‘Rich Kid’ author laments lack of support for local writers

Malcolm Mejin and his novel ‘The Diary of a Rich Kid’.

KUCHING: A Sarawakian novelist has lamented the lack of government support for local writers, saying many have trouble reaching out to their audiences.

“Writers can’t do much due to the limitation of funds,” Malcolm Mejin told FMT. “I wish the federal government and the media would be more supportive.”

Mejin, who studied journalism at Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman in Kuala Lumpur, is the author of “The Diary of a Rich Kid”. The 256-page book tells the story of a rich boy named Robin and his friends.

Mejin said his aim in writing the book was to popularise Sarawak, especially among those in the peninsula who are unaware of the unique cultures and cuisines in the state.

“That’s why I decided to include elements related to Sarawak in my novel, like Sarawak laksa.”

But while the book has been praised by some, Mejin says no Sarawakian has yet managed to produce a novel with international appeal.

“A friend told me that my chances of being a successful writer would be much higher overseas,” he said.

Malcolm Mejin with a fan during a book promotion tour in Sarawak.

“Take director James Wan, for example. He is from my hometown and I’m proud of his success, but he only made it in his career after he moved overseas. Now he’s directing international movies like ‘Fast & Furious 7’ and ‘Aquaman’.”

Here in Malaysia, he said, it was difficult to get his work published.

“There are very few publishers in Malaysia that publish fictional titles like my genre,” he said, adding that appeals to the government for assistance brought no results.

“That was why I approached a Singaporean publisher, but they told me they only support their own writers.”

He also voiced frustration with a local paper which he said refused to feature his novel.

“I was disappointed when they published reports on Singaporean writers, including first-time authors. Shouldn’t they be supportive of our own writers?”

In the end, he said, he was forced to self-finance his novel which has been doing well and is available at major bookstores throughout the country.

He spent about RM30,000 producing the book, including designing, printing and marketing costs.

Mejin, who now lives in Johor Bahru, said it took him three months to write the novel, with encouragement and support from his mother and sister.

“I’m just following my passion,” he said. “If you don’t do it now, then when are you going to do it?

“When nobody believes in you, you have to believe in yourself. Never give up believing.”