KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 30 — Kuching-born author Malcolm Mejin always had a knack for writing.
He began penning fantasy stories from the tender age of six, and it was a dream of his to become a writer.
Little did he know that he would make a name for himself through writing children’s books, especially since it was merely a form of escape from him during a stressful time.
Mejin is known for his children’s book series The Diary of a Rich Kid — which initially was never intended for publication — that is until he took the advice from a close friend to self-publish.
“Eventually, I took his advice, which was a simple one actually, he told me ‘If you don’t do it now, when are you going to do it’, and I acted on it.
“Because I’ve always wanted to publish my own book since I was six years old, but I kept pushing it aside all these years.
“So in 2018, I self-published the first Diary of a Rich Kid, using my own funds, with the help of my sister who became my second pair of eyes and gave feedback on the manuscript,” he said.
Being that it was his first time self-publishing, Mejin admitted that the procedures were overwhelming at first as he had to go through a few steps from getting an International Serial Book Number (ISBN) and approvals from the national library to finding local distributors for his book.
Eventually, local bookstores MPH and Popular agreed to be his distributor.
His first book resonated well with local readers which led to MPH asking Mejin to come up with another story for the Diary of a Rich Kid series.
Mejin went on to produce two other books consecutively turning it into a series which was the Diary of a Rich Kid: Secrets of the Sea and Diary of a Rich Kid: Road Trip.
He sold over 50,000 copies of the first book in a span of one year and had gone on to around 50 schools across Malaysia to talk about his books to students.
Mejin describes being signed by international publisher Penguin Random House Southeast Asia as the pinnacle of his career. — Picture courtesy of Malcolm Mejin.
The highlight of Mejin’s career so far, came later on in 2022 after receiving an email from international publisher, Penguin Random House Southeast Asia.
“I submitted my manuscript to them and I didn’t have any high hopes at that time because I heard that they actually received thousands of submissions every month.
“When they contacted me back, I thought it was a rejection email and I was shocked when they said they wanted to publish my book!”
The international publisher gave Mejin a contract to publish another two books from his Diary of a Rich Kid series with the first one titled Diary of a Rich Kid: Lost in Space just out earlier in August.
Mejin said that by signing with an international publisher, his books could reach more young international readers as his book will be available in Australia, New Zealand and eventually the United Kingdom and US.
And this is one of the reasons for him to incorporate more Malaysian elements inside them.
His fifth instalment of the Diary of a Rich Kid series which will be coming out by end of this year will use the mountains of Sarawak as a background for the whole story.
According to Mejin, he has been incorporating local elements in his books since the second title where he detailed the main character from his book, Robin Jin, coming from Kuching, Sarawak and is from the Bidayuh tribe.
He also based the locations mentioned in his book from real places such as the Sarawak Cultural Village and the Damai beach while also incorporating daily local words such as ‘Aduh’ and ‘Alamak’ inside.
He would also mention the variety of local cuisines in his books such as the Sarawak Laksa and the Kolo Mee.
“The way I write it, I don’t make it too rigid. I would pepper these elements across the story so it comes more naturally.
“The reason is because as a kid, I didn't see a lot of Malaysian representation in books. It was all either western heroes and cultures but now, we have the chance to introduce our culture to both local and wider audiences.
“I feel that it’s really good to have more cultural representation from Malaysia. For local readers, who read books with these representations, they can identify themselves with it and feel more inspired and represented,” he said.
He added that through his many school visits, especially at international schools in Malaysia, he would often get questions from students wanting to know more about the culture mentioned in his books.
Mejin also shared that he is planning to work on a young adult novel after he finishes with his fifth instalment of the Diary of a Rich Kid series as it was one of the genres he started with and is passionate about.