Thursday, 11 December 2014

Questions & Answers: M.J. Carter

M.J. Carter is the author of The Strangler Vine, a wonderfully enjoyable historical thriller, set in the 1830s, in India.  The novel introduces Blake and Avery, an investigative pair with hints of Sherlock and Watson – solid, dependable Avery is the sidekick to brilliant, but troubled, Blake.  They are both employees of The East India Company. When their employers ask them to track down a missing poet, Xavier Mountstuart, they are forced to confront the Thugs, who roam around strangling their victims…or do they? Perhaps Company man, Major William Sleeman, is exaggerating their depravity?  Perhaps Thugs are little more than vagabonds, and pawns in The Company’s power games?   It’s a great book, and I urge you to read it.  In the meantime, M.J. Carter answers a few questions.

In the endnotes, you call yourself a neophyte when it comes to India and its history, but you also mention your mother-in-law lived for many years in Madras / Chennai.  How important, if at all, was this family connection?  How come you decided to write about colonial India?

It was very important. My mother-in-law was the reason I heard about the Thugs and William Sleeman in the first place. I’d never have thought about writing about India if it hadn’t been for her. She was rather an amazing woman and was a nun in Chennai running the teacher training college there in the 1950s before she decided to renounce her vows. In fact my husband wrote a memoir about her, Family Romance, by John Lanchester. Her stories about the Thugs were the starting point, but what really got me interested was the fact that there was a fierce debate about whether the Thugs had existed or whether they were a convenient British fabrication, or myth. That gave me my story.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

500 Words From PP Wong

500 Words a series of guest posts from authors, in which they talk about their books and characters.  Here, PP Wong, apparently the first British-born, ethnically-Chinese novelist to be published in the UK, discusses her debut novel, The Life of a Banana.

The Chinese slang word banana refers to ethnically Chinese people who are yellow on the outside, white on the inside – in other words, heavily westernised. PP Wong’s main character, Xing Li, is a banana on the brink of adolescence. Although born and raised in London, she never feels she fits in there, especially after her mother dies and she goes to live with her grandma, and her strange Uncle Ho. In order to find her own identity, Xing Li must first negotiate cultural and generational conflicts, whilst discovering what it means to be both British, and Chinese.

So: over to PP Wong…

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Writers in Taiwan

Raelee Chapman, our indie correspondent, is seeking out the vast and varied writing communities across Asia, here she chats with Mark Chapman, (no relation) organiser of Writers in Taiwan.

When and why was Writers in Taiwan formed?

Writers in Taiwan is 1.5 years old and now has over 150 members. I formed Writers in Taiwan to meet more writers, find people interested in critiquing and simply for interest and support.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Lion City Lit: Woolf Works

Asian Books Blog is based in Singapore.  Lion City Lit explores literary life in our own backyard.  This week Raelee Chapman visits Woolf Works, a coworking space dedicated to women, and named after Virginia Woolf, who famously declared, in her extended essay A Room of One's Own, that women must have a space of their own to produce art. 

Where does a woman go to write if she cannot write at home? There are myriad reasons why writing at home can be complicated, and full of distractions. So I was curious when a writer friend of mine told me about Woolf Works, and I went along to an open day - a chance for women to bring their moleskin notebooks and laptops and explore the space.

This Week In Asian Review Of Books

Asian Books Blog is not a review site.  If you want reviews, see the Asian Review of Books.  Here is a list of its newest reviews:

Cat Town, poetry by Sakutaro Hagiwara, translated by Hiroaki Sato reviewed by Jennifer Wong
Meltdown in Tibet: China’s Reckless Destruction of Ecosystems from the Highlands of Tibet to the Deltas of Asia by Michael Buckley reviewed by Sinead Ferris
Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms: Journeys Into the Disappearing Religions of the Middle East by Gerard Russell reviewed by Peter Gordon 
Letters from Hong Kong: The sound of silence
 by Jeffrey Wasserstrom