Interview with Author Vanessa Wu


1. What made you decide to start writing?I have always written
stories, ever since I could hold a pen. Many of my stories haven’t
survived. I travel very light. Now I store them on a portable hard drive
and my residence in England is fairly stable so I shouldn’t lose any
more. Last year I had the idea of publishing some stories I wrote years
ago but when I re-read them I didn’t like them. I realized I must have
learned something and set out to write some better stories that would
demonstrate my experience and wisdom.

2. How do you come up with the ideas for your characters?

Many of them are based on people I’ve met but some are imagined. I
don’t have to think very hard about them. They emerge from somewhere as
the story comes to life. Sometimes I can see the characters very vividly
and know a lot about them but there are other times when the characters
reveal themselves to me in stages and I very slowly tease out the
details I need to know.

3. Do you relate to any of your characters?

Yes, absolutely, even the nasty ones.

4. Do your books have any real life experiences in them?

Yes. All my stories have real life experiences in them. In some cases
the experiences and characters are heavily disguised. People who are
close to me know where I’m getting my ideas from and can see what
experiences I’m using. Sometimes I borrow their experiences. Luckily
no-one has been upset about it so far. I think they have been flattered.
But all my books carry the usual disclaimer for legal reasons.

5. How do you like living in London?

Living in London is very stimulating for a writer because there are so
many different types of people here, so many nationalities, so many
cultures. The city is teeming with life and you have to remain very
open-minded and flexible. When I first came here it was a shock. The
city seemed very shabby and chaotic. I couldn’t understand a word anyone
said. But after I got used to it, I fell in love with it. Now I think
it’s one of the best places in the world to live. I have seen so many
famous people here. I really feel like I am in the thick of life.

6. How is London different than if you lived in the United States?

Well, I have lived in the United States, in California. There are so
many differences. Of course, it depends where you are. Even in
California there are endless possibilities. I lived in Silicon Valley,
which was very dull. You just see offices and houses. People don’t dress
to impress. There are no surprises. Of course it is different in San
Francisco or New York. In New York just stepping out of the hotel is an

7. You know multiple languages, which one do you like the most?

Since I am in England I try to speak English all the time. You never
stop learning a language. I learn new things every day. Today I learned
what ‘dry-hump’ means. It’s not a question of liking it, it’s more a
question of learning to inhabit the language, to make it your own. But I
have to admit I don’t like German and I’ve forgotten a lot of German
since I’ve been in England. When I go back to China, of course I prefer
speaking Chinese.

8. Which language was the hardest to learn?

Since I never quite mastered German, I would say that German is the
hardest. English has rules but you can bend them a little. It’s very
flexible and forgiving. The rules of German are absolute and if you
break them the Germans shout at you. On German TV they are always
shouting at each other anyway. It’s a very harsh language.

9. Which of your books did you have the most fun writing?

The book I enjoyed writing most is Love Has No Limits because it flowed
very naturally day after day and I scarcely had to stop and think. I
had some difficulty with the ending. I didn’t want it to end but I felt I
had to draw it to a close and write something else.

10. Do you like to read?

Yes. I get depressed if I’m not reading. However, I don’t like to be
too passive. I like to read a little every day and to maintain a daily
momentum but I don’t like to, say, read for three hours at a stretch. I
would do that when I was younger but not now.

11. What types of books do you like to read most and what Authors?

I like diversity. At the moment I’m deeply into science fiction and
fantasy but I also love literary authors. Style is very important in
everything I read. I can’t concentrate if the style is bad. Authors I’m
really enjoying at the moment are Michael Moorcock and Paulo Bacigalupi.
China Miéville is also a favorite. My secret bedtime book is currently
an erotic anthology called Carnal Machines, edited by D.L. King.

12. Do you have any hobbies?

I would like to list photography as a hobby but I am a very bad photographer. I think I had better stick to words.

13. If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go?

I haven’t yet been to Cuba and I would love to go there one year,
preferably with some lively female friends so we can dance and flirt
with the Cuban men.

14. If you could spend the day with someone who would it be? (Dead or Alive)

I am very curious about the poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley. I have read
very conflicting accounts of him and I find it very hard to imagine what
he was really like as a person, so I would love to spend the day with
him and work it out for myself. I think he was probably a bit mad and
very selfish but at the same time fascinating and terribly clever. I’d
like to spend time with his wife, Mary, as well. I think I could spend a
lifetime with her if I was allowed but Percy would probably try my
patience after a day.

15. What advice would you give to other people who want to become authors?

You can have many brilliant and deep ideas but an idea vanishes unless
it is written down. Writing has to be a habit, therefore. Write every
day and never question whether what you are writing is good or not. Just
write it. Many excellent writers underestimate their creativity and
their originality. Also, most of the best ideas emerge while you are
writing, so if you are not writing you are not giving yourself a chance.
Writing every day is the hardest thing to learn as a writer but it’s
also the most basic. Some people wonder if they can call themselves a
writer if they have never published anything. This is ludicrous. You can
call yourself a writer if you are writing.


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