Can you briefly tell us what your book is all about?
6 Years of Parrot is a collection of short stories and one or two poems that I wrote between 1998 and 2004 – between Secondary 3 and my sophomore year of university. By short, I mean really short – the oldest story in the book was written as the answer to an end-of-year examination question! And the length of the others is similar. They are all fiction, a form of fantasy to be precise. Not swords and sorcery fantasy, which I’m not really fond of, but the sort of fantasy that has, oh, a giant parrot egg buried under Bukit Timah Hill (the “Hill” bit is superfluous, I think, but people might not recognize it otherwise) and then proving not to exist.
Who/What were some of the muses/inspirational forces that helped you along during the creation of this book?
You could say this particular selection of stories represents the start of my resolve to make something of myself. I was an exceptionally poor student in all areas, academic and social and physical, except creative writing; at that age, the early to mid-teens, people tend to die out in spirit if they can’t find some way to convince themselves of their own worth, and things were worsened by the fact that I spent my secondary school years in a top stream full of backstabbing, throat-cutting competition and psychological bullying. Creative writing became my crutch in the way religion or boyfriends became some of my classmates’ crutch. Nine times out of ten the result was awful, of course – awful enough that I could tell it even then.
A chunk of the other ten percent, the short stories at least, is represented in this book.It’s also odd that that period – a period of social alienation and psychological disturbance which bordered on clinical depression, a time when I used to spend recess locked in a toilet cubicle crying – was my most creatively prolific period.
After junior college, I became rather more successful socially and physically (translation: I lost weight), even if my results were rather telling of the fact that I spent more time playing than studying. And at the same time, the desperate impetus that drove me to write seemed to cool down. I’ve often wondered if haywire hormones didn’t have something to do with it. After all, most of the wannabe writers out there seem to be angsty teenagers.
Anyway, to answer the question more concisely, I wrote a fair number of those stories because I was desperate for a way to keep my self-respect. The stories may or may not reflect that.
Which is your favourite piece of work in the book and why?
I like the oldest story, “PARROT!!!” – because in some ways, it’s the most mature piece of work in the book and it’s also the most representative of the style I followed during that period. Which is very strange in other ways, considering when it was written. The circumstances were also the most amusing of them all. There was a real bitch of a teacher invigilating the end-of-year English exam, an utter she-goat, and she happened to notice that my fingernails were too long as the exam started. She made me leave my desk and cut them before I could start doing the paper. I had no nail clipper, so I literally had to chew them off.
By the time she was satisfied, I had less than 30 minutes left. I was very, very pissed off because I suspected she was doing it on purpose to make me fail – at the time, I was regularly top of the class in the composition section, and it was the only thing I was good at.
Ironically, my pissed-off-ness resulted in that short story, which scored 39/40 marks. One in the eye for the she-goat! (Can I name her here? Revenge is a dish best eaten cold…) (moon’s note: =x )
I understand that you also illustrated your book. Would you rather be an illustrator or writer and why?
I’ll take writing any day. My inspiration to draw is very limited, and when I do illustrate, most of the time it’s as a technical experiment to see whether I can portray certain features or certain cinematic angles. I haven’t got the visual imagination to create full storyboards, or the patience to fill in individual details or panels. Whereas when I write, it can be textual diarrhoea, as my answers probably hint.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers/creators who want to publish their own works?
I’ve spent the last three years in the publishing industry and I can say straight off that it’s more work than I want to put in. Publishing fiction in Singapore is very difficult – I could write an entire essay on it, from Singaporeans’ refusal to read to the snobbishness of some readers when it comes to local vs. Western writers to the fickleness of the mass market which only demands the widely-derided “ghosts and sex” genre. Other than that, as my post “Go Web” describes in detail, the capital layout can break your neck and the marketing and distribution will break the other 205 bones. It’s exacerbated by the sheer ease of Web publishing. No one has yet come up with a free e-book-publishing service (that I know of) but I suspect it will only be a matter of time.
On the other hand, the example of the digital music revolution hints that book publishing may take an electronic turn. There’s already Google Books, Kindle and the rest out there. Now if you look at the problem facing the music industry, there’s a massive capital outlay on marketing and packaging, and I believe this is comparable in the book publishing industry. How do bestsellers become bestsellers? Read some of the posts on AMWC. And notice that, just as digitization is the breakthrough for no-name indie artists, it can potentially become the breakthrough for no-name authors.
So hang on to your pocket and learn some technical skills instead. Two, five, ten years down the road they may well be a great deal more useful than a pile of printed books.
Mint’s book is available for sale at her site. She also writes articles for the Business Times and Pulses Magazine (SGX financial magazine) on a freelance basis if anyone is interested to know. =3
Want to be featured as an author/mangaka on the AMWC Virtual Book Tour? Check out our simple guidelines and we look forward to hearing from you! =3