Interview by the aditor of Highlights Magazine

Feb. 28, 2022

This is an interview in Highlights Magazine The editor asked something about my books and my writing experience. The questions and answers are also related to the background of my books and the Chinese modern history and great social changes in China.

  1. Tell us about your book

    Floating and Sinking on the Sea of Officialdom is the second volume of the trilogy of a modern Chinese historical - love fiction, following volume I, Sailing Across the Red Storm. It is a compelling historical novel with a moving love story. In Volume I, the main character and his family, friends and lovers bravely struggled through the ordeal of the Cultural Revolution in China. But in this volume, they try to change their politically suppressed and economically poor country into a democratic, dynamic and prosperous one, through economic and political reforms. The main character gives up his academic career and enters into the world of politics, launching reforms to improve society. He experiences both success and setbacks in these political circles. Emotionally, he and his lovers experience many complicated events, bringing both sorrow and happiness. This novel gives readers a panoramic view of the great political, economic and social upheaval in China in the twenty years following the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976. Through rich character portrayal and meticulous description of historical events, the readers will see the true essence of this turning point in modern Chinese history and the changing attitude of Chinese people towards love, morality, wealth and their traditional ideology of Confucianism and Taoism
  2. When did you realise that you wanted to write a book?

    Throughout my early life I experienced many political movements in modern China, most strikingly the Cultural Revolution and the political and economic reforms after the revolution; I have never been able to forget the suffering and ordeals endured by myself, my family and friends. I was put into the jail during the revolution when I was only 19 years old. These experiences fuelled my passion and inspiration and impelled me to write a historic novel. I started my writing plan seriously about 10 years ago. Because I have daytime full time jobs, so I could only use evening and weekend to write.
  3. How long did it take you to write your book?

    For Volume 1, Sailing across the Red Storm, it took me three years to finish because I still had full time work. For this book, it took only one year to finish as I was retired and had more time to write.
  4. What is the most important thing you have learned while publishing the book?

    To find a good publisher
  5. What do you think are the common traps for aspiring writers?

    Have a plan and start to write in a hurry without thinking fully about the characters and plots.
  6. What do you think makes a good story?

    Vivid characters and interesting plots. But for historical fictions, you need to observe the principle of ‘respect the truth of history’. You cannot give readers a one –side and partial description of the historical events.
  7. What was the first thing you wrote and were proud of?

    The main character’s love story and the love triangle he is facing.
  8. How do you measure the success of your writing?

    This book and the first book Sailing across the Red Storm, plus the last volume of the trilogy, Battling the wind and Waves on the Sea of Commerce, which will be published next spring, is the first historical-love fiction published in the West, representing the great social changes in the past half century from 1960s to 2010s. My readers told me that this trilogy will help Western readers understand fully what has happened in this ancient empire and the remaining communist country. China has not collapsed like the previous Soviet Union because the country had drawn a lesson from the Cultural Revolution, and has carried out a political and economic reform. Politically, millions of persecuted people were rehabilitated which made the party won back the support of the people. Economically, the introduction of the free market had liberated the creativity and business talent of Chinese people. Therefore the country has been changed into a dynamic and prosperous one and the second largest economic giant in the world
  9. What do you like to do when you are not writing?

    Play Chinese instruments, and accordion and guitar. Play Tai Chi and Qigong. I also practice Chinese medicine, including acupuncture and herbal medicine. Read Classical Chinese literature and English literature. Shakespeare and Dickens are my favourite.
  10. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

    My trilogy shows a pattern similar to ‘seasonal changes’ to describe the different periods of modern Chinese history. For the social conditions, readers can see a harsh and lifeless winter, a warm spring with vitality and hope, and a flourishing hot summer. This trilogy also describes the darkest and brightest pages in modern Chinese history. The titles of the three volumes also related to ‘sailing’, which represent the personal life experience and the country’s historical journey as ‘sailing voyage’.