Image: Edmund Chen for The New Paper

His daughter was going through a tough time in her life, and he has based his second book on that.

Former actor Edmund Chen launched the second in his four-part illustrated Chinese book series, My Little Red Dot, on Monday.

The first book, My Little Red Dot: River Series, was published last year. The second, My Little Red Dot: Forest Series, follows the main character on a journey of self-discovery.

Chen, 55, who wrote the text and drew the illustrations, tells The New Paper on Sunday: “My daughter wanted to fit in with her friends and be like them, so she changed a lot about herself. “Because of my wife’s and my background in the acting industry, she didn’t want her friends to judge her based on that. One day, she told me not to take her to school in case her friends saw (us) – that really woke me up.”

Chen’s wife is veteran actress Xiang Yun. He says he thought of creating a character that represented his 16-year-old daughter’s experiences growing up. “I wanted to make a character that could be another friend to her. It took a long time to think of what it should look like, something simple but not so symmetrical,” he says.

Thus, My Little Red Dot was born – a minuscule fish with big eyes and a red dot on its body. Chen says the fish character does not have a proper name yet, as it is still “very small and insignificant”, and he will probably reveal its name once the character completes its journey of self-discovery. The books are also colouring books. He says: “The first impression that people have of my book is that it’s just a normal colouring book for therapy purposes. But, it’s more than that. I think of it as philosophical, where there is a meaningful story behind every page.

“For example, one page can be about struggles, and the next will be about successes. Flip the page and it might be about a mid-life crisis.

“It’s also about finding your true self. When you hate something about yourself, you try to change it. Once you change it, you finally realise that you lost that uniqueness, and you try to get it back again.”

Chen gives the example of how, back in his acting days, people used to tease him about his red cheeks, which he tried to cover up with foundation until he found out that it was part of his identity.

My Little Red Dot: Forest Series features plants and trees in Singapore, and readers can scan QR codes behind each page to find out more about them. Chen will take a short break from his books to attend The New Paper Courts Big Walk with his daughter and son, 25.

“For me, it really isn’t about the location and the end of the trail, but about the journey and bonding with my family while staying healthy,” he says. “It’s nice to just relax in the zoo and not realise how fast time passes by. You have to live in the moment and cherish it.” Then it will be back to drawing up the third book.

Says Chen: “I’m working on the third book, which has the city as the theme, and hopefully it can be published by next April.

“I feel that my next two books are starting to push me out of my comfort zone, as I have to draw and create something that is different and better than the previous ones.” He is also creating My Little Red Dot merchandise such as water bottles and postcards, and working with travel brand Samsonite to design luggage. Chen even hopes to have a cultural centre of his own soon, where people of all ages can have a hands-on experience of his artwork.

“It’s definitely on my mind, but I’ll take things one at a time. Sometimes, we must take a step back and look at ourselves to see whether our dreams are realistic or not.”

A version of this story was originally published on The New Paper

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