Interview with a Security Guard
January 27, 2017, 12:09 am
Filed under: Singapore

photo2In 2010, a Singaporean taxi driver, Cai Mingjie, published his bestselling work memoir Diary of a taxi driver : true stories from Singapore’s most educated cabdriver and now a security guard is trying to publish his collection of true stories from the private security industry.

Loh Teck Yong, the security guard who aspires to be a published writer completed his manuscript back in 2015 and it was submitted to 4 publishers based in Singapore. Unfortunately, all 4 publishers turned him down. But he got back on his feet after multiple rejections and is now trying to raise the necessary fund to publish his book, Guards Gone Wild!, through a crowdfunding campaign. The following is an interview with him.

So Mr. Loh, what made you decide to write the book?

Because I have stories to tell. Scams perpetrated by security agencies and guards. Intense confrontations with delinquents and work colleagues. Funny moments to make you laugh and frustrating moments that made me cry. And so on and so forth.

There’s also a more important reason than just wanting to write.

In recent years, high profile cases of security guards being abused or abusive have been reported via online media. Just off the top of my head, I can recall the incident where some mall delinquent picked a fight with a guard at The Cathay and the incident where a security manager was caught on CCTV beating a guard. Well, several cases were brought into the cold light of day to be commented on by the general public but, as an industry insider, I can assure you that such unhappy incidents happen on an almost daily basis.

What I seek to do with my book (Guards Gone Wild!) is to let the general public take a peek into the life of a security guard and, hopefully, once they understand the whys and hows of our job, they will choose to be a little kinder towards security guards. I also hope that other security guards can read my book, because I want them to know that they are not alone in their sufferings.

You said on your blog that it took you a few years to complete the manuscript. Can you tell us anything about your writing process?

It was painful. The writing process was painful.

Whenever they show a writer at work on TV, it’s usually tap-tap-tap-tap, some quick bursts of furious typing and, voila, a story is ready for publication. No angst. No tears. No problem.

In reality, however, it’s more like hours of drawn-out agony because you have been up since 4 a.m. in the morning and you missed your breakfast and suddenly it’s past noon and you are still staring at a blank Word page.

And you completed your manuscript while working a full-time job?

No, I did not.

A full-time guard in Singapore has to put in 12 hours per day for 6 days a week. When I was pulling 72 hours per week, I couldn’t do much writing even on my off days. An off day was precious commodity because it allowed me to recover barely enough energy to face another 72-hour work week.

No, wait, I tell a lie. I could write. Facebook posts. Angry rants. Shopping lists. But nothing good enough to show a publisher. It wasn’t just my flesh. My mind was too tired to play around with words as well. Nothing worked for me. Not Red Bull. Not coffee. Nothing could jolt my creativity. I tried going without sleep but that only made things worse. I ended up with some really weird (and incomprehensible) chapters. Kinda like the Voynich manuscript. But without the illustrations.

And it soon became clear that if I wanted to write, I had to stop working long hours. So I started working during the weekends only. And during the last leg of manuscript writing, when I had to give a hundred and twenty percent to my creative efforts, I had to stop working completely.

I guess that’s why we hear about starving artists all the time. Because they can’t work full-time jobs if they want to produce quality work.

Do you have any writing tips to share with our readers?

Read. A lot. And don’t just read books belonging to genres that you are interested in.

I love the Jack Reacher and Dresden Files novels written by Lee Child and Jim Butcher respectively. Thriller and urban fantasy. But when I was studying writing techniques, I did not just stick with Lee Child and Jim Butcher. I read Enid Blyton’s books for children, young adult novels written by Rick Riordan and J.K. Rowling, 19th-century novels such as Emma and Jane Eyre, and satires written by Oscar Wilde and Terry Pratchett and so on and so forth.

And after that, it’s like one of those martial art movies where the student, after learning from various masters, goes on to develop his own style.

And out of all the authors you just mentioned, which one inspired you the most?

J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series.

Why her?

Because she showed those muggles what’s what, that’s why!

Once upon a time, there were 12 publishers who did not believe in the magic of the boy wizard and they rejected Rowling’s Harry Potter manuscript. Luckily, for her as well as us, it was eventually picked up by Bloomsbury.

And we know the rest of the story, don’t we? Harry Potter became a global success and Rowling became one of the richest writers of our age.

How did, not just one or two, but 12 publishers miss the potential of Harry Potter? It’s incomprehensible. And it tells me two things. First, publishers don’t always know best. And secondly, there is still hope for my manuscript. Rowling pushed through 12 rejections while I am only stuck on my 4th. So yeah, I think I sitll have a shot at being a published author.

That’s why you are turning to crowdfunding to raise the fund to publish your book? How’s the reception to your campaign so far?

Poor. At the time of replying to your question, I have only managed to raise S$21 through my crowdfunding page at Pozible. My target sum is S$6485.

Besides using crowdfunding to raise money to publish your book, what other strategies are you implementing?

Well, I did publish a post on the Hardwarezone EDMW forum and I have been taking out advertisements on Facebook to raise awareness about my crowdfunding campaign. Besides taking those steps, there doesn’t seem to be anything else I can do at the moment. The commentators over at the Hardwarezone EDMW forum have been giving me some ideas though.

Such as?

Such as publishing an e-book rather than a hard-copy one. Because, you know, e-books can be produced at practically zero cost. So they were telling me to give up on trying ot publish a hard-copy book because that’s difficult and expensive, so I should just take the easy way out.

And will you do that?

No. I am not a technophobe but, as a writer, I want my debut work to be a REAL book. Something tangible. Something that can be held and cherished for years to come. Also, according to some surveys, many e-books that are bought remain unread. Probably because it’s too easy to forget about an e-book. Out of sight and out of mind. On the other hand, with a hard-copy book, every time you sit down at your desk or glance over at your bookshelf you are reminded of its existence. Harder to put out of mind.

What are your plans from here on out?

Right now, I am not feeling too optimistic about my crowdfunding campaign. I hope I can raise the target sum before my campaign expires. But if I can’t, I have to be realistic and consider other options. Such as looking for other publishers besides the 4 who rejected me before. So if any literary agent or editor is interested in my book after reading this interview, feel free to contact me at: guardsgonewild@gmail.com. You can also read sample chapters from my book at: https://guardsgonewild.wordpress.com/sample-chapters/.

If you wish to make a donation, you can do so at my crowdfunding page:  https://pozible.com/project/help-a-security-guard