Azizi finds action in fiction

by Intan Maizura Ahmad Kamal

After having helped would-be millionaires get started, finance author and self-help guru Azizi Ali is turning his hands to writing thrillers. INTAN MAIZURA AHMAD KAMAL reports.

 SELF-MADE millionaire Azizi Ali is dressed in an eye-catching terracotta
top and super shiny black shoes. He’s oblivious to my initial gawking.

I may be excused as it’s not every day that I get to meet a coach for millionaire-wannabes. Self-help book fans would know the affable 46-year-old as a best-selling author, a commanding speaker, financial coach and an avid property investor.

But today, Azizi, who’s also a pilot with a national carrier, is not here to dish up tips to help make me a millionaire.

Instead, he wants to talk about his debut novel, Ekuinoks, a mystery thriller.

“I love writing,” he begins, eyes sparkling. “I believe there’s a story inside each one of us that wants to be told. I just haven’t had the chance to do fiction before because I’ve been concentrating on my finance books for the last 10 years.”

Azizi is a big fan of thrillers, citing John Grisham and Tom Clancy as two of his favourite authors. The Usual Suspect is his favourite film and not surprisingly, his first fiction outing is in that genre.

“When I decided that I was going to do this, I enrolled myself in writing class (distance learning) and began reading fiction again, referring to my favourite authors for how they write, how they tell their stories,” he discloses.

As for the title Ekuinoks?

He smiles. “I’d always wanted to use that word Ekuinoks for a title. It just sounds so magical and when I got to know the meaning of it a few years ago, it was even better.” (Equinox is Latin for equal night — when the length of day and night is equal as the sun is right overhead the equator. It’s something that only happens twice a year).

Azizi took about eight months to complete his novel. “Too long!” he exclaims. “My books on finance only take 30-40 days to write. I guess with those books, I already had a system in place. Ekuinoks is my first fiction novel, so I don’t quite have one yet. The next one will be faster!”

Of course, time is needed for research. He nods. “Definitely. For example, guns are not something commonly found in Malaysia but there are guns involved in the book. Fortunately I go overseas a lot so I can find stuff on this.

“Ekuinoks also refers to the events of May 13, 1969 and the history of Malaysia, so I had to find out about that.”

The most challenging thing for Azizi in doing the book was finding the right words in Malay!

“I think in English,” he says sheepishly, before explaining that as a child in Perlis, he attended an English-medium school. His job as a pilot also meant that he was constantly conversing in English.

“There are just no words sometimes, for what I want to say. But now my Malay vocabulary and spelling have improved tremendously and I’ve discovered words I never knew existed!”

I ask Azizi about his other claim to fame – as a self-made millionaire.

He grins before confiding that he never set out to be a jutawan.

“I never had any big dreams. I was just a kampung boy. My dad had already retired when I was growing up and mum was a school teacher.”

He adds: “All I wanted one day was to have a small house, a decent salary and a small car. That part of my life was reserved for mediocrity.”

But, as he puts it, fate intervened. In 1979, his application to join MAS as cadet pilot was successful. He was only 18.

“I was making RM2,000-RM3,000 at the age of 19 — a lot of money at that time — and I thought I had it made. But I faced financial problems,” recalls Azizi, who has four daughters.

“Nobody talked about money then. The formula then was to study hard, get good grades, go to the best university and find a job with the biggest company and live happily ever after. But the formula wasn’t complete.”

With a shrug of his shoulders, he asks: “What do you do with the money you got? I didn’t know about savings. I was a bachelor and I just spent all my money. The most important things in my life then were my hair and my car! I was broke half the time.”

He decided something had to change. “I educated myself on money matters, read whatever I could get my hands on. After a while I got better. Of course it wasn’t smooth sailing but at least things were changing.”

He continues: “Despite some mistakes I made with investments, I got better at keeping my money. Soon, I’d managed to save almost half a million. All this saving and investing weren’t as difficult as I thought.”

Any word of advice, I ask a bit too hopefully.

“Choose your battles carefully,” he replies. “There are some battles you can never win. Then there are battles that are not even worth fighting because they’re so trivial.

“I didn’t know this before, so I wasted time and effort being an angry young man. I became less effective. The moment I learned this, I became happier, healthier and more contented inside… and I became richer in the process!”

Ekuinoks, published by Anggun Publishing, was launched on Aug 22 at MPH MidValley in KL. Priced at RM29.90, it is available at all major bookstores.

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