By Simran Devdas Sawlani
Diploma in Creative Writing for TV and New Media
Peh Shing Huei is an award-winning and bestselling author but he has a major problem on his hands as far as his local audience is concerned.
“We do read, but we don’t read enough. Period. Regardless of authors,” he states.
It’s not something he can relate to. He has been an avid reader of nonfiction since he was young, devouring books about wars, pop culture, sports and so on.
But in this generation of rapid technological growth, 43-year-old Shing Huei says that reading has taken a backseat as most people use their smartphones to play games, text, and engage with social media instead, especially when travelling on public transport.
Added to that, local authors find they have to fight with internationally renowned names to get their work displayed in bookstores.
“Writing a book is anything but romantic; it’s incredibly hard,” he says.
However, Shing Huei’s love for facts and writing about them outweigh these challenges. He combined these passions in his career as a journalist.
And it was his five-year stint as China Bureau Chief for the Straits Times that sowed the seeds of inspiration of his first book, When the Party Ends. The book, which documents the rise of China and the challenges it faces, was the co-winner of the 2016 Singapore Literature Prize.
Writing the book was no easy feat.
“Obtaining information from the government of China as a foreign journalist is like trying to pull teeth from a lion – it’s near impossible,” he recalls.
His last book was Neither Civil nor Servant, the biography of Philip Yeo, Singapore’s former Economic Development Board chairman. Shing Huei says he is currently working on a new book. He writes in the hope of letting people gain insights into what they do not know; just as he loved gaining knowledge from the books he read when he was young.