Interview: Award-winning graphic novelist Sonny Liew reveals his hero’s whereabouts

Oct 10, 2017

The graphic novelist, who bagged three Eisner awards for his graphic novel The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, shares the places from which he draws inspiration.

What is it about Singapore’s landscapes that translate well into a graphic novel?

I think all landscapes can be captured visually – it’s just a matter of looking and seeing, and translating it in your own unique style. That said, I’ve always liked the look and feel of old shophouses, so they appear quite frequently in The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye. They’re not unique to Singapore, but each building has its own history to tell.

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Tell us about the places you’ve visited in the name of research.

I’ve been to many of the places shown in the book, although most of them have been transformed significantly with urban development. I suppose places such as Little India, Arab Street and Chinatown have retained more of their heritage.

Where would we find the fictional character of Charlie Chan Hock Chye at the weekends?

Probably at a local kopitiam (traditional coffee shop) or in a traditional bakery such as Chin Mee Chin Confectionery (204 East Road; Tel: 65 6345 0419).

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Where should bookworms visit?

For Chinese language books, Grassroots Book Room is an interesting store. Basheer Graphics is especially good for art books. For nostalgia’s sake, I like to visit a second-hand bookstore called Silver Kris at the wet market behind the Marine Parade Food Centre (84 Marine Parade Central). My mom brought me and my sister there to buy comics and Enid Blyton books when we were kids.

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Where do you go when you’ve got a case of writer’s block?

Whenever I encounter narrative knots, I find that going for a long walk or run helps clear the mind. There are a lot of places in the east, including East Coast Park and along the Kallang River, where you can find quiet, scenic pathways.