Books, Lit Fests, News, Movies, Art, Fashion and TV of course... "I must say that I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go to the library and read a book." - GROUCHO MARX

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I'd write more, like you said I should. If only, there was more to me.

Friday, September 22, 2006


The first thing that strikes me about Fan Wu is her earnestness. At her book launch, she speaks a tad too loud into her mike. The wine that was slowly settling me into a state of slumber loses its effect and as Fan's voice booms into the microphone I am alertness personified. Considering this is happening at what is usually my deepest sleep time, I consider it a feat in itself.

The next day when she is to appear for the studio interview, I tell her she needs to take it easy with the microphone. The sensitive creatures that these things on the collar are, they make a hmmm sound like a thought that too long to formulate, a cough ends up sounding like a killer flu and let's not even get into the sneeze.

Normal folks would have snapped for effect or given me a - of course I know that look. Fan's answer leaves me stumped, "Gosh, I get so excited, but I'll remember that." She adds for good measure with just a tinge of nervousness "you know this is my first TV interview, I hope I'll do alright."

She does more than just alright. On air, she is calm, assured and confident. Pretty much like the confident voice that emerges in her debut 'February Flowers.' The novel is a fresh new voice, told through its two central characters - the brazen, rebellious Miao Yan and the clever loner, Chen Min. In fact, some observers say Fan herself is a fusion of the two key characters. I'm not entirely sure of that as Fan comes across as a person who knows what she wants, she certainly doesn't look rebellious to me and her ability to warm up to people and places is a definite indicator that she is not a loner. In the interview, she stresses that the novel is "not autobiographical". I agree.

What is interesting though is the fact that the inspiration for the book - a coming of age story set in Guangzhou in the early 90s only came after Fan's move to the United States. Love and longing, as they say, is a logical fallout of displacement. Ask anyone who has stepped out of the comfort zone of 'home' and you get a sense of what that feeling is.

She first put her creative pen to paper, when she won a scholarship to Stanford at the age of 24. While pursuing her masters in communications, she started writing privately. It all began with short stories, though Fan soon realised that she had so much more to say.

Inspired by another Chinese-American author Ha Jin, she started work on her book - in 2002. It took her three years to complete work on it. Writing it was one thing, hoping it would catch the eye of a literary agent turned out to be quite another. Fan talks at length about the painstaking efforts that went on for almost a year. That was till her manuscript finally came to the attention of noted Literary Agent Toby Eady.

Quite the scholarship, this turned out to another life-changing moment. Once the manuscript was in the hands of the man who introduced the world to 'Wild Swans', Fan's life as an author took off.

Her debut was selected by publishing giant Pan Macmillan for the launch of their brand new imprint - Picador Asia. With that Fan got a book, we got a great read and Asia got a promising new imprint that will showcase new voices in the months ahead. Now, that's what I call a story.