In the Spotlight: Furvently Writing that Pawfect Book

Writing is second nature to Celine Tan. 

After all, she’s one of the heads of a leading entertainment and lifestyle magazine in Singapore.

But to put together a children’s book seemed like a path of unfamiliar grounds – how does one strike a balance with words (or the lackof), illustrations and a meaningful story for short attention readers?

Plato the Book Celine Tan Priscilla Tan

Together with Priscilla Tan (right in above photo), Creative Director who came up with beautiful illustrations for their book, Celine (left in above photo) unveiled Plato and the Missing Bed which puts her furkid, in the limelight. Photo credit: Celine Tan

Here’s our exclusive interview with Celine Tan to find out how it was working on her first book, all while preggers with her second human kid! Read on to find out:

Hello Celine, congratulations on your “latest addition”! How did the idea of writing your own book come about?

Although I’ve been a writer for 14 years and had countless published articles and bylines, nothing quite beats the thrill of holding your first published actual real book in your hands.

A friend reminded me the other day that I mentioned to her the idea of writing a children’s book as far back as 10 years ago, way before I had kids, or even thought I would have kids. I must have thought writing a kids’ book would be easy, but it turned out to be a little harder than I imagined.

Having so few words in a book does seem simple, but it also means that every word has to count. I had to remind myself to convey what I wanted to say with as little text as possible, because as a mother who reads a lot to her kids, I personally abhor books that ramble on and on. Kids have less patience than adults!
As for why I wanted to write a book, I guess it’s cos writing is what I do and love. And after having kids, I felt inspired to add to the wonderful collection of kids’ books already out there. After tossing around a few wildly different ideas, the idea of inspiring compassion and empathy in kids by using animals stuck, and it felt natural to use my French bulldog Plato as the central character. Maybe it’s cos he is, in fact, such a funny character!

How did your bosses and colleagues react when they learned about your new book?

I didn’t tell too many people about it until the book was out, only a handful of close friends. But since the word’s been out, my co-workers have been really supportive and bought books for the kids in their lives.

How did Plato come into your life?

I got him when he was a puppy, six years ago. That was before I had kids. He was my first kid, the one who taught me how to be less selfish, and that looking after another living creature required patience, money, time, and picking up poop. All good training for real human children.

How are your kids, Amber and Brennan, getting along with Plato?

Plato and the Missing Bed Celine Tan Author Children's books

The boys are chillin’ over their favourite books. Beer? Not yet, Brennan. At least not under the watchful eyes of big brother! Credit: Celine Tan

Plato was around before they came into being (Ed’s note: Amber is now five, and Brennan is 8 months old), so there was no problem with them having to adjust to him. As for him, he adjusted really well to them. Except for a few chewed up toys, he’s been an awesome big brother. He knows when to play, and when to give space. I simply love seeing them hang out and play together. It’s one of the joys in my life.

How long did did it take for you to finally welcome this new “baby”?
What were the challenges that sprouted along the way?

I think from the time I broached the idea to Priscilla, my illustrator/collaborator, it might have been about a year, or maybe even more. It just took that long cos of work and family commitments, and stretches where we felt uninspired and did nothing at all. So we would be ‘on’ and do a lot for like two weeks, then sit on stuff or be busy with other things for like a month.

Towards the end, there was a lot of ding-donging trying to agree on certain ideas and things, but Priscilla is a wonderful collaborator. We took turns to push each other along when one of us got stuck. I couldn’t have done it without her.

A big challenge for me was stealing time away from the kids, the husband, the rest of my family and friends, a full-time job, me time, and time for my dog, to finish up the book, especially when it got more intense towards the end. And even now, as we try to market and do promo activities for the book, there just doesn’t seem like there is time to do everything I want to do. Publishing the book was also a challenge, and we eventually decided to self-publish. We had to learn along the way.

What led you to decide to have Plato as the main character?

Part of the answer is in Qn 1. Also, as there is no point in writing a book if people don’t know about it and buy it, the decision to use Plato as the main character made sense as we could use his decent Instagram following (about 20K on @helloplato_the_frenchie!) to market the book.

I also thought people and kids would like that it was based on a real dog. People who have read the book have asked if the events in the book are real, since the main character is real. My answer is that some of it is real, some of it is not!

Describe Plato with 3 sentences!

Greediest creature I’ve ever clapped eyes on, and just full of love, even though he sometimes doesn’t show it. Has the funniest and cutest face, soooo handsome lol. Still behaves like a puppy sometimes, but he’s mellowed a lot now that he’s a big brother to two kids.

Plato and the Missing Bed Celine Tan Author Children's books

Plato and sister, Amber, sharing fun moments together at the playground. Credit: Celine Tan

Tell us why this book is perfect for any family! Will there be more titles coming up?

The core aim of the book was always to impart positive values to kids without being obvious about it, or too didactic. And to be cheeky and have a generous dollop of humour while we were at it. So yes, if you have kids in your family, this book is a must! Lol.

Child-led reading: letting your child pick the books she wants to read. . Seems like Plato and the Missing Bed is one of the books on Vera's Top Picks for the month and we can totally understand why! This was the funny page we shared about previously, which ALWAYS gets her giggling! And then comes all those sound effects from her 😂 Can I add that this book makes an awesome distraction from gadgets!? No whines – heard the statement to pick up Plato and the Missing Bed, and her little hands reached over ✌🏻️ . Guess it takes a mother to understand another child, so thank you for writing this, @celine_tan_ ! It's been giving us great conversations about @helloplato_the_frenchie (despite the repeated questions😝) everytime we read this! ❤️ Look out for our exclusive interview with mama Celine on her "new baby"! 💓

A post shared by 🦉d.e.e.d.e.e. 🐨 (@deedeedee13) on

You may notice Plato and the Missing Bed is tagged Book 1. That’s cos we wanted to believe we could do more books, and I hope we get the chance to, with more support and healthy book sales. The idea was that Book 1 would teach empathy, charity, sharing and a love for animals, and Book 2 would focus on a different set of values via a different adventure that Plato would embark on. Hopefully we will be able to do more books, that would be a dream!

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It must have been surreal for Celine and Priscilla to hold their finished products! Definitely inspiring to see things materialise after a few abandon thoughts over the years. The challenge to achieve it has increased multi-folds with new responsibilities this mama now has, but glad that she managed to carve out a chunk of time dedicated to publish her first book.

So, mums and dads, if you’ve been searching for some children titles which encompasses the love for fur friends and a heartwarming story of values, do get your paws on Plato and the Missing Bed!
Where to buy: Trot over to these stockists for your copies! Just so you know, $1 from every book sale will go to Singapore charity, Voices for Animals too :)

  1. Online: www.facebook.com/platothebook
  1. My Imagination Kingdom, #03-43 One KM Mall, 11 Tanjong Katong Road, Tel: 6702-2452. Open 10.30am to 9pm daily. 
  1. Ah B Cafe, Sunny Heights, 110 Turf Club Road, Bukit Timah, Tel: 6462-3736. Open Tues-Thurs & weekends from 1pm to 6.30pm; and Fridays from 3pm to 6.30pm. Closed on Mondays.
  1. Zha Huo Dian The Corner Shop ( 杂货店), #03-16 Far East Plaza, 14 Scotts Road, Tel : 6235-7614.

**UPCOMING EVENTS**

A FURRY CHRISTMAS by Voices For Animals

Join in for a fun Christmas flea market and pet adoption drive on Dec 17, 430pm (concert starts 630pm), Sunny Heights, 110 Turf Club Road.

**SNEAK PREVIEW**

We hear that a book launch, event and signing with the National Library Board (NLB) at the Central Library’s My Treehouse Library are coming up in November too – watch this space for updates!

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