Emperors Once More is the story of a serial killer motivated by what he believes has been the humiliation of China by the west during the last 100 years and he wants China to reclaim its rightful place in the world order. An incident occurs in the near future that leaves China humiliated again and that triggers the first killings, two Anglican priests. He is hunted down by a mainland detective Alex Soong who is young man educated abroad and who believes that the grim history of China's past should be left there.
Please tell us about the character of Detective Alex Soong.
Alex Soong is a mainland detective working in anti-corruption and is brought to Hong Kong to investigate white collar crime. He believes in what's right rather than what is necessarily legal but he also carries the burden of being born into well-known political family with a legacy he has rejected, which some see as a rejection of China itself. He finds it difficult to assimilate to Hong Kong and is suspicious of the compromise between Hong Kong law enforcement and organised crime which he cannot reconcile.
How much does your background in film help you to carve the imagery into your books?
One of the most important things I learned is the attention to detail of locations and atmosphere. To be able to build a world that is convincing. When you sit in a cinema watching a film you've made and follow the audience, you learn the importance of working hard to keep an audience engrossed.
Please tell us about the inspiration behind the story.
During the years of traveling and living in Asia, I often experienced and saw older Chinese people bitter and angry from lives under colonial rule and in disbelief that their culture of 5000 years was so far behind in the second half of the twentieth century. I was interested to explore this rage but in a crime narrative. Having written my first novel in the first person as a woman, I also wanted to write a story of strong male and female characters in the third person, a crime story gave me the opportunity to do this and hopefully create something entertaining.
Please tell us a bit about the Asia Literary Review.
I started the Asia Literary Review with Ilyas Khan and Nury Vittachi with the aim of creating a magazine to focus on Asian writers and Asian stories. The Review lasted in hard copy for nearly seven years during which time we published some great new writers, some well-established Asian authors, for example Su Tong, Han Han and Yan Geling, who were largely read by people searching for works in translation and also some key poetry by dissidents Liu Xiaobo and Liao Yiwu. It is now run by Martin Alexander who has taken it solely digital but continues the tradition of Asian stories and Asian writers.
Can you give us some insight into your columns with the likes of the New York Times.
I have been lucky to write columns on personal experiences such as SARS, losing my job in the economic downturn, observations on Asian readership and experiences in Nepal making my last film.
What is next for you?
I am completing the sequel currently titled Us and Them then hope to work on another story of a banking anti-hero.