By Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé
Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?
A: I grew up consuming stories in every format I could get my hands on (comics, books, TV, video games, movies, etc.), and decided early on I wanted to tell my own stories. I told my kid brother a lot when we were growing up, and I kept wanting to tell more.
F: I always liked making things up in my head and going on amazing adventures with characters I’ve read about, or the imaginary people I created all on my own. It just seemed like a natural progression.
Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?
A: Our most recent project together was the recently released Sherlock Sam and Fiendish Mastermind in Jurong, the last part in a Sherlock Sam trilogy. It was our first multi-part story, and mostly, I just wanted to not screw it up. Keeping a narrative arc going for multiple “issues” is difficult work.
F: We also wanted our characters, especially Sherlock Sam, to grow as people, just like our readers. In this book, Sherlock isn’t quite so perfect and needs a lot of help from his family and friends. But that’s okay too. We wanted kids to know that.
Describe your writing aesthetic.
A: My aesthetic is pretty simple: would I like it? If yes, then I’m good. If no, then I need to rework it.
F: I take a lot of my writing cues from P.G. Wodehouse. I write funny.
Who are your favorite authors?
A: So, so many… Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, Cherie Priest, Roald Dahl, Richard K. Morgan, Edith Hamilton, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, William Gibson, Beverly Cleary, Michio Kaku, Jeff Smith, Carolyn Keene (who I know wasn’t just one person), Jonathan Hickman, G. Willow Wilson, Fred Chao, Raina Telgemeier, Greg Rucka, Jeff VanderMeer… I could literally go on for hours…
F: Urgh. No. I can’t answer that! It’s too hard! And it also changes depending on what point in my life I’m at. Plus, I admire different authors for different reasons! Okay, if you bribe me with chocolate, I would say: P.G. Wodehouse and Kurt Vonnegut have consistently been my favourite authors ever since I was a teenager. Right now though, I’m a huge fan of Jeff VanderMeer, Ken Liu, Anne Leckie, Jonathan Hickman, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Noelle Stevenson, and G. Willow Wilson.
What’s the most challenging piece of writing you’ve attempted? Tell us why.
A: Anything longer than a chapter book. I have tried writing two full-length novels in my life: the first I had no plan and I just meandered until I got to an ending (needless to say, it will never see the light of day; at least not without some massive editing); the second I planned, but haven’t finished (and haven’t touched in something like three years). We are currently writing a YA trilogy, and that is kicking our butts. It may be that I have a short attention span, or am just plain lazy, but anything longer than a chapter book is really damn hard.
F: What Adan said about our current YA writing project. Plus, it’s been a long time since I was a teenager and to write with an authentic voice is challenging.
What’s your idea of bliss?
A: A day at home, doing nothing but watching TV, reading comics, and playing video games with the girl.
F: Taking a couple of years off and traveling the world with the boy. Preferably on someone else’s dime – we’ll call it research 😀
What makes you angry, and I mean all-out-smash-the-china raving mad?
A: Suppression of free speech and expression. I cannot abide any government agency, in any part of the world telling grown adults what they can and cannot say, what they can and cannot read, what they can and cannot watch. It is at best a peaceful infantilization of a society which stunts its maturity and therefore cannot hold a public discussion without running to the state to mediate; and at worst a violent reprisal for a society seeking to throw off oppression and therefore cannot hold a public discussion for fear of incarceration, violent punishment, and possibly death. Suppression of free speech is terrible in all its forms, regardless of what speech is being suppressed.
F: Sexism in all its forms: casual, thoughtless sexism that we experience daily; people who think singing or joking about rape is just “boys being boys”; male geeks bullying female geeks; toys and games that are segmented by gender; women being blamed when they are raped; girls being punished for seeking out an education; girls being denied an education because they are girls. I could go on.
What book/s would you take with you on a three-month retreat in the boondocks?
A: Watchmen, Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, something new by Jonathan Hickman, and something new by Jeff Vandermeer.
F: This is just cruel. The complete collection of P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster (because I never get tired of them), The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester (it’s a gift and about the dictionary!) and also The Complete Saki (because it’s been languishing on my bedside table for a while and I really want to get started).
Your house is burning down. What’s the most important thing you’d want to take with you?
A: My wife. If she’s already safe, then our LEGO Death Star.
F: Adan lah. Then my stinky bolster. Wait. I know. I’ll take Adan carrying my stinky bolster. Wait, so no one is taking our important documents?
Describe your life philosophy. In a sentence.
A: Have fun, and don’t be a jerk.
F: Treat people the way you would want to be treated. It’s that simple. Unless you’re like a weird masochist, then er, don’t.
J. Low is a husband-and-wife writing team!
Adan Jimenez was born in the San Joaquin Valley in California to Mexican immigrant parents. He became an immigrant himself when he moved to Singapore after living in New York for almost a decade. He has worked for comic book stores, book stores, gaming stores and even a hoagie sandwich shop once. He loves comics, LEGOs, books, games (analog and video), Doctor Who and sandwiches.
Felicia Low-Jimenez has been a geeky bookseller for most of her adult life. She has bought books, sold books, marketed books, and now she is trying her hand at writing books. She loves to nap and eat chocolate. She spends most of her free time reading, and, when she can afford it, she travels, usually to look for beautiful bookstores around the world.
Sherlock Sam and the Missing Heirloom in Katong won the International Schools Libraries Network’s Red Dot Award 2013-2014 in the Younger Readers’ Category. Sherlock Sam and the Ghostly Moans in Fort Canning took third place in the Popular Readers’ Choice Awards 2013 in the English Children’s Books category.