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Drawn to fans


Publication Date : 01-11-2012


Writer and illustrator Jimmy Liao, whose well-loved books have spun adaptations such as the popular movie Turn Left, Turn Right (2003), is eager for his first meeting with fans here.

The Taiwanese author will be in town next week as part of the Singapore Writers Festival, where he is a panel speaker on children's literature.

Liao, 54, in an e-mail interview with Life!, says in Mandarin: "I am looking forward to meeting with readers in Singapore. My overseas readers have always been a big source of surprise and gratification for me; I am moved to know that there are people in different areas who read my works."

Liao previously visited Singapore in 2004 when his book, "Sound Of Colours" (2001), was adapted into a musical and staged here, but he did not get a chance to formally interact with readers then.

The author, who has a reputation for being shy in public, may not, however, wear his excitement on his sleeve at meetings with fans. He says: "I am not introverted when I am with family but in front of the masses, I may be more reserved." He is married to a translator and they have a 16-year-old daughter.

Liao, a former illustrator at an advertising agency, has published more than 30 books since 1998. His books, which have been translated into languages such as English, French, Korean and Thai, have sold over five million copies worldwide.

His first two works, "Secrets In The Woods" (1998), about a girl and a white rabbit, and "The Smiling Fish" (1998), about a lonely man and his mysterious fish, were picture books.

He later crossed over to penning illustrated stories marked by whimsical drawings, philosophical musing on life and a sense of bittersweet melancholy. This winsome combination of drawings and text has helped his books appeal to both young and adult readers.

Liao, however, does not regard his picture books as children's literature. He says: "When I created them, it was not for a specific audience whereas, for children's literature, the writers have to work with considerations such as the age as well as the learning and reading abilities of the target audience."

He attributes the widely held view of his picture books as children's literature to the popularity of his drawings among younger fans who make up a sizeable base of his readership.

He says it was only after he began illustrating children's picture books for American and British authors in 2008 that he intentionally made work for younger readers.

"My considerations then were to convey the meaning and imagery of the story, and to make the drawings non-violent and as cute as possible."

He adds: "But ultimately, I do not feel that there is any distinction between my adult and children's works in terms of their creative nature."

What has changed for Liao as an illustrator, given his years of experience, he says, is his confidence. He is able to acutely grasp the emotions and level of intensity that the drawings have to convey, and to do so with less complicated compositions.

And he is not about to retire from doing what he loves. He says: "I have given thought to retiring but since drawing is what I enjoy doing most, I would still be drawing after I retire so there would be no difference."


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