Edmund M. Schirmer is a Singaporean author. His semi-autobiographical debut novel, When There Were Tigers In Singapore, chronicles the events of World War II in the then British colony as seen through his father’s eyes.
Why I write
The basic answer to that is I love a good story, in any medium. In turn, I love to write and to craft a story, to entertain – which has been the case since elementary school.
Do you write every day? If so, how many hours?
I wish I could say that I do, just as I wish I could say that I write for a living, for there is nothing else I would rather be doing. However, as newly published writer, I have to keep a “regular” job to put food on the table. That being said, I try to write as much as I can, when I can. Sometimes that may be only for an hour or so, other times I can get four or five straight hours in.
Worst source of distraction?
Intermittent noises – TV playing somewhere in the house, talking, that sort of stuff. For that reason, I sometimes use ear plugs while writing (although I don’t really like to), or simply wait until everyone has gone to bed. I like background music, but it cannot have vocals. Surf guitar music works for me.
Best source of inspiration?
How often do you get writers’ block/doubt your own ability?
This happens usually when I can only get short blocks of time to write. That is when I tend to discourage myself with thoughts like, “What’s the point? Might as well not get started,” and then I try to push writing off to a more convenient time, but there never really is one. At times like those, I find that I need to force myself to write at least one sentence, and go from there.
Contemporary writer in any medium who you never miss?
Perhaps Jonathan Kellerman – I do like his books, although I have to say that I am not exactly religious about following anyone, per se. At one point, I was hooked on W.E.B. Griffin’s books, but the more recent ones have become increasingly formulaic and cheesy.
Although there are many fine books out there, I would have to define a favorite book as one that I can pick up and read anytime on a whim, even if I have already ready it literally hundreds of times. For that I would pick Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. And just the original novel only. Although I understand the points Card was making, nevertheless I found the subsequent books in the series to be overly pedantic with the moral / philosophical / religious debates, and the self-flagellating of the main character to be just plain annoying the longer it went on.
Has to be Stephen King. Never disliked anything he wrote.
The book that changed your life?
As a person, it would have to be the Bible. As a writer, Gregory Boyington’s Baa Baa Black Sheep showed me that a guy with a good story and a desire to entertain can write a good book, even if it lacks the finesse one might expect from a contemporary novel.
The book you should have read but haven’t?
Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. I tried reading it (because of Apocalypse Now, of course) a long time ago, but I gave it up as unreadable. In all fairness, I was working the graveyard shift at the time and suffering from sleep apnea as well, so it was probably me, not the book. I will try it again, one of these days.
You look back at the first thing you had published and think…
Dad, you would have loved it! Sorry it took me this long…
How did you get started writing?
The concept behind my first book had been there for a long time, but life sort of got in the way. Finally, when I was 39, I made it a point to just do it. One page at a time. No stopping until it was done. However, the real impetus came with the death of my father shortly after that. Since the book was based on his story, I told myself that it was now or never; I owed it to him.
Does writing change anything?
Depends on what you mean by change. Sometimes a book can be really about nothing, but at the end of it, if it made you feel good, or it gave you a few laughs along the way, then I suppose yes, writing does bring about change.
What are you working on now and when is it out?
Currently, I am three-quarters way through my manuscript entitled No Future! which is based on my growing up in Singapore during the ’70s and ’80s. Compared to the epic nature of When There Were Tigers In Singapore, this book is going to be quite different. I would describe it as a tongue-in-cheek reflection on the stupid things boys do (and it doesn’t matter where one is from in order to appreciate that), injected with pop culture references of the era. This one’s for fun. I hope to get it to the good folks at Marshall Cavendish by May 2013.
Posted: Monday, March 4, 2013