Did You have Imaginary Friends as a child? #FridayReads

Imaginary Friends by Melanie Lee SIngapore
Imaginary Friends: Melanie Lee

I met Singaporean author Melanie Lee at a writing workshop years ago, and we’ve been writing buddies ever since. She has recently published her first collection of short stories: ‘Imaginary Friends‘. I loved her book launch and you can see some of it here!

I’ve loved reading these voice-y tales which end with a snappy ‘moral’ — a somewhat snarky word of wisdom for all of us who fall in love, work, and interact in the modern society. For instance, her story Herman the Hopeless Hippo ends with the cautionary note: If you fall for a mama’s boy, you’ll need to have a lot of patience.‘ After cheering her on at her book launch last week, I got together with her for an interview. If you have more questions for Melanie, drop a line in the comments!
1. Tell us a bit about your fiction writing journey.

I remember writing a copious amount of fairytales at 6 years old about princes and princesses. But that habit faded away when I started going to school, and it was pummeled into me that I had to write more seriously and logically for English assignments. There was this fictional vacuum for many years till my mid ‘20s, when I attended a short creative writing course for fun while doing my Master’s degree in Melbourne. I actually don’t remember what I learned from that course, but
it was an important experience because it made me realise that there were all these possibilities to create wonderful new worlds and characters with words. From then on, I began to write short stories and poems for fun, but only really had more guts to show/submit them in recent years.

2. What gave you the idea for your book, ‘Imaginary Friends‘?

I decided that I wanted to take part in the Blogging from A-Z Challenge (this wonderful writing event was introduced to me by none other than Damyanti, whom I regard as a writing mentor even though she tells me I’m being ridiculous). Someone said something about how it was good to have a theme for this challenge so as to have more focus. I thought I’d revisit this idea of imaginary friends because I had quite a few of them when I was young!

3. What is the target audience for your book?

I wrote these stories with no target reader in mind. My publisher positions it as a “kidult” book –something young-at-heart adults might like. But then, some kids as young as 6 have been telling me they enjoy the stories in the book. I actually think it’s more of a “target personality” – the book is suitable for people who love to laugh, perhaps are slightly cynical and are not opposed to sleeping with stuffed toys.

4. Each of your stories has a ‘moral’, tell us a bit about that.

I thought it was a fun and snappy way to conclude each story. But looking back, I guess they are lessons I’ve learned from life thus far. However, they’re not meant to be taken too seriously. I like it when readers tell me they got different “lessons” from a particular story, because really, there are so many ways to look at this world.

5. Which is your favorite character in the book, and the favorite story?

My favorite character in the book is Olivia the Overachieving Octopus. In general, I’m partial towards efficient personalities because there’s a lot of flakiness in this world these days. I like Elly the Egotistical Eraser story the best because I used to have a whole “stationery family” (with names) in my pencil case and I always wondered about the conversations they had when I was not around.

Melanie Lee: Author of Imaginary Friends
Melanie Lee: Author of Imaginary Friends

6. Can we have a taster, a link to one of your stories?

Sure, I shared my Timmy the Tenacious Teabag story on T Ching (a tea website) which you can read here.

7. Where can we buy ‘Imaginary Friends’?

If you’d like to buy the print edition of Imaginary Friends, you can buy it from MPH Online (they do international deliveries). If you’re from Singapore or Malaysia, Imaginary Friends is available at MPH and Kinokuniyabookstores. You can find the ebook at Amazon and Kobo.

Bio: Melanie Lee is a freelance writer based in Singapore. She does a mix of editorial, corporate and creative writing.
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I’ll be giving away two copies of the Imaginary Friendsebook randomly to two commenters on this post in order to support my friend Melanie, who’s been a joy to talk to and write with, along the years. So please leave your comments, interact, chat with Melanie and each other!

As part of my pledge in my A to Z Reflections post, I’m again featuring Bloggers I Recommend Visiting. I also spoke of Supporting Indie authors, so in that spirit, I’ll put my money where my mouth is. 

This time, I’ll be buying and then gifting books by Indie authors to all my three Recommended Blog Friends. (I hope to do this gifting on the 3rd Friday of each month, and more, if my book budget allows it! )

Tina Downey: A cohost at the A to Z Challenge, fab blogger, very dear friend. I’m gifting her a copy of Imaginary Friends‘ by Melanie Lee. She is the sort of girl who would enjoy a humorous book, with fab illustrations and snappy morals!

Paul Ruddock A cherished blog-friend, and amazing supporter of this blog through the A to Z Challenge. I’m gifting him Beyond the Binding, an anthology of short fiction edited by Samantha Redstreake Geary and written by a lot of fellow bloggers. He likes short fiction and loves supporting others, so this charity anthology should be right up his street.

Mary Wallace: One of #TeamDamyanti , who has consistently inspired me with her great cheer in the face of incredible odds. I’m gifting her Doing Max Vinyl by Frederick Lee Brooke. She might enjoy an entertaining, humorous thriller with a lady lead.

To all three of you, thank you for your support and I hope you have tons of visitors on your blogs this coming year. I don’t expect you to do anything with the book other than enjoy it, and if you want to support Indie Authors, too, buy a copy for your friends or family!

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Did you have imaginary friends as a child? Would you like a copy of Imaginary Friends in your inbox? Do you know any  of the three Featured Bloggers? Heard of the three books? Want to buy them?

I love comments, and I always visit back. Blogging is all about being a part of a community, and communities are about communication! Tweet me up @damyantig !

143 comments

Add Yours
  1. luckyjc007

    The only imaginary friends I had did not talk to me and I did not talk to them. I only saw them at night when I went to bed…they were always at the top of the window curtain and I could see them dancing around. I thought it was very strange, but I was never afraid of them. I was about five years old at that time.

  2. parwatisingari

    Yes I did, I had two, one was Nataraj, god knows why I choose that name, and other was Chitra, they were with me till almost I was 8, then I found my journal.

    • lightravellerkate

      I had imaginary friends both human and animal! Looking back now I see I created and peopled these different realities because the one at home was pretty shocking. When I told the truth, being a perspicacious creature, I was called a liar so I stopped the truth telling and enjoyed my little world. It was such a solace.

      • parwatisingari

        🙂 I can empathize totally. There are huge scars, It took hypnotherapy to heal and make peace the scars are still there. There was also this concept that kids are not supposed to notice certain stuff and when you do it is inviting spanking.

  3. mattcanada

    Wonderful review, as someone who did have an imaginary friend as a kid, I will have to check this book out! (And coincidentally, my aunt and uncle ended up naming their dog after my imaginary friend, lol.) Thanks, Matt 🙂

    • mel

      Hi Matt, thank you! Do drop me a note if you ever get the chance to read the book 🙂 Your aunt and uncle sound so cute heh.

  4. sconst71

    I did not have any imaginary friends as a child. However, I did play and pretend that I was different Superheros. My daughter on the other hand has had imaginary friends and pets. I will probably be in big trouble if she knew I was posting this about her.

    • mel

      Hi Scott, yes I loved pretending to be superhero characters too – I really identified with Rogue from X-Men and I wanted to be Mary Poppins at some point 😉 Let your daughter know that there’s nothing embarrassing about having imaginary friends!

  5. Michelle Wallace

    Melanie’s book sounds really charming! 🙂 Congratulations!
    I can’t remember having imaginary friends when I was growing up…. (Do the characters in books count? As a child, my nose was ALWAYS stuck in a book…)

    • mel

      Hi Michelle, sure they do! I think that’s what I love about reading good books, the characters really come alive in my head 🙂

  6. mudpilewood

    what a great post. Love the idea Mel came up with and I wish you well with your book. Congratulations. In answer to your question I didn’t have imaginary friends, I did have dogs, who were substitute friends,

    • mel

      You know Breeze, I think pet dogs are the most genuine friends to have around ;P I think that’s why I didn’t have an imaginary friend about a dog!

  7. Stephen Tremp

    I didn’t have imaginary friends, but I did imagine epic intergalactic scenes and such. Alien invasions. Creatures from other dimensions. I had a very creative imagination and a wandering mind,.

    • mel

      One of my imaginary friends was an alien called Captain Veggie (hence why I refused to eat veggies as a child). Anyway Stephen, it would be great to see your epic intergalactic scenes one day!

  8. Rajesh

    It is interesting that even in this day and age, people talk about imaginary friends. Not that it is a shocker, but is a pleasant surprise. Considering the fast paced hi tech world we are in, one would imagine that kids 2day have no time for it..

    My perspective.. I have always had them since the time I started creating them, to the time in college, to my further studies, my work life, continuing on to my married life and till date….. There are no names, no favourites, they are just friends, that you can talk to any time you like, no need to pick up the phone, while watching TV, in the shower, driving, you name it….

    For me, they are a part of life, that in some ways, I think are necessary to maintain your sanity and also unknowingly, guide you through life.

    • mel

      Hi Rajesh, I particularly agree with your last paragraph. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I actually think the high-tech world possibly faciliates the existence of more imaginary friends given how much more of our lives are spent in the virtual realm (e.g. augmented reality).

    • mel

      Hi Sonia, haha I am still wondering how to alleviate all the confusion. Some people have been buying it for their kids…and one mummy blogger got particularly angry about it ;P

    • Mel

      Hi Gert, it was something they debated a while about because it doesn’t fit into any particular “target market”. Am thankful they decided to give it a chance!

      • gertloveday

        Yes, I’m familiar with the problem. Our first book has a child as a central character even though it’s an adult book, or as we say “a book for grownup children”, and it’s considered a marketing problem. So well done!

  9. Corianne

    I really like the idea of using the A-Z challenge to write stories 🙂 I might do that sometime when I’m stuck. The stories also sound very fun – perhaps they’re a sort of modern-day fairytales.

    • Mel

      Hi Corianne, you’re right! I guess I’m still clinging onto my fascination with fairytales all this while 🙂

      • Corianne

        Same here. Fairytales are just such classic stories that never bore me. Also love the modern incarnations and folktales from other cultures than my own – they are all simply timeless and make for very good bedtime reading 🙂

  10. violafury

    Very nice to meet you, Mel! I had two imaginary friends as a kid. They were two ovals; one was a horizontal oval, the other, a vertical oval. Their names were “Giggard” and “Pord” and they regularly changed names just to keep me confused. I’m still confused, a half a century plus, later! I look forward to meeting your imaginary friends, Mel.

    Damyanti! Thank you for the splendid gift! “Doing Max Vinyl” sounds like my kind of read and congratulations on this splendid interview! I thoroughly enjoyed it! Mary xoxo

    • Mel

      Hi Viola, I love cartoon shape imaginary friends – they’re the most versatile 🙂 In fact, I was just watching this kiddy craft show with my son the other day called Mister Maker and there’s a segment with singing shapes which made us giggle a lot.

      • violafury

        It may just be me, Mel, but I find that the older I get, the more I giggle over fun, silly things like that! I think there is much to be said for indulging our “inner child” in these types of things. Silly shapes, singing silly shapes and names rank right up there with me! 🙂

  11. drapersmeadow4

    Great interview. Your book sounds both delightful and wise! My imaginary friend was always my pen and paper. I suppose it would be classified as an imaginary friend as I always felt as if I was talking to my other self. Be well. ~Karen ~

    • Mel

      Hi Karen, thanks for your kind words. I like this concept of talking to your other self – exploring perspectives, new ideas and perhaps emotions you thought you might never have had. Happy explorations!

  12. Carrie Page

    As a kidult myself (who had a number of imaginary friends as a child), I am the “target personality” for a book like this. I will certainly check it out! Great post.

    • Mel

      Yay Carrie! Glad to meet a like-minded soul. It’s always important to check in with the kid in us every now and then 🙂

  13. Preethi Venugopal

    This interview made me smile. I did not have any imaginary friends in my childhood. But my five year old have the English Alphabets as his imaginary friends and tells me tales about how B got hurt when I threw it into the container case or how Q was kidnapped by a bunch of pigs of his angry bird collection. Even his dreams are full of them. I sometimes note down what he told me. Many times caught in the magic of the tale, I forget. 🙂
    Nice to know about you Melanie and all the best for your book. It sure promises to be a delightful read.

    • Mel

      Preethi, your son sounds adorable! And it’s a good way for him to remember his alphabets 🙂 Do continue to compile his tales!

  14. Holly Geely

    I had an imaginary friend, but she was just an invisible person. I kept changing her name because I got bored with the old one…poor girl.

    The book sounds great!

  15. austinausten88

    I love the idea of this book. I’ll have to find and read it because though I don’t remember it, I apparently had numerous imaginary friends as a young girl. One of them, Buckeroo Bob, was a cowboy and I think the most memorable one of the bunch. To this day, I think a part of me still remembers them all in some way in my subconscious. Maybe that’s what has made me a playwright. Thanks for sharing your inspiration.

    • Mel

      Thanks Margaret! I think rediscovering these friends is such a fun and humanising experience. Hope you enjoy unearthing them through your plays 🙂

  16. Kaitlin A. Trepanier

    Yes, I’ve been told by my mother. My imaginary friend’s name was Maya, though I suspect now she was more than an imaginary friend, but an angel companion who showed up during a very difficult time and re-appeared once in my adulthood when I was rediscovering and healing from that time.

  17. ccyager

    Thanks, Damyanti, for calling attention to this writer and her book. I’d not heard of her. The book sounds really intriguing, especially because I had my own team of imaginary friends when I was little, led by “Bunny Rabbit.” They accompanied me everywhere, played with me, fueled my imagination. I think it’s been shown through research, although I could not cite it, that kids who have imaginary friends tend to grow into adults active in the arts in some way and highly creative. Love what you’re doing here! Cinda

    • Mel

      Yes, I’ve come across these studies. The idea is that having an imaginary friend gives a child the “agency” to talk through problems and solve them. I actually wonder whether the psychologists/scientists who looked into this had imaginary friends themselves heh 😉

      • ccyager

        Mel, the researchers probably did have imaginary friends, and they wanted to make certain that they actually weren’t psychotic for having them! LOL But seriously, good luck with your book! I have it on my “to read” list for when I’m not so overwhelmed with marketing work for my own e-book, “Perceval’s Secret.” Cinda

        • Damyanti

          Cinda, you’re one of the randomly chosen commenters I’m gifting the Imaginary Friends ebook! Could you drop me an email at atozstories at gmail dot com, so I can gift you your copy? In that mail, please send me the email id you use for your Kindle, so I can use the “Gift a copy” option on Amazon.

  18. michaelnjohns

    I never had imaginary friends as a child, but I listen to the voices inside my head now. We’re just getting to know one another, but if I like any of them we might be friends someday. I’m thinking I might have a Wooly Mammoth friend hiding behind that tree over there, but I may have to visit more often to see if he can be tamed. Or am I the wild one?

    • Mel

      Hi Michael, I think those wild voices are important, but why is the wooly mammoth one shy? (and why does your brain have a tree – is that the tree of wisdom?).

      • michaelnjohns

        Probably all woolly mammoths are shy. I mean, when’s the last time you saw one? I’m not sure about the tree. I was sitting under a big one’s canopy and happened to notice him there behind a thinner tree. There’s a forest in there, maybe even a jungle. Do woolly mammoths like apples or bananas? Maybe I can lure him out. 😀 If there’s a wisdom tree I don’t think I’ve found it yet. There is, however, an allegorical short story about discovering one’s “hidden” talents, in there. I heard someone whispering about it. I just need to write it down after I listen to the characters a bit.

  19. Topaz

    What a lovely interview! I too am Singapore-based, and it’s so great to see more local writers. 🙂 Definitely heading down to Kinokuniya this weekend to pick up my copy of Imaginary Friends – and, as many of the other commenters have said, please do add me to the ‘kidult’ club. 😉

    • Mel

      Thank you so much Topaz! A little tip: the book is located in the Asian Literature shelf apparently. If you’re going to the Taka branch one, it’s on shelf A23-02. All the best with your writing and music 😀

      • Topaz

        It’s my pleasure, and thank you – that’ll definitely make it easier to navigate the labyrinth of bookshelves! xx

  20. Bikramjit

    I had a few imaginary friends , that would come and beat all these boys in the hostel, I had a terrible time in hostel during school, was bullied , did a lot of things to try to get away from them one of them was Talking to the best mates i had in my dreams , who will one day get together and BEAT these bullies .. Thankfully i came ot college and that changed it all .. did not need the imaginary friends anymore as i had LIVE ones 🙂

    lovely interview .. and all the best for the success of the book ..

    • Mel

      Hi Bikramjit, oh yes, I had a few of those “superhero” imaginary friends who could help me deal with those school bullies. And you know, what would we have done without them?!

      • Bikramjit

        I know.. I would have probably become a scary cat.. and one of those recluses who go and do horrible things.. but thankfully these superhero friends kept me sane in those difficult days 🙂

  21. Bookgirl

    As a child I had three imaginary friends, they were all doors in our house. You can stop laughing – it gets better. They were called Dora, Doreen and Dorex. Olivia the Overachieving Octopus sound so funny -love it.

    • Mel

      Oh Bookgirl, my imaginary friend was a pink water bottle called Janet – I will never judge you like that! I think Dorex is such a cool name, and doors are mighty important in our lives mind you, or how do we get from one room to another? 🙂

    • Mel

      Hi Liz, thanks for reading the interview and yes, I’m convinced very few human beings actually do grow up ;P

  22. jeremyh05251977

    Sounds like a glorious read, we sometimes forgot those voices as a child… our imagination is still inside just need to let it out… I too want to be part of the “Kidult” club.

  23. daveynorthcott

    Sounds great, I’ll definitely check it out. I love books with morals; all my writing has a hidden message or moral snuck in there somewhere.
    I had three imaginary friends when I was a child (so I’m told, I have to say I don’t actually remember them :S ). They were called Nana, Googoo and Ducka. I’m pretty sure I had real friends, too, so don’t judge me too harshly on that!

    • Mel

      I think all of us take something away from each story that we love, and in that sense every story has a moral perhaps? No judging on having cute imaginary friends…you’re in a safe community of imaginative dreamers here I reckon! 😀

  24. vishalbheeroo

    Great job Damyanti and both of u have done a fab job with the interview. Enjoyed the fab answers given by Mel on what it takes to write and her experience as a young kid:)

  25. ibtisam

    Loved reading ‘Timmy the Tenacious Teabag.. Anything targeting adults in a ‘child-like’ manner attracts me.. Thanks Damyanti and Melanie 🙂

  26. Peter Nena

    My imaginary friends are ghouls. Some days they chase me around the house with a stick, a broom, and a dustpan into which they intend to sweep me and dump me into the garbage can. They are giant things the size of trolls, even bigger. When I am quiet, studying or something, they set my brain on fire with a gas lighter and cheer wildly and dance like devils while I burn to death with smoke issuing from my nose and ears, my eyeballs exploding, blood on my face. After an eternity of atrocious agony, they pee on the fire to put it out. When I am asleep, they become jealous of my rest and put ice in my armpits and in the crack of my ass. I reported them to the cops once, but when the cops had gone, they crucified me on the ceiling for 72 hours. They crucified me naked with my face up against the ceiling, and then brought wasps to sting my bare ass. One day they will kill me, I am afraid.

  27. Susan Scott

    Melanie well done for taking the plunge with your book! It sounds seriously suitable for all, and a wonderful way to create interest in reading for those who profess to not like reading. Thanks Damyanti for this interview! I still have imaginary mates in my head. My shadow is ever present; I hear my soul and heart sometimes speak; the ego is there in my head; and on it goes. Good luck Melanie with your book-it deserves every success.

    • Mel

      Thanks Susan, and yes, we have to listen to our heart and soul often! Otherwise we don’t just lose imaginary friends, but ourselves as well!

  28. Alison

    This book sounds delightful! If I don’t win a copy, I’m definitely buying one (“people who love to laugh, perhaps are slightly cynical and are not opposed to sleeping with stuffed toys” perfectly describes me).

  29. davidprosser

    This sounds like a fantastic book and I love the term kidult. I wish I’d pinched it a couple of months ago when I published my Tall Animal Tales for Toddlers & Up which also includes a Hippopotamus and an Octopus written as poems for ‘Kidults’. I wish Melanie the best of luck.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

    • Mel

      Hi David, will definitely check out your Tall Animal Tales. I recently spent some time working in a zoo for a writing assignment, and I was amazed at how much personality all the creatures had.

  30. Sammy D.

    Thank you, Damyanti for a great feature author and interview. I’m happy to meet you, Mel. Congratulations – your kidult book sounds wonderful, and I will pick up a copy through Amazon. It will be a fun family read and one I will then donate to our local library.

  31. Vidya Sury

    Lovely post, Damyanti and so nice to meet you Mel! I heard about your book earlier – was it on the A to Z blog? What I do remember is your book sounds delightful. Oh yes, I had imaginary friends as a child and I confess I still enjoy some cozy moments with them. 🙂 Would love to read your book.

    Damyanti, the three books you are giving away are all wonderful – I’ve heard of all of them. I’ve contributed to one (Beyond the Binding).

    Hugs! So generous of you to do this!

    • Mel

      Hi Vidya, I believe we might have crossed paths during the A-Z challenge either last year or two years ago (time flies!) because your name definitely seems familiar to me. How lovely that you still spend some quality time with your imaginary friends 🙂

  32. Maggie

    I haven’t heard of any of the books but I think I’ll definitely read Imaginary Friends. When I was a kid, my two sisters and I had shared imaginary friends. Us three girls were friends with three sister witches and we used to walk their dogs. The dogs slept in cages above our beds, too. I don’t remember our friends’ names but I remember walking around the park with the “dog” on a leash. I think I may have started this witch with the dog as I didn’t really like cats and it obviously caught on!

    • Damyanti

      Hi Maggie, you’re one of the randomly chosen commenters I’m gifting the Imaginary Friends ebook! Could you drop me an email at atozstories at gmail dot com, so I can gift you your copy? In that mail, please send me the email id you use for your Kindle, so I can use the “Gift a copy” option on Amazon.

      • Maggie

        Hi Damyanti and Mel! I just realised I never responded! I read a few stories while travelling to Ireland for my summer vacation. I have been reading them the remainder on and off over the last few months. It was a great read and I will definitely recommend it. I am going to buy it for my aunt who is a writer. I think that she will really enjoy it. I don’t really have a favourite story but the one about Sheila the Sleepy Salmon spoke to me (in fact, I just re-read it which reminded me I hadn’t responded!). I am always in need of sleep – in fact, I have been trying to improve my sleep schedule since August … it still hasn’t quite worked! Once again, thank you and I am going to include a link to the book on my personal blog where I list all the books I’ve read (well, all the books I remember I read). Cheers (oh and the personal blog is maggieblogs.com).

  33. hughiegibson

    I think as fiction writers we all have imaginary friends. Some of them we do bad things to. That’s part of it. We have to know our characters like they are real people.

    Good read

    • Mel

      Indeed Hughie! I can’t wait to write longer stories (maybe even a novel??) one day for the chance to fully flesh out characters that will inevitable become my imaginary friends 😉

    • Mel

      Hey David (and anyone elseinterested in kidult books), do check out “All My Friends Are Dead” and “Go the F*** to sleep” – those are seminal kidult classics 😉

    • Mel

      Hi Kate, thanks so much! If you do get to reading those stories one day, I hope they make you smile as well 😀

  34. Dan Antion

    I also like the word “Kidult” and I’m glad to see that someone recovered from having the childlike wonder and whimsy educated out of their writing. Thanks for bringing us Melanie’s story.

    • Mel

      Hi Dan, there’s still a long way more back to getting “rehabilitated” to the world of fiction 😉 But getting acquainted with a few more people from the online writing community has really helped!

  35. Cat Amesbury

    As a little girl, I wanted to be a platypus. I wasn’t one hundred percent sure what one was but I knew that I wanted to be one and constructed an imaginary platypus friend.

    I also thought that I could talk to plants and held small conversations with them about how their day was going and whether they were getting enough water.

    There were other imaginary playmates because I was a small girl with a big appetite for stories. I like to think that those playmates became the tales that I put down on paper now. Which means that I really need to write a story about a platypus superhero. 🙂

    “Imaginary Friends” sounds like a wonderful story and I will have to check it out. I really appreciate how you have brought so many writers to my attention.

    • Mel

      A platypus superhero sounds AWESOME, Cat – I’m already thinking a caped mask would really bring out its beak 🙂 And yes, D. has been really big-hearted about sharing other writers with her readers.

  36. Michelle Stanley

    This post/interview made a delightful read. I’m happy to know more about Melanie and her new book, which by all indications will be entertaining to all. Love the titles of the stories. “Kidult” – I like this word. Congratulations and continued success to your book.