MATT COOPER has now written a few children’s books that will make great gifts for Christmas or throughout the year. We find out more about him here – and we’re helping promote his books on our website too. Lost in Singapore is a wonderful way to show off the City and the sites and Snowflakes in Singapore is a fictional (obviously) story – both perfect for Christmas presents.
Tell us about your expat journey.
I’m relatively new to Singapore – my family arrived just over a year ago – and I love living here. I was born in the UK where I later studied marine environmental science, but I’ve worked in many different fields (science, medical writing, IT) with none of them feeling quite right.
When we moved to Hong Kong and our first child was born, I became a “stay-at-home dad” (so called, I believe, because of the words that people shout at them on the street!). It was then that I decided to write my first picture book, out of necessity to some extent, as my son was obsessed with transport yet I couldn’t find any books set in his world. There were plenty set in London, though that was as unfamiliar to him as Tokyo. So, I worked out how to self-publish and luckily my first book sold quite well and I decided to write more.
Is it easy to write and find the content?
My books have nearly always been inspired by children. My second book, about an adventure through different habitats with talking animals, came about because my daughter loved exploring the wilds around the New Territories where we lived. We had streams, forests, mountains and the ocean right on our doorstep.
Another book, about the Hainan gibbon, was inspired by a BBC news article. I was shocked to discover that this type of gibbon, found only an hour’s flight from Hong Kong, was the most endangered primate on the planet – and yet no one seemed to have heard of it! For that book, I decided I needed to include an information section at the back of the book, about the gibbon and what could be done to help it. And that started a pattern; now I focus on an endangered species in a section of each book. For Lost in Singapore I chose birds, specifically parrots and the helmeted hornbill, because one of the characters is a parrot who flies off to explore Singapore, chased by his owner.
What’s it like working for yourself and from home?
Having my own business is weird because in many ways it doesn’t really feel like being a writer is a proper job. Maybe that’s because I enjoy it and the better-paid jobs I’ve had before haven’t been that much fun. But it’s tough to make money from publishing your own books in Singapore (and probably everywhere else) so I’ve had to adapt. When I wrote Lost in Singapore, a story that’s set locally and features the airport, it made sense that I approach Singapore Airlines. Thankfully, they agreed to sponsor the book, were really easy and fun to work with, and the collaboration made it more financially viable.
Working at home can be hard as there’s always a distraction – that leaky tap that suddenly seems so important to fix, when you know you should be writing something instead. I can be a bit of a procrastinator so I try to have multiple projects on the go; if I get bored with one, I can move to another.
What does the future look like for you?
I want to continue writing books relevant to children and their families in Singapore and Hong Kong, and visiting schools to share my stories.
In Matt’s latest book (fresh off the press!) Singapore Snowflakes, Jack and Milly wake up in Singapore on Christmas morning to find that the normally tropical world outside is under a thick layer of snow – and so begins an adventure around a frozen city that is beyond their wildest dreams. Of course, the wintry tale also includes Matt’s signature non-fiction section on an endangered species – in this case, the polar bear!
To buy Matt’s books, go to expatliving.sg/shop