Pop Rock Love combines teenage love and the bustling music scene in Tokyo for a uniquely Singaporean piece of literary art.
By Wendy Chong
Driven by her passion for writing and love for Japanese music, journalist Raine Koh embarked on a one-year long project that culminated in Pop Rock Love, a young adult fiction novel about teenage love set against the backdrop of music, published last December. “It’s about my personal journey—how I went from liking Japanese rock music to Japanese pop music,” Koh, a City Harvest Church member, explains.
This she executes through the love story of Singaporean rock performer Mimi and Yuki, a mysterious Japanese breakdancer. When Yuki suddenly leaves the island after a month-long whirlwind romance, a love-struck Mimi heads to Tokyo to search for him, only to discover that he belongs to a sugary-pop boyband, the Fire Boys. As she gapes at the huge promotional poster of Fire Boys hanging above the streets of Shibuya, Mimi is hit by a black convertible driven by rock producer, Sato.
Beyond the usual otaku fare, the novel’s exploration of Japanese pop culture derives from Koh’s real-life experiences and her having traveled extensively to Tokyo.
“The first time I went to Tokyo was to watch an Arashi concert in 2006. I was so impressed with Tokyo and its people. Actually, Arashi was one of the reasons I started learning Japanese, because I wanted to be able to read their magazine interviews and know what they were saying in variety shows. I got to know other fans from around the world, and we would travel to Tokyo to watch their concerts together,” the self-confessed J-pop fan recalls of her favorite Japanese boyband. “Pop Rock Love inspires readers to chase after their dreams, no matter how difficult it seems to achieve them.”
Apart from publishing her own works, Koh is also a regular contributor to Teens magazines, specializing in Asian entertainment. She has also written for various other lifestyle magazines. The completion of the novel triggered conflicting sentiments in her. “I was happy because I felt a sense of achievement, yet sad because it was now time to ‘release my baby to the world.’ But it’s an essential step—you are not a writer if you do not have readers.”
The novel took Koh a year to write. Through the process, she learned patience and pliability. “I discovered that writing a book takes a lot of patience and there is a lot of re-drafting and rewrites. You cannot be too egoistic, especially when your editor advises you on how to fine-tune your work,” says Koh. Pop Rock Love is supported by the National Arts Council Singapore, which offers grants for local writers to get their works published.
Pop Rock Love retails at S$15 (before GST) at major local bookstores.