My first encounter with Kane was during my friend’s graduation from Ngee Ann Poly - he was graduating as one of the top students in Film, Sound, and Video the year after I graduated from Mass Communications. Fast forward to 2014, and I see him waiting outside the interview room for the National Arts Council’s Mentorship Access Project.
Fast forward again, and here we are - releasing stories and talking about Arts Management, especially in the storytelling and publishing scene. Today, Kane and I talk about his work in various mediums, Maxine Starr, and turning our creative goals into reality.
Let’s get the technicalities out of the way first - Film, Prose, Podcasting - what are the main differences when you write for these mediums and how did you get into these areas?
Writing and developing content for all three are very different! For me, my first love has always been writing. But as I got older, I realised there are so many other mediums to spread ideas and tell stories. So I experimented and just exposed myself to everything.
I firmly believe in being a dreamer - and a practitioner. To get in there. To get your hands dirty. What have you got to lose?! So today, I'm a scriptwriter by profession but also a content creator and social-scientist (self-proclaimed). I'm personally fascinated by how stories can be told in different mediums, using new technologies, apps, and platforms. And at the same time, how can they engage people to read, take action or feel a certain way.
I'm fine with writing TV scripts and film, but realised many years ago that if it doesn't work, or I don't have the money to execute it, there's nothing stopping the idea from being a podcast series, short story, blog article or Instagram post. I feel many writers forget this - if it's a film they only want it to be a film. Then it gets stuck when they can't make it happen. If the goal is storytelling, then any medium should work for you. Just do your research into what makes each medium work first!
When I met you at our Mentorship Access Project, your project then was the first book of the Maxine Starr series. Since then, it has flourished - commendation by Mike Mingo, InkShares - will we be seeing Maxine soon, or where is she now?
That's right! YA-Sci-fi novel, Maxine Starr: Last Vanguard of the Zodiac, is probably my first big novel that I aim to release this year. I ran a crowdfunding initiative a while back on Inkshares, but ultimately, I think it wasn't as effective as I wanted it to be. Although the book cover was amazing - done by a mutual friend of ours called AK - I needed more experience. I rushed the campaign.
I realise that now, and I think in the age of Kickstarter and Indiegogo, you really need to develop your own platform first before trying to get people to support your projects. So right now, that's my focus. I'm editing the manuscript with an editor and getting it in tip-top condition. Thereafter I will probably self-publish, as well as develop the next 2 books.
At the same time, you balance creation with your blog and podcast - what are your biggest motivations and strategies to maintaining a sustainable creative life?
Many really inspire me. One is Gary Vaynerchuk - he's a known entrepreneur, social media expert and writer. I really believe in his philosophy that if you want to lead a creative life and achieve your dreams - JUST GET STARTED. Don't talk. Just make stuff. Get it out there. Get feedback. You have time. Just create, experiment, adjust, and find your niche. Another person that inspires me is marketer and writer, Seth Godin. I love his daily email posts, and I think his mindset about what "creative" means, has changed me in profound ways.
That's why I decided to start my own blog and platforms. It's not for money. It's to spread ideas - as he so aptly puts it. If you're not spreading ideas, you are static and no-one will hear what you have to say. In fact, no-one cares. No-one owes you their attention. So earn it by creating great content that inspires and resonates with people. That's all.
Start with the audience first - what do they need? What do you have that can provide a solution? For me, that meant creating a unique platform where I talk about storytelling, film, media, but in a way I felt hasn't been done before. I just started, but I'm happy that I'm seeing results, such as my article on 'What Singaporean filmmakers can learn from A Quiet Place' and 'Lessons that Thanos can teach Singapore Creatives'. The rest for me is just time management and making sure I have multiple projects in various states of production. It makes me feel good to start, edit, and complete things every month. It's tough, but I only really write 1 hour a day in between work, family, and taking care of a baby... haha.
Going back to Maxine Starr, what was the inspiration to her and her world?
For me, the book was inspired by me playing around as a child. It was my sandbox world. I used to act out and pretend to be some of the aliens in the book, going on interstellar adventures. Later, it was inspired by my migratory experiences from the UK to Singapore, as well as astrology and cosmology. I've just always been interested in it, and I wanted to explore it in an action-packed, fun and adventure-styled story. From there, I developed the story over the course of nearly 10 years. A long time!
Give us a glimpse of the Zodiac Vanguard - which of the signs are you most likely to fit into and why?
Haha - well I'm Aries. I've always felt that if being "Aries" was an alien species, that race would have the ability to create regal-looking horns. Simple, I know, but cool! The species itself, in the book, is pretty technologically advanced, a firm believer in "the Gods will", and lives on an ever-shifting homeworld (eg. the trees are glass-like, the seasons change every week, and the starships are living, breathing behemoths with wings). So that's what I put in the book. But like some of the Arien characters in the book, they are also deeply emotional, sometimes stoic, and thinkers. Not good thinkers...they just think a lot. I think that sums me up.
Without too much of a spoiler, what can we expect next from your many creative avenues?
More podcasts, an R-rated adult-targeted novel about superheroes in Singapore, short stories, blog articles, and a gamer-themed sci-fi TV show called Glitch! that will be out on Toggle on Nov 1st!
I have 50 words for you to go and promote yourself - Go!
I'm a writer, storyteller and content creator that just believes in leading a creative, passionate life. I believe in failing, but failing forward, getting up, and making your dreams a reality no matter what. You can find out more on my website www.kanewholder.com, FB page, and Instagram. Cheers!
And that’s it for this month! Stay tuned in July for another Stories with their Tellers conversation with another creator.
Stories have many different functions or roles in our lives - lessons, marketing, escapism. For S. Mickey Lin, Uncanny Valley is the fictional culmination of his observations, experiences, and insights to the intriguing, different, and possibly disturbing aspects of Singapore or people in general… with an urban, fantastical twist.
Finally having a chance to go through this collection, I was easily captivated (and at times, humbled) by the relatable, yet quirky stories coming to life on the pages. If anything, Uncanny Valley reminds us that Art is meant to provoke, to disturb, and after all the “weird feelings” subside, inspire reflection and education.
The Apex opens the anthology strong with a man who can speak to the wind. Seeing Singapore from his vantage point, construction worker Jian Guo is the personification of the helpless wise - the ones who know better but are ignored over the flashy confidence of the powerful. The Mentor speaks of a thought most do not even consider voicing in fear of looking petty or being disregarded. When youth and talent outshine the experienced, even the most patient can lose their cool.
However, my favourite story had to be Moral Clarity in Small Numbers. Never have I been so shaken with at how a story can reflect a personal experience of mine so clearly. The change in tone from the story’s “antagonist” when the protagonist expresses a view against an unwritten “straight and narrow” is so sharp, be careful of the phantom stabs to the heart while you flip the pages.
Before we go though, Sharks of Singapore gets a quick bonus mention - mostly because it was in Pulp Toast #2 too. Hehe. - Imagine yourself trying to do the right thing, stopping a con man from cheating the elderly of their retirement funds. Now imagine yourself as the con man - what made you do it?
Definitely not for fun and giggles, Uncanny Valley will keep you entertained and thinking. Hopefully, we will be able to take that step to and look at others complexly. Perhaps then, we might have a chance to understand our humanity better.
Uncanny Valley is written by S. Mickey Lin and published by Marshall Cavendish. For more information on the collection or to get a copy yourself, click here.
Another month, another writing challenge. This time, it’s endings! Again, I get my prompts and challenges from NIka Harper’s Wordplay series on the Geek & Sundry Vlogs. It has been up for a while, but you can still check out these challenges for yourself here.
Prompts: Alarm Clock that Won’t Stop Ringing, The Joy of Watching the Sunrise, The End?
Wai took her time to inhale the night breeze.
Leaning over the edge of the balcony railing, she closed her eyes and let the wind from the sea crashing just below them play with her hair. Next to her, Chong stood, his hand ready to hold hers as she reached out for him.
“How long?” she asked.
“About now,” he replied.
While the dark indigo of the horizon started blending into a lavender blue, the same sky echoed with a trumpet orchestra - One of Wai’s favourite songs, Ride of the Valkyries. Chong tightened his grip around Wai’s fingers.
“Nervous?” she asked.
Chong smiled, before turning his gaze back to the lightening horizon.
“We haven’t gone this far before,” he replied.
Wai shuffled closer, letting Chong put his arm around her.
And as the horizon shifted colour at those few inches, the couple leaned against each other, finally watching the lavender sky gradient to a warm orange, brightening with the crescendo of the orchestra in the air.
Because who knew when they’ll be back again, at least on this layer.
Her eyelids protested against the jarring sound coming from her night stand, head pounding, throat parched. Like she remembered, Wai woke up, arms in the same way Chong and her left them on that balcony.
“How long, this time?” Chong croaked.
Wai checked her watch, the one she used from the first time.
“Real world time, or the time from that parallel?”
So that’s it from me for this first half of 2018’s worth of writing challenges. Thank you all for reading once again and see you all next month!
My adventures with in urban speculative fiction.