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Hwa Chong Alumna’s Astounding Success in Fiction

Updated: Sep 19

Written by: Hu Chenwei (21A15), Lim Xing Ying (21A12)

Photo by: Kyla Zhao Jiayi (15A15)

Kyla Zhao Jiayi (15A15), Author of "The Fraud Squad"

We extend our warmest congratulations to Kyla Zhao, whose debut novel, “The Fraud Squad”, has earned her a publishing deal with Penguin Random House imprint, Berkley Publishing. After a bidding war involving multiple interested publishers, Berkley ultimately won the publishing rights to “The Fraud Squad”, as well as an unwritten second novel from Kyla for six figures each. Her debut novel is set in Singapore's high society, featuring Samantha Song, who aspires to write for a women’s society magazine to escape her working-class background.

The inspiration for her book partly stemmed from Kyla’s realisation that throughout her youth, she had been perusing mostly Western-centric reads and materials. “That really struck me during the pandemic amid the anti-Asian racism rising everywhere, but especially in the United States where I was interning and studying then. I started questioning why most of the media I grew up consuming was set in the West and featured white characters.”

Driven by a desire to read something more familiar and closer to her own culture but unable to find it, Kyla embarked on writing “The Fraud Squad”—a book set in Singapore, powered by Singaporean characters. It was not only her way of creating the Asian representation she wanted to see, but also her way of alleviating her homesickness while far away and alone in California.

Such impressive achievements are underpinned by her deep-rooted and multifaceted passions. Back when she was a student in Hwa Chong’s Humanities Programme (HP), she had a natural affinity and talent for the General Paper, as well as wrote for and edited the school magazine.

“She always wrote something different,” commented Mr Nicholas Perry, her GP tutor back in Hwa Chong, “and that kind of heralds what she was going to become.” The intellectually stimulating environment of HP also gave her the conviction that “there is definitely a space for those who love the humanities and the arts,” furthering her interests in writing and the magazine publishing industry.

Kyla also fondly reflects how she loves “observing people and probing into their inner worlds.” Studying for her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology at Stanford University fortified this interest by allowing her to “put herself in her characters’ shoes and highlight the subtleties of human behaviour,” thus culminating in her sensational debut.

“There is no hard and fast rule to be successful in writing; if you are passionate, write whatever you want, be it [in the form of] blogs, fan fiction, or poems.” In her words of encouragement, Kyla urges all aspiring writers to find their own way of writing, and believe that their “voice will be heard” one day.

Kyla Zhao has recently been honoured on the prestigious Forbes "30 Under 30" list for her accomplishments as an author. Forbes "30 Under 30" is an annual list by Forbes that recognizes young individuals worldwide who are making significant achievements in various industries.

The Fraud Squad is available at Books Kinokuniya ( and Penguin Random House’s website ( Kyla can be reached at her website ( or Twitter (@kylazingaround). She has also sold a children’s novel, "May the Best Player Win", to Penguin Random House for publication in 2024.

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