Sunday Spotlight: Alice Poon, Author of Fated and Fateless

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Sunday Spotlight is a weekly scheme I am running to bring publicity to lesser known authors who, in the book blogging community, it is important to support. If you are an author and you wish to be considered for it please email me at emily.confessionsofa
bookaholic@gmail.com with 'Author Spotlight' in the subject line.

Today's author to be spotlighted is Alice Poon, author of Fated and Fateless, a novel set in colonial Hong Kong.

Here is some more about it:

This is a tale of love, corruption and greed set in a past era in colonial Hong Kong, spanning four decades from the late 1940s – a period marked by patriarchal bigotry, gender discrimination and Western ideals beginning to clash with Chinese conservatism. Wendy, the self-made corporate executive, has strong faith in free will and conscientious choices, but has a hard time living up to her principles. Diana, the spoiled and selfish daughter of a property tycoon, prefers to find refuge in superstition and self-delusion. Their lives cross each other in fiery episodes. Prior to October 1987, Wendy has her fill of bad experiences in her childhood and youth until she meets Tony, a Macanese magnate, and becomes his protégé. Despite her ascending career, her romance with Edward, her childhood playmate and Diana’s kid brother, suffers constant sabotage by Diana, who is also Wendy's archrival by design. Meanwhile, Diana breezes through life and covets the throne of her father’s property empire, but her heiress dream proves elusive. She and the love of her life get involved in a fraud deal involving corrupt police money, which turns out to be her cruelest life lesson. In October 1987 (when world stock markets crashed on Black Monday), Wendy and Diana finally come to a face-off which ultimately leads to a shocking epiphany for both characters. 

Alice kindly agreed to do an interview here at Confessions of a Bookaholic about her life and works! Read it below, I hope it inspires you to pick up her book!


Hi Alice! Thank you for joining us at Confessions of a Bookaholic.
First, tell my readers about what inspired the title Fated and Fateless!

I was inspired by this quote of the French writer and philosopher Albert Camus: “There’s no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn.” The quote is from his philosophical essay “The Myth of Sisyphus”. His idea is that the life struggle itself should be sufficient to make one happy no matter how dreary one’s fate is. This concept is widely accepted by Western educated people. In the Chinese society however, there is a fatalistic tendency to believe in one’s destiny and in fetish-like materialism. In this respect, it can be said that there is a big cultural difference between East and West, which was in actuality a prevalent phenomenon in colonial Hong Kong. So I thought it would be interesting to set the story in Hong Kong in the recent past and create two main characters with such opposing worldviews.

What is it about colonial Hong Kong that interests you and where did this come from?

It is the East vs West cultural differences that arose from the access of some of the younger populace to Western education and ideas, which were a challenge to the entrenched Chinese traditions and mentality. I myself was one of those young people who were lucky enough to have been educated at a Western high school, which made me start questioning the values that the older generation used to set great store by.

What authors do you think have influenced you the most?

I think Albert Camus’s theory of absurdism and revolt has had an impact on me, as well as Simone de Beauvoir’s views in “The Second Sex” regarding sexism. I am also partial to their existentialist belief that one must answer to oneself for one’s conduct without being influenced by external forces. 

What is the most helpful piece of writing advice you have ever received?

This saying of Graham Greene’s: “If you let the reins loose the horse will find its way home. The shape was something which grew of itself inside the essay, during the revision – you didn’t have to think it out beforehand.”

What advice would you give new writers that you wish you received back then?

I don’t know if I am in a position to offer new writers advice. But perhaps this might be useful. It was only after I had written my first novel that I read Milan Kundera’s “The Art of the Novel”, in which he gives a piece of valuable advice: “I’ve always constructed them (novels) on two levels: on the first, I compose the novel’s story; over that, I develop the themes. The themes are worked out steadily within and by the story. Whenever a novel abandons its themes and settles for just telling the story, it goes flat.” I wish I had had this advice before embarking on my first writing attempt, because then I would have had, while telling the story, a firmer handle on the important messages that I wanted to put across to readers.

What are the best and worst things about being a writer?

For me, writing is a dream that I could only begin to realize after retirement, for reasons of financial practicality. I was only able to indulge in this passion of mine at a late stage in life. So, while I’m having the thrill of a life time, being able to immerse myself in a “virtual world” of my own creation every time my fingers fly across the keyboard, by design it will be a relatively short stint unless I live to an exceptionally advanced age.

In your works so far, who would you say is the most interesting character you have created and why?

I would say Tony da Silva in “Fated and Fateless” is the most interesting character I’ve created. He is like a lover of my dreams, gentle, loving, big-hearted, uncorrupted by wealth with a keen sense of justice.

I read that you enjoy French classics, is there anything we might have heard of that you would recommend?

“Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo is my all-time favourite French classic. I would highly recommend it to those who love classics and who haven’t read it yet.

Have you any books planned that we should look forward to from you in the future?

I am in the middle of writing my second novel, which is a historical novel about the life and times of the first Empress Dowager of the Qing Dynasty in China, who was one of the most influential historical figures (she was the grandmother of the great Kangxi Emperor). She lived through the transition from the Ming to the Qing Dynasty and, being born a free-spirited Mongolian Princess, she left her mark on the reigns of the first three Qing Emperors.

Is there any bonus info you want my readers at Confessions of a Bookaholic to know?

During my research into dynastic Chinese history, I came across an interesting bit of historic information and would like to share. It is that the Forbidden City in China had its origin in as early as the Kublai Khan era in Yuan Dynasty. The Mongolian rulers wished to preserve their way of life and their habit of living in gers (which are domed tents built on a latticed framework) away from the sight of the Han Chinese subjects and so they cordoned off a district that was heavily guarded and made inaccessible to all except the Mongolian imperial tribesmen and their families. That was how the name “Forbidden City” came about. 

Finally, I read that you were a fan of the literary genius Oscar Wilde, which of his works would you call your favourite?

I loved his play “The Importance of Being Earnest” and also his novel “The Picture of Dorian Gray”.
  
That’s all for now, thank you for joining us her at Confessions of a Bookaholic Alice!

4 People dared to comment.:

Daniela Ark said...

Hi Emily, thank you for posting this interview. Good writing advice. I wish Alice succes! Since I'm a writer in the making I will check "The Art of the Novel”. :)

Alice Poon said...

Hi Daniela, thanks for your good wishes and am glad to have shared Kundera's writing advice.

Alice Poon said...

Emily, thank you so much for the interview post and for the chance to interact with other writers/readers!

Emily said...

Daniela - I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Alice - It was my pleasure to help.

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