Thursday, March 26, 2015

All I do is sit around and imagine stories that remind me of my childhood days, when all I did was sit around and imagine stories



Hello dear people. Be not alarmed. That was just a warm up piece. My fingers are now ready to play us some serious clickety-clack.


It was World Book Day 2015 some weeks ago. On 5 March, actually. And this nice parenting website invited me to write about my favourite book as a child. They also happened to ask a bunch of other Singapore writers and celebrities, so you'll need to scroll about halfway down before you find me.

The editor didn't exactly say how long my contribution had to be. I ended up sending them a piece of writing that was somewhere between way-too-much and way-way-too-much. Well, to cut a long story short, they used only the top half. And this week I figured, why not share the full piece here, isn't that what having an author's blog is all about. And here it is. Lucky us.

BOOK: The Neverending Story
by Michael Ende (original German version)
and Ralph Manheim (English translation)

I read loads of books as a child, but the one that had the biggest impact on me was The Neverending Story. (It was also made into a popular movie, which some people might remember better.)

This fantasy adventure was my first encounter with a work of metafiction, which uses storytelling techniques to blend fiction and reality in order to create a richer reading experience.

In this case, the main character is a boy named Bastian Balthazar Bux. He gets hold of a book and starts to read it, only to find the story inside taking over and affecting his own life.

I can remember actually trembling as I read the book. I was blown away by the author's vision and brilliant ability to create something so unusual and vivid. Also, the text was printed in different colours to make it easier to follow the different threads. In all, it was like an artefact from another dimension, a truly magical treat.

Quite a timely coincidence, because my next book for children is directly inspired by this. It's called Lion City Adventures, published by Marshall Cavendish, and it will come out just before the June holidays this year.

The book takes children on a learning tour of ten interesting locations around Singapore. At the same time, we created story snippets along the way, about a very old and proud organisation called the Lion City Adventuring Club, made up of brave children who explored Singapore and made astounding discoveries. On top of all this, there are references to the characters and events from my other fiction worlds, like the Sherlock Hong series and the Time Talisman series.

Altogether, this creates a big alternate reality landscape for young readers to enjoy across different books. In my small way, I'm trying to recreate what The Neverending Story did for me. This sense of awe, this astonishing stretch of the imagination, is the best thing an author can give a child. Happy World Book Day 2015!


Have been looking out for this and it came yesterday: the new Get it Right! booklet put together by the National Library Board. This is part of their S.U.R.E. (Source, Understand, Research, Evaluate) programme, and it features an old interview with me, from back when I was featured in the student's newspaper What's Up!.

I think this new booklet will be sent to all the schools in Singapore. Or something like that. Which means lots and lots of students will see my face in it and read my words and then come rushing over to this website to check out our stories. And maybe, just maybe, you're here because you're one of them. Ahem. In which case: HEY! HELLO! HIGH FIVE!

In this interview I talked about why I love writing stories inspired by Singapore's colonial history, how I get my research done, and also introduced a few of my books. Like the ones you see in the photo above, the Sherlock Hong and Time Talisman series. Looking at this brings back lots of nice memories. The Secret of Monk's Hill (Time Talisman #1) was actually the first story that kicked off Super Cool Books. Back then, in 2011, it was published by local publisher Select Books, and they helped us figure out a suitable format for the series. A few months later we were able to put out the Sherlock Hong stories ourselves, and then even more titles followed quite quickly. The Time Talisman series is now available exclusively on our Super Cool Books iPad app.


Or maybe you're one of our many readers in California? Here’s something you can attend: my friend Sherry Giang-Chen is running a creative writing course for teens at the Hastings Branch Library in Pasadena. This takes place every Thursday for the next five weeks, and starts 26th March. Which is, like, almost immediately. Sherry and I used to be schoolmates and it’s great to know that she’s also helping to boost the creativity and writing power of young writers. Go. Have fun with her. Learn to develop your imagination until you can think of nothing but awesomely crazy story ideas, so furiously that they start to dribble out of your ears and down the side of your face. Say I sent you.


Don't you love it when you order books online and they're delivered just after breakfast, so you can spend the whole morning reading instead of, oh I don't know, doing any real work. I do. And you can too. Because our new title LION CITY ADVENTURES is already available as a pre-order on Amazon and Book Depository and also — but it's true, I just checked — the Guardian Bookshop. Wow. That's the miracle of modern publishing.

This is a proper printed full colour book for readers 8 to 11 years old. It takes you on a fun tour of Singapore, with some activities and challenges, and along the way you also get to solve mysteries with this amazing organisation called the Lion City Adventuring Club. More information here. I'll also be sharing some dates for signings, talks, appearances, etc. Soon.


Take it easy. Don't just fight your fears, why not charm them and turn them into your obedient slaves instead. And read everything about everything you love, because it can only help you love everything better.

— D