(cont.) What would you say to a young person who wanted to become a writer? I'd say forget it. Go and do a proper job. Write for fun in your spare time instead. No, really: writing is a terrible career, especially here in Asia. Unless you have a rich family member who is going to support you while you write, you need to get a job that supplies you with your daily bowl of rice, and then you need to do your writing on the side.
But you gave up your day job to write. True. But I'd written more than a dozen books before it became my main job. And even now, I still do teaching writing and screenwriting on the side.
Do you worry that people don't read much any more? Sometimes I do. But every week I see kids who are discovering that reading is far more fun than watching DVDs. If you watch a movie, you get 90 minutes of predictable, superficial fun, and then you forget it. But if you really get into a book, you find yourself immersed deep into a wonderful world for days on end or months on end, if it's a long book, like Lord of the Rings. Books hit you on a much deeper level, since they engage your imagination and work with it. Movies merely shine onto the surface of your eyeballs and then fall off. Read a good book and it actually transforms you it changes who you are. Once people realize this, they get hooked on books.
Will Gameboys and portable DVDs kill the reading habit for young people? They are likely to do it some damage. But they won't kill the book industry. Kids who read books are kids who get into the habit of taking in information 100,000 words at a time. I don't care what career or field you choose for yourself whether it is architecture or zoology the ability to take in lumps of data 100,000 words big is going to be the difference between a successful person and a failure. Teachers who can communicate this truth to ambitious students will be doing them a great service.
Why are there so few authors from Asia? Most of us here are too busy earning our daily bread to sit down to write novels or even read them. But as Asia develops a middle class intelligentsia, and as the standard of education improves, I can see the growth of a literary society. Asia makes up more than 50 per cent of the world's population, yet we generate 0.000 per cent of the world's literature. This is an anomaly. All anomalies eventually get fixed. And if no one else in Asia will do anything about it, I'll do it myself.