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An Interview With Author And Filmmaker Ken Kwek


What has been keeping you busy since the publication of your second book, Kelly and the Krumps?

Writing, doing research for potential new pieces, shooting a new film. And being a dad. I don’t have enough time to do the things I’m really passionate about. Like building a snowman.


Tell us a bit more about Kelly and the Krumps. Did you expect that you would write it so soon?

Like Timothy and the Phubbers, Kelly and the Krumps is a comedy about kids’ love for – and struggles with – modern screen technology and devices. But this time the hero is a little girl, a street-smart tween who has to rescue her brother from a vampire who’s good at computers. The story has been in my head for a few years. I just needed to make time to bang it out on the laptop.


From directing films to writing fiction - You're still telling stories, but in a different form. Was it daunting for you? Can you share some of the motivations that led you to take the leap, as well as the unexpected difficulties you encountered along the way?

I’ve never felt a need to write in only one medium. I’m a father to an eight-year-old so getting into children’s fiction felt like a natural thing to do, to write funny stories for my kid and his friends. Hopefully the books will reach lots of children in other countries too.


Reviews have lauded Timothy and the Phubbers and Kelly and the Krumps as irreverent and funny. But I couldn’t help but detect ‘serious’ undercurrents, such as the issue of bullying in schools, the pressure children face in terms of their academic performance, and how technology has taken over human interactions. Your films often address human issues as well. Do you feel that it is the responsibility of an artist to do so?

The responsibility of any artist working in any form is to entertain, not to preach. Whether one’s themes are “serious” or not is partly open to interpretation—I don’t dwell on it. My aim is to hold the reader’s or audience’s attention in a meaningful way until the end of the story. In the case of Timothy and the Phubbers and Kelly and the Krumps, the aim is to make readers laugh until they pee. I don’t know if I’ve achieved that yet.


Was your son the inspiration behind writing both books? He sounds like a funny child. Can you tell us more about him?

He was definitely a big inspiration for both books. He makes me laugh and brings joy to a lot of people, including the auntie who sells fruit juice at the nearby hawker centre.


Tell us a bit more about your love for the Super 8mm film camera that is featured in your first book, Timothy and the Phubbers. Do you think film cameras are still relevant in today's world where entire films are known to have been shot on mobile phones.

I think film cameras are relevant to filmmakers in the same way that vinyl records are relevant to music lovers. Shooting on film is costlier, yet the medium endures and there are good reasons for that. There’s a magical quality to film (whether it’s 8mm, 16mm or 35mm) that the best digital cameras have yet to fully replicate, let alone smartphone cameras.


Lastly, would you ever consider making a film about Timothy and Kelly? If so, who would you cast as the male and female leads?

There’s no great urge for me to adapt the books into films. What I’d love is for more kids to pick up the books and read them—so they can experience the stories as films in their own imagination.


Photo credit: Studiokel

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