By Yap Ying Ting, Megan
Diploma in Creative Writing for TV and New Media
One would expect to feel happy after winning a prestigious award. However, Danielle Lim had mixed feelings instead. Her debut novel, The Sound of SCH, was the co-winner of the Singapore Literature Prize in 2016. It is the account of her uncle’s struggle with schizophrenia and her mother’s 30-year role as his caregiver. While Danielle was happy with the recognition of her work, the telling of such a deeply personal story brought back to mind her family’s painful journey of dealing with mental illness.
Danielle Lim’s books are her way of searching for beauty and truth in life. (Photo credit: Yap Ying Ting, Megan)
The Story That’s Within
The story’s unusual title started taking shape only after Danielle was many drafts into her manuscript.
“I realised that there was this sound that just kind of weaved through many of the themes that I had, so that was how it came about,” she says.
The sound appeared when her uncle wore his brown rubber slippers. “Sch, Sch,” went the slippers each time they come into contact with the floor. It also appeared when he was working as a sweeper at the Police Academy. “Sch, Sch,” went the bristles of his broom.
This was a story that found her, not one she had gone looking for. Danielle, who had a career in banking, never thought she would become a writer when she was young. The feeling grew as she moved on in life and at certain point in time she just “felt that [she] wanted to write”.
“This story,” she says, “has actually been with me since I was a little girl. So, when I felt that I wanted to write, naturally, this was something I came back to, to search for the beauty and meaning in my uncle’s life and in my mum’s life.”
The 44-year-old hopes that her book can play a part in breaking the silence around mental health issues and highlighting the role of caregivers, who are often underappreciated.
Danielle, who lectures at Nanyang and Republic polytechnics, says she does not have much time on her hands now to write. However, she proved herself wrong when she published her second book Trafalgar Sunrise in 2018.
It’s a novel about the search for truth and redemption during the SARS epidemic in Singapore.
Danielle emphasises the need to embrace life courageously in order to be able to write.
“You can’t write about life unless you experience it,” she states. “Of course, there is a place for imagination, but [there] has to be a balance. You can’t imagine what pain is like if you have never experienced pain.”