Friday, November 25, 2016

Interview with author Stephen Black

 I Ate Tiong Bahru

Artist/writer Stephen Black has lived in Asia most of his adult life, pursuing a career that encompasses art, photography, video, VR, IT and writing. A graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology, he has worked for major media companies like CNN, Fuji TV, Fox and France 2; as well as with a great variety of artists, dancers and musicians: some very well known, some not. He has written seven books.

1. What really inspired you to write your book, to force you from taking an idea or experience and conveying it into a book? 
I live on the island of Singapore, a city-state nation that is a dynamic intersection of Southeast Asian cultures and globalism. Tiong Bahru is one of the few areas in Singapore which is conserved. Built and designed by the British, the estate is a collection of white Art Deco buildings and a food center which is known for its wet market and its great variety of cooked foods.The population of the estate is a mix of long-established locals (mainly Chinese), wealthy expats and local hipsters. 
During the three years that I lived there, I realized that I was living in an outstanding example of globalism. I felt compelled to document this, as well as to create a portrait of a time and place that was being lost.

2. What is it about and whom do you believe us your targeted reader?
I Ate Tiong Bahru is a collection of short stories about Tiong Bahru, its residents, its food and its ceremonies.A reader will gain insights into Singapore, Southeast Asia and the interconnectedness of the world. IATB is  for anyone who enjoys distinctive writing. Art Review Asia magazine wrote, " Black's love letter is one of the best introductions to a country and a state that you might read..."

3. What do you hope will be the everlasting thoughts for readers who finish your book? What should remain with them long after putting it down? I have been inspired by Cannery Row, by John Steinbeck.That book is poetic, factual, historical, universal and intimate. I feel that I know the characters in Steinbeck's book and have lived amongst them. I am far from being a Steinbeck, but I do hope that readers of iatb feel that they have gained insights into the lives, history and culture of Tiong Bahru and Southeast Asia.

4. What advice or words of wisdom do you have for fellow writers?
Don't stop, unless you stop to read.

5. What trends in the book world do you see and where do you think the book publishing industry is heading?The boundaries between self-publishing and traditional publishing will continue to be blurred."Hybrid" is an adjective we will be seeing more of in the book world. Small independent presses are given more opportunities to succeed and "fail better".Technology and social media will continue to lower the barriers to becoming a "bestselling author".

6. What great challenges did you have in writing your book?
I faced the same challenges many writers face: financial, technical, aesthetic. Examples: Write in first person or third? How to write in such a way that Singaporeans do not become bored by the exposition necessary required to explain things to non-Singaporeans? Do I really think this cross-genre "lyrical documentary" idea is the way to go? What is the proper response if a friend says you look "emaciated"?

7. If people can only buy one book this month, why should it be yours?
As an artist, I am interested in creating a "unique reading experience". Because of my background in network television, I know when to embrace-- and when to run from, Hollywood's three act storytelling style. As a documentarian, I know the importance, beauty and power of "simple facts". Photography has taught me about the relationships between lighting, location and the decisive moment. As for the experience of being human, all I can do is put down on paper my questions, surprises, disappointments and delights.The result of all of this is, I hope, a collection of short stories that can be enjoyed and appreciated on many levels; perhaps even treasured.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2016 ©.
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