Kevin Kwan, author of the insanely popular and critically acclaimed book Crazy Rich Asians, is making an appearance at the Asia Society Texas Center on Tuesday June 16. His return is to discuss China Rich Girlfriend, the second book in the expected trilogy. The new novel follows Rachel Chu after she’s engaged to marry Asia’s most eligible bachelor and discovers her birth father.
We were lucky enough to get in a quick interview with Kevin prior to his appearance. Here’s a snippet:
1) Growing up in Singapore, how much of your first book Crazy Rich Asians paralleled with your real life?
Honestly, the plots of the books don’t parallel my life at all. After all, if my life were that exciting, when would I have time to write? But many of the stories in Crazy Rich Asians and now in China Rich Girlfriend are inspired by outrageous events and situations I have personally witnessed either while growing up in Singapore or on my travels to other countries in Asia over the years. People often ask me how I come up with these crazy stories, and I always say… direct observations!
2) Were any of the characters based on real people in your life? Who inspired the characters in your book?
Many of the characters are amalgams of several different people and their outrageous antics or the crazy things they’ve said. And of course, a few of the characters I satirize are well-known personalities, socialites, and celebrities in Asia. You’ll have to forgive me, but for the sake of world peace I can’t name any names.
3) With a background in fashion, what drove you to get into writing and start this trilogy?
Actually, I don’t have a formal background in fashion — at Parsons I majored in Photography. But my first degree was in media studies and creative writing from the University of Houston, so my original passion was always writing. It just took a while to circle back to that. At the time I moved to New York there were so many exciting things happening in media, publishing, and design, not to mention that the internet was just beginning to blow up, so I wanted to be a part of all that. At the back of my mind, I always dreamed of writing a book based on my early life in Singapore, and I thought it would be something I would do when I retired. But as I began getting involved in publishing projects — producing books for people like Oprah Winfrey, Gore Vidal, and Michael Korda, I became more and more inspired to create my own books. So one day I just decided to just pick up my pen and begin writing!
4) The second novel China Rich Girlfriend continues to follow Rachel Chu on her journey, but this time in China and with some new characters. How will this new crop of characters blend with the ones from the first book?
The new characters in China Rich Girlfriend are all intrinsically linked to people and plot lines from the first book. The story picks up two years from where the first book ends, and as characters like Rachel, Nick, and Astrid continue to live their lives, they are drawn into the orbit of all these charismatic new characters from Mainland China.
5) How did you gain inspiration for the second book, which is now more focused on China?
Travel has always been my greatest source of inspiration, and that was especially true for the new book. China is undergoing such massive changes at warp speed that I actually traveled there several times to make sure my portrayal of it at this particular moment in time would be just right. In fact things change so fast there that each time I arrived it was as though I was experiencing an entirely different place for the first time.. What I saw and experienced in China could fill several volumes!
6) After the success of Crazy Rich Asians, how do you think you’ve changed the world’s perception of the Asian society crowd?
I can’t imagine I’ve changed the world’s perception about anything! But I’d like to hope that since the release of the book, my readers have a more nuanced understanding and appreciation for Asians and Asian Americans from all kinds of backgrounds, not just the society crowd.
You can meet Kevin Kwan at the Asia Society at 7pm on Tuesday, June 16th. Head over to AsiaSociety.org for more information and to purchase tickets. Also be sure to check out our July issue for the full interview with Kevin.