Showing posts with label writing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label writing. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 17, 2022


Appalled at the plight of young girls involved in the flesh trade moved author Paul Callan to pen The Secrets of The Sakura Girls.

Central to the heartrending story is Aoki and her fellow karayuki-san – Japanese women and girls who were forced to become sex workers in 19th century Singapore.

Similar to his previous works such as The Brigadier’s Daughter and The Dulang Washer, Callan once again brings a richly nuanced landscape and multiple social vagaries to life: from the limitations faced by the local police force to the inner workings of the Sakura or Cherry Blossom brothel.

The story opened on a sombre note, with Reverend Harry Gilmore and his young son Rupert suffering an unexpected personal loss during their voyage en route to Singapore.

As the pair tried to settle down in their new home, Reverend Gilmore had to grapple with his single parenthood, the lack of funds and necessary church repairs, as well as his own desire for companionship.

A brutal murder in the community created astir and drew constant police visits to the brothel. The investigations caused undue stress to the Sakura Girls which later led to unexpectedly tragic consequences for one of them.

According to Paul Callan, he was working on another story when the topic of prostitution in Singapore in the bygone years touched him so deeply that he became diverted.

Callan said he was appalled at the plight of the young girls and the lives they found themselves living. "I was outraged, angry, and disgusted, especially at the thought such treatment of young girls could still be happening today.

“I wondered, would men really visit a brothel if they knew girls of such tender years, or so vulnerable, would entertain them? I decided I would write the story as a mark of respect for the girls, both then and today.

“I wanted to write, not a sex story, but a story about the lives of the girls, their hardships, and what they had to endure. I want the reader to know them through their emotions, and nothing at all about the activities they were forced to undertake.”

It took Callan two years to complete research for the book. Often, he found himself waking up in the middle of the night, to write a thought down. “I learned from past experience if I didn’t get up and write what had awakened me, I’d lose the thought forever. So, I often write at unholy hours of the day or night. Many times, I write until the wee hours to get the story down.”

When asked about parts of the book that resonated with him, Callan said “Many years ago I was confronted with the issue of suicide. To find young girls resorting to such action (as my research revealed) drove me to seek justice for them by writing the story I did.”

After reading the novel, I asked Callan if he has any plans to follow up with a sequel as there seem to be some potential leads to develop a few of the protagonists’ stories.

Callan responded, “I’ve been asked frequently if there might be a sequel to the book. Right now, I’m waiting for the publication of my next book – a part historical, part fantasy story set in Malaya in the early 19th century by Penguin. While I’m deep into a new story, it’s very much outside my comfort zone and it's a story dominated by one character. Perhaps, after that, I will look at writing more on the outcome of the characters in The Secrets of the Sakura Girls.”

It looks like readers will just have to console themselves with The Secrets of The Sakura Girls for now.

Note: The review copy of The Secrets of The Sakura Girls was courtesy of Paul Callan and Penguin Random House SEA

Thursday, March 29, 2018


Everyone loves a good story. In our world where ‘smart’ gadgets and digital connectivity dominate modern life, The Story Book — Malaysia’s first ever story book themed event space — aims to stimulate fresh interest, keep the art of story telling alive and sow a greater love for reading and good story books among the general populace.

A bold venture founded by Jeanisha Wan, director of The Story World Sdn Bhd, The Story Book opened its doors at Plaza Arkadia, Desa ParkCity recently. I admire her guts, courage and fearlessness, going into an unexplored territory where eagles fear to tread. Like the humble but brave Frodo in The Lord of The Rings, Jeanisha is unafraid of reaching for the stars while her feet remains firmly on the ground.

After working tireless around the clock, The Story Book team should be applauded for successfully pulling off the short but sweet and interesting opening day programme. Perdana Parkcity Sdn Bhd, township management general manager Sukhdev Singh lauded Jeanisha for her innovative enterprise which has started to garner mutual collaboration between fellow tenants in Plaza Arkadia.

True to The Story Book's tagline "Where Stories Live", invited guests were greeted by story book characters: Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, one of The Musketeers, Gandalf from JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series and a dinosaur mascot on the opening day. The simple launch gambit saw the founder 'stepping out' from a 'story book cover' followed by the various characters.

While guests were feted to a delicious tea spread by The Hermitage All Day Dining, some of us browsed through the books on display sourced from Bookalicious and whimsical knick-knacks such as bookmarks, puzzles, games and writing paraphernalia from Kadeiloscope – lifestyle store.

The Story Book already got off to a flying start with a series of well-attended children’s reading and activities workshops. Coming in April and the months ahead will be adult-centric workshops and programmes, ranging from author readings to hands-on writing workshops.

You can also be a member of The Story Book and enjoy first dibs for discounts, event reservations and various other perks. Annual membership fee is only RM30 per person.  

For more information, call The Story Book, tel: 018-229 4361 or visit:

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