by Jia Ying Chia
As a young writer, Malcolm Mejin certainly was sure if he would strike it big in a tough industry. He recently signed to the Asian arm of International publisher Penguin Random House for his best-selling ‘Dairy of a Rich kid’ series. We spoke with Malcolm about meeting fans and what it’s like to live a dream come true.
Q: You’ve mentioned that meeting fans and school tours was something you enjoy on book tours. Is there a memory that sticks out to you or has affected you in a certain way? What’s the funniest/oddest meeting you’ve had with a fan?
A: Doing school tours, has always been, and will always be fun. I love the positive energy and excitement, and I feel at ease with myself. One particular memory that sticks out was when a fan asked me to sign their iPhone! ( I mean, it was a permanent marker, LOL). I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do that as first, but the positive vibe was so strong that I just went with the flow. There were some fans who asked me to sign their shoes and even their limbs ( especially forearms ). There were other many weird requests, but I can say that they were all done in good faith.
Q: You’ve been writing since you were six. Do you remember one of the first stories you wrote and what that was like, knowing you could be creative in that format? Have you tried other forms of art to express, or find inspiration?
A: Yes, I remember. When I was six, I wrote a simple story, which revolved around white-winged angels flying around on their many great adventures. Why angels, you ask? I came from a Christian family, ans as a child, I was kind of fascinated with angels. I recall seeing a beautiful white angel statue somewhere as a kid, and I was mesmerised by its intricate wings, imagining how they would fly in the air and how majestic those wings would look spread out. I had such a wild imagination as a kid. Besides fiction writing, I’ve also written poetry, mostly as a teenager, as adolescence was the time when teen angst started to kick in and I needed some form of expression.
Q: It’s great to see fictional stories and characters that revolve heavily around the Malaysian / Asian human experience creatively — was this a conscious decision of yours when you were comping up with ideas for the next works after Zany Zombies and why or why not?
A: When I first started writing the Rich Kid series, I had no idea that I’d be putting more and more local elements into the story. Writing the series was a cathartic way for me to jump into a stress-free world with amazing adventures. The first thing that came to my mind when I wrote the first title was “Sarawak Laksa”, which is a popular local spicy-broth dish in Kuching. I couldn’t resist giving Robin Jin, who is the main character of the series, an affinity for Sarawak Laksa, which is hi unique trait. He cannot live without Sarawak Laksa, and needs to have it wherever he goes. For example, in the first book, he goes to great lengths to have Sarawak Laksa FedExed to him while he’s vacationing in the Bahamas. So naturally, as I continues writing the book, I began injecting more local elements into the story, which I hoped could be relatable to local audiences. it wasn’t a conscious decision at first, but I went deeper into the story, I realised that putting in more local elements was pretty fun, because during some of my school tours at international schools, I have has foreign students asking me about the local food and culture, based on my books. I thought that was pretty exciting.
Q: Robert Jin loves his Laksas. Are you also a big fan and if so, where’s the best laksa at?
A: I guess Robin Jin and i are kindred spirits. I’m also a big fan of Sarawak Laksa, and if you’re looking to try Sarawak Laksa, I would suggest going to Yeow Kee Kopitiam in Kuching. It’s one of my favourites, and I have been a repeated visitor. There are actually many more, but I’m just stating the one I frequent often when I’m in Kuching. You may Google “Yeow Kee Kopitiam” to find your way there.