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Tue, May 04, 2010
The Straits Times
Son hired as consultant

Singapore poet Felix Cheong's novels for teenagers have sold better than his poetry books, but he does not think the children's market is easier to break into.

'It's harder to write for children than adults. Children are less forgiving readers and have what I call a well-honed bulls*** detector. By the third page, if you don't engage them, you've lost them,' says the 45-year-old father-of-one.

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His two young adult fiction books, The Call From Crying House (2006) and The Woman In The Last Carriage (2007), were commissioned by the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, as part of a promotion of national education.

At the time, he had racked up quite a literary track record: He won the National Arts Council's Young Artist of the Year for Literature Award in 2000 and he took top prize for the poetry slam competition at the 2004 Hong Kong Literary Festival.

Despite having received critical acclaim for his poetry, he felt he was at a point where he needed to learn something new, so he decided to write for teens.

'Writing children's genre fiction was really an exercise in finding a new idiom, a new audience and discovering a new writing style,' he adds.

About 5,000 copies of each of his teenage books have been sold, compared with his bestselling poetry book, Broken By The Rain, which has sold about 1,000 copies.

On his children's detective fiction, he roped in his son, Ryan, to get some 'quality control'.

'I hired my son, who was then 11 years old, as my consultant. I actually paid him $50 for it. He went through my draft, chapter by chapter, and gave his two cents' worth whether the story worked and if the characters were believable,' he adds.

This article was first published in The Straits Times.

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