He penned first novel on his handphone during NS
While some full-time national servicemen use their break times to browse social media feeds or take a nap, one teenager spent his time differently.
Two years ago, Mr Teo Xue Shen, now 20, typed out most of his 272-page novel on his mobile phone during break times while serving national service (NS).
The book, 18 Walls, about a group of elite soldiers fighting a half-animal and half-human species known as the Savages, was longlisted for the 2017 Epigram Books Fiction Prize.
Mr Teo is still the youngest author to have been longlisted for the annual prize.
On Wednesday last week, he told The New Paper he had the idea for the book, which straddles genres of science-fiction, war and romance, before enlisting.
He said: "Before I enlisted, I was not expecting to write it in camp. I thought perhaps I would work on it during the weekends at home. But I guess it was itchy fingers - I couldn't help myself."
He started out using a notepad but found it inconvenient and eventually switched to Microsoft Word on his Sony Xperia phone.
He would lie on his bed and work on the book whenever he had time to spare.
Even though training was sometimes long and tiring, Mr Teo pressed on and would try to type something even if it was just a word. The most he was able to write at one stretch was 19 pages.
He completed the book in about six months during his basic military training and Specialist Cadet Course.
The experiences of the soldiers and themes of the book reflect Mr Teo's realities and thoughts during his NS.
He said: "When I knew I was going to enlist, I wanted to draw inspiration from what I was going to go through, which would make it easier to write.
"Most of my characters are just pieces of myself.
"Once you give them their traits, characteristics and emotions, they develop themselves."
While Mr Teo has plans to pursue a career doing research related to the environment, he hopes to continue writing fiction books on the side.
Publisher and chief executive of Epigram Books Edmund Wee told TNP: "It was a delight to publish such a talented young man. I hope his successful efforts will spur other young authors to pick up their pen."
The book is available at major bookstores at $18.08 (including GST).