Pauline Loh on the writing of her Scholastic Asian Book Award winning novel, The Locked up Boy
Writing The Locked Up Boy
I wrote The Locked Boy in 2010 because I was hungry for a love story and I could not get my hands on one that I liked. I wrote it within a few weeks, but of course, the storyline was very rough.
In 2011, I decided to try for the Scholastic Asian Book Award competition. I anguished over the manuscript I would submit. It has to promote good values, be inspirational and universal, etc. With such a tall order, I developed just as big a mental block. My mind was blank.
Eventually, out of sheer determination, I bashed out a story on my keyboard. It had the elements on my checklist – it had a moral at the ending, was peppered with inspirational quotes and touched on universal values. There was one hitch… it was boring.
Of course, I did not think so myself. After all, I had slaved days and nights over it. But my writing group – established authors in their own right and selfless friends – prised the scales from my eyes. They squared their jaws and dished me the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, with the steadfast belief that, though the truth hurts, it would be good for me.
Thus, with my manuscript in shreds, I returned to my blank computer screen. By the time the next writers’ meeting rolled around, I still had nothing to show. Out of desperation, I dug through my archives of half-baked stories and came out with The Locked Up Boy. I emailed it to my faithful friends and critics.
In the words of my writing partner, “I was so enthralled with the story, I forgot to feed my baby.”
There followed a few months of plugging holes and polishing lines. A lot of things in the story got changed, but Mui’s and Justin’s character stayed true throughout. I wanted to write about a girl who was pure, innocent, brave and selfless; and Mui is that girl. I admire her and wish I share her qualities. Failing that, I am glad that I have a chance to introduce Mui to the world.
Please enjoy The Locked Up Boy.