Saturday, March 9, 2013

A.J. Low - the Writers of "Sherlock Sam" - on Food, Books and Mysteries

A locally published children's illustrated detective fiction book series has captured the hearts and imagination of many young readers recently.

The adventures of precocious 10-year-old "Sherlock Sam" and his trusty sidekick robot, Watson, were penned by "A.J. Low". 

Instead of just one person, the moniker "A.J. Low" belongs to two personalities - an adorable husband and wife team whose real names are Adan Jimenez and Felicia Low. Both USA-born Adan and homegirl Felicia have quite a few years of experience working in bookstores, and "Sherlock Sam" is one of the creative results of their shared love for books and geek-pop-culture. 

Together with illustrator drewscape and homegrown publisher Epigram Books, the team has made "Sherlock Sam" a jaunty, often tongue-in-cheek tale of mystery-solving - Singapore-style.

The first book "Sherlock Sam and the Missing Heirloom in Katong" was an endearing and refreshing little story about a lost Peranakan family heirloom. (Read Red Dot Diva's review of the book here.) Due to its success, a second book called "Sherlock Sam and the Ghostly Moans in Fort Canning" has also just been released, with brand new characters.

And ... there is a third book in the works! Bravo, "A.J. Low", drewscape and Epigram!

To find out more about what went on behind the scenes of the making of "Sherlock Sam", Red Dot Diva posed some nosy questions to one-half of "A.J. Low":

Red Dot Diva: What were your main inspirations when you decided to write the Sherlock Sam series?
Adan: Sherlock Holmes, of course! But we also looked at other mystery novels. Felicia grew up on the Famous Five and the Secret Seven, while Adan loved everything Nancy Drew related. We've also been watching a lot of mystery-of-the-week television, like Bones, Castle, and Elementary, so as to brush up on our mystery writing skills.

Red Dot Diva: Being a husband-wife writing team, were there times when you had arguments regarding the characters, storylines and had the urge to get into a pillow fight?
Adan: We sometimes fight about Sherlock Sam stuff, but we fight about them like we fight about who would win in a fight, Superman or the Hulk. We have fun, and it makes the story better in the end.

Red Dot Diva: Was Sherlock Sam based on someone you know?
Adan: If you mean were we kids who loved food and ate it at every turn, then yes, we were both Sherlock Sams. If you mean did we go around solving mysteries, then no, unfortunately neither of us were Sherlock Sams. We certainly dreamed of solving mysteries while reading all that mystery fiction, though.

Red Dot Diva: Did you ever solve any interesting mysteries while growing up?
Adan: Adan's grandmother pretended something was missing every once in a while so he could find it, but no actual mysteries were ever solved by either of us.

Red Dot Diva: The first book was based heavily on the Peranakan heritage and Katong. Did you get information from family/ good friends who are of this heritage?
Adan: Felicia is actually Peranakan! The Auntie Kim Lian character is based on her grandmother, and Felicia lived in Bedok when she was growing up, very near Katong. As for research, we certainly ate a lot of food! We must have visited Chin Mee Chin something like ten times!

Red Dot Diva: What was the process like in coming up with Sherlock Sam's image? Did you and Drewscape eat a lot of kueh-kuehs during the discussion for a "prototype"?
Adan: That was actually mostly all Drew. He designed all the characters himself with just a few pointers from us. Sherlock Sam was the probably the most difficult character to get down, though. The initial design Drew gave portrayed Sherlock as kind of a mini-uncle with curry puff hair and a little too chubby. Adan loved it, but Felicia and the editors felt he seemed too old. So Drew went back to the drawing board and came up with the Sherlock we now know and love. Watson, on the other hand, he hit out of the park with his very first drawing. It was totally different from what we were picturing in our head, but so totally better.

Red Dot Diva: Will we find out more about Watson the robot's origins in the next book?
Adan: What else is there to find out? Sherlock built him to be his helper and sidekick, but he clearly built him with a little too much free will, and now Watson is the sarcastic Lieutenant Commander Data to Sherlock's voracious Captain Picard.

Red Dot Diva: Did you ever find it tricky to get the right balance between being Singaporean-vernacular and acceptably grammatically correct English when writing a localized children's book like this?
Adan: Not really. We weren't really going for Singapore vernacular so much. We threw in a few non-English words to add some flavor, but from the very beginning we wanted everybody to speak in more or less grammatical English. We figured Singaporeans reading the book would hear the dialogue in a Singapore accent anyway, so there was no reason to make it overt.

Red Dot Diva: What do you hope children will take away with them after reading Sherlock Sam?
Adan: We have both been in the book business in one form or another pretty much our entire adult lives, and our goal has always been to put the right book in the right person's hands. We just want people to read, and if this helps some kids read more books, then great. We want kids today to read as much as we did when we were growing up.

Red Dot Diva: Tell us some hints about the next Sherlock Sam book... (I'll bribe you more pineapple tarts...)
Adan: You can actually read more about the second book "Sherlock Sam and the Ghostly Moans in Fort Canning" at the Sherlock Sam website, as well as the Epigram Books website. No bribery required! 

Sherlock Sam and his friends go to Fort Canning on a school outing and hear some ghostly moans! Everybody is convinced Fort Canning is haunted, except for Sherlock Sam, who reminds everybody that there is no scientific proof of ghosts. Will Sherlock Sam figure out what's going on, or is Fort Canning actually haunted!? We will also be introducing some new characters to round out Sherlock's Scooby Gang!


Eager to meet the creative team - Adan, Felicia and drewscape - behind "Sherlock Sam"? A launch event will be held at Kinokuniya Main Store on 16 March 2013, Saturday at 2pm to 3pm!

Click here for more information, and check out the e-invite below!

Click for a larger version

Red Dot Diva will be there to celebrate with the team and to show her support for local creative works ... So see you there!

1 comment:

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