Monos are discriminated against by Duos, and I wondered

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if you had anything else in mind when you were writing about that.

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Well, I really wanted to explore this idea of memory,

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what difference does an extra day of memory make?

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So in my novel, the wife just remembers one day,

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just because she's a Mono, and her husband is a Duo,

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who remembers two days.

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And it just so happens the murder in my story happens two days before,

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so the husband is privy to information, memories,

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facts, in his own head, which the wife does not have.

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So I thought it was an interesting way of going into the story,

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to create a sense of conflict, true characters and bringing that

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to the sense of society and the entire novel itself.

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Which came first, the memory setting, or the idea of this murder?

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It was the concept which occurred to me first, but then I realised

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concepts are just broad canvases.

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They don't really mean very much.

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What really makes the story sing, what makes it resonate with readers,

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are characters which readers can identify with.

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So that's why I really wanted to make it real.

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What difference would this day make in the lives of real people.

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So in the case of Mark and Claire, the husband and wife in my story,

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that was what I was trying to look at.

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You tell the story from four different perspectives,

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from the point of view of the husband and the wife,

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Mark and Claire, also the victim, and the detective trying

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to solve the murder.

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Had you got it all planned out in advance, or did

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it evolve organically?

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It actually did evolve organically.

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Really?

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Yes, I started with Claire, then I went on to Mark,

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then I thought it would be interesting maybe to write

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from the perspective of the villain, the woman he'd been sleeping with,

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the one who was murdered at the start of the novel,

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so I started in her voice, and then I realised that my story

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needed a narrative drive.

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Something has to power the engine of the story.

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I thought maybe I should write from the perspective

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of the detective too.

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That was quite tricky, because I don't naturally think

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like a 40-year-old male detective.

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Whereas the female parts tend to come more naturally.

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So I struggled a bit at first, writing the fourth voice,

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the detective, but because I worked so hard at it and really tried

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to get his voice right, he paradoxically became the easiest

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character for me to write.

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Talking to you, there maybe some people who think this novel must

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be set in the future, but actually it's

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mainly set in 2015.

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Why was that?

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I wanted it to be real, like very immediate story to all of us,

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so setting it in the present day seemed to make natural sense.

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Also, the novel takes place over the course of one day and it makes

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sense to be drawing on things which are going on right

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now, immediate to us, so that's what I wanted to do

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when I was writing it.

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It's really a darkly skewed version of contemporary Britain, the story,

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that's what's at its core.

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Yeah, I was very intrigued by one particular line,

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where you say most novelists write to make sense of things

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that happen to them - and I wondered with this book

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what were you trying to make sense of.

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Quite a few things and it goes back again to this idea of memory.

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What we ourselves choose to remember and what we

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ourselves choose to forget.

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That's a very relevant question to myself,

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because memories change over time.

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They mutate, they transform and studies suggest that 80%

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of what we remember isn't actually what happened.

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In my case, I think back to things that happened

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to me a long time ago, it gets tricky, this whole

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slippery nature of memory.

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We do question ourselves, whether our own memories

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of the past is true.

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That's what I wanted to explore in this novel.

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The second thing is our own capacity for self-delusion.

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What's fact, what's fake?

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Really is memory a set of lies we choose to tell ourselves?

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You've done all these various different jobs.

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I know you were also a flea market trader at one point.

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I wonder how all those different experiences have

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influenced you as a writer.

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It has all been incredibly useful, because I've realised that

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everything is relevant when you're writing a book.

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All the conversations you've listened to, eavesdropped on,

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the tiniest, smallest details, they're all relevant

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when you are writing a novel because details make a novel sing.

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So to give you an example, from my catwalk modelling days

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I was trying to think back to some of my most vivid exciting memories

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of my modelling on runways, and trying to ask why

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were they the most exciting.

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That's when I realised that they were really vivid

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because they make me feel delight when the audience was clapping,

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cheering away, fear that I would fall flat, trip,

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land on my nose.

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Or just horror, shredding on a dress with my heel.

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So that's when I realised emotions help us decide

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what to remember, what to forget.

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Things which really trigger something deep within our hearts,

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touch us to the core.

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That's why we remember them.

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So that proved really useful when I was writing this book,

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because people must rely on diaries to understand their past and that

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really helped me write each diary entry in Yesterday,

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to infuse each line in the book with more emotion and movement.

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So as you said, this idea for the book suddenly came to you.

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Had you always wanted to be a writer, or was it just another job

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on your very long list of jobs that you were going to do,

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or wanted to do?

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I've always wanted to write and my dream to become a writer

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began with bedtime stories, which my dad used to tell me

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when I was growing up.

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When you read a lot as a child you begin to wish that

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you could tell the same delicious stories yourself, so there wasn't

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really a Eureka moment when I thought I wanted

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to be a writer.

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It was more of an increasing conviction that I really wanted

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to tell a story which someone would potentially enjoy,

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respond to and remember.

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Is this the path ahead for you now?

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Oh, absolutely.

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I would love...

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Nothing would make me happier than to be a writer.

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Right now, I'm writing a prequel to Yesterday,

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which is called Today.

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We look forward to hearing about it.

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Felicia Yap, thank you so much.

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Thank you so much.

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Good

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