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YRC 37: Featured Author — Michael Ho

Somewhere in the east of Singapore, as the lift doors opened, the lone corridor we stepped out into lit up with a steady stream of piano music. That stream grew louder as we reached our destination, and peered through the windows. There, tucked in a corner of cool interior decorated with neo-vintage furniture and murals, sat 15-year-old Michael Ho and a black classic piano. He smiles, pauses his playing, and lets us in. Michael is our Featured Author for this issue, and we were thus at his home to talk about his writing and what he has been up to since writing his last story.

DOUBLE THE FUN
You may have read Michael Ho’s story in Issue 34 and 35 of YRC — The Scythe of Kronos, a Rick Riordan-inspired adventure about four hunters with greatly differing personalities thrown together to retrieve the titular weapon.
The Scythe of Kronos was not the first story Michael wrote, and he himself has hinted it may not be the last.
Currently in Secondary Three in Bowen Secondary School, Michael Ho wrote his first story The Traitor when he was in Primary 6 in Punggol Primary School. While he did not attend the Young Author Scheme, Michael had entered the Young Author Awards twice — The Traitor was his first submission, The Scythe of Kronos his second.
As we read through both stories (way before having this interview), we noticed a few recurring themes between the two:
• There were numerous references to
Greek mythology.
• The protagonists were a group of four.
• The protagonists have to go on a mission
to find something or someone.
• There was a betrayal involved.
Michael believes these recurrences were due to being heavily inspired by the books he read, especially the popular Percy Jackson series written by his favourite author, Rick Riordan. “I read a lot of books,” he said. “I get ideas from the different books (I read).”
Michael revealed that he had been an avid reader of Rick Riordan since young. “I read all of his books,” he shared. “They were all centered around Greek, Egyptian, and Roman mythology.” As a result, Michael put all of his inspiration from Riordan’s works into his stories.
As for entering his first Young Author Awards three years ago, Michael owes it to his mother, Zolynn. “She was surfing the net and she found out about the Young Author Awards,” he shared. “So she asked me if I wanted to give it a try. And I was quite curious about it, so I decided to give it a try.”
“At first, I was very reluctant because it took me quite long to write (the story) and I was thinking ‘What if it is not good enough?’ But then I thought ‘Never mind, I will just submit it and see (how it goes)’.”
For both submissions, Michael became a finalist — twice — for the Young Author Awards. He shared that during his writing process, he enjoyed manifesting his imagination into words, although he did not enjoy the writer’s block he got along the way.
When he wrote The Scythe of Kronos, he saw writing as ‘a way to relax (his) mind after a long day’, and realised that he wrote it much faster compared to writing The Traitor three years prior. “ ‘The Traitor’ took me six months to write,” he shared.
Zolyn chips in her experience of finding out about the Young Author Awards online. “I came across it somewhere (on the internet),” she recalls. “When I saw it, the first thing that came to my mind was Michael. He is a very vocal person and speaks very well. He is very expressive, and knowing him, writing is something that should come easily to him. So I wanted him to introduce him to this, to take some time out of his commitment at school because he was doing so many things at one time. So I wanted him to do something for himself, to find an interest other than academics and music.”
Through Zolynn’s nudging, Michael decided to take up the challenge. “We were very happy when we found out he was shortlisted,” Zolynn shared her response to Michael getting into the awards twice.
So, will third time be the charm for Michael, as the closing date for submissions for the next Young Author Awards nears this December? “I might give it a try,” he grins. “Although this time, I don’t think I’ll write (about) Greek mythology). I might write something more inspirational. I have been reading a lot of those lately.”

GROWING MAN, MUSIC MAN
Michael currently lives with his mother Zolynn, his father Steven, and his twin brother Owen. He tells us that he still reads books by Rick Riordan, as well as books by Pittacus Lore (the writer behind the I Am Number Four series).
“I saw from (Riordan’s) books that the demigods have special abilities and such,” he shared about his reading tastes, citing his interest in the genres of adventure and mystery. “So I did some research on books with similar themes, and that was when I came across ‘I Am Number Four’. At that time, it was made into a movie.”
Michael also shares about John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars as future writing inspiration, and points out Leah Thomas’s poignant piece Because You’ll Never Meet Me as one of his recent reads. “Every book I read is a different story,” he shared. “And every story is an inspiration. I read many genres…but I still find adventure the best.”
Michael shared about how he enjoys the rush of adrenaline when he finishes writing a story, and how writing has changed for him in secondary school; his curriculum means being exposed to formal, academic and non-fictional forms of writing, and he is positive that they will come in handy in future. “I have learned different words and sentence structures that I can use in my next entry,” he says.
It is not uncommon for writers to love music, and music has played a huge role in Michael’s life. He reveals that in his leisure, he plays a variety of instruments — the piano, the violin, the trumpet, and the drums. Zolynn and Steven chip in that Michael had been playing the violin since Primary 2.
Michael also reveals that he had been in band since Primary 3, and is currently in his school’s military band. “I like how music sounds,” he points out his love for music. “In some way, the lyrics have unspoken meaning, which you have to infer.”
What sealed the deal for Michael was when he heard a piece of music that he found ‘inspirational’. “So I decided to give (band) a try.”
He also fondly mentions his schoolmates, whom he says have ‘pushed (him) forward when (he is) feeling sad’. “When it come to writing,” he went on. “I have classmates who are very competitive and would always aim for the highest mark.”
Next to music, Michael plays basketball in his free time.

NEVER GIVE UP
These three simple words make up Michael’s mantra in all that he does, something he could have picked up from his parents. He gives budding writers this advice: “The most important thing is to not give up, even when you are feeling frustrated of not being able to write or think of anything.”
“Another thing is that, when you write, you have to feel it. So if other people say that (your) work isn’t very good, (you) shouldn’t be discouraged just as long as (you) know that (you) did (your) best. Don’t think so hard when you write. Just let it come naturally, just let it flow.”
Zolynn and Steven echo their son’s words. “Anyone can write,” Zolynn says. “It depends on how far you can go. Determination plays a part. If you don’t give up, you can make it one day. Just keep on going for it.” The couple also express their wishes for Michael to keep on writing amidst his busy schedule and preparation for his ‘O’ Levels next year.
What about Michael’s own aspirations for the future? “I wouldn’t mind writing in the future, because it is a fun thing to do,” he replies. “Mostly I’ll be thinking in, academic-wise, (finding) jobs and (doing) music part-time. For now I am taking it one step at a time, slowly, trying to balance out everything at once first, before I can accomplish things.”

Wednesday,26 October 2016 by | Blog, Featured Authors |