Adeline Yen Mah was born in Tianjin, studied medicine in London, and now divides her time between London and California. She is the author of the worldwide bestsellers, Falling Leaves, Chinese Cinderella (based on her extraordinary childhood and difficult family circumstances), Watching the Tree, A Thousand Pieces of Gold and Chinese Cinderella and the Secret Dragon Society. Her unique perspectives create a window into Chinese culture for Western readers.
When did you start writing?
During my miserable childhood in Shanghai and Hongkong, books were my only means of escape. In time, the make-believe characters in my books became more real to me than my cruel family members at home. I started writing kung-fu novels for my own amusement around the age of nine and was thrilled when my classmates began fighting over my writing.
Who or what was the biggest inspiration for you to become a writer?
My Aunt Baba encouraged me to write. In addition, my teachers at school would sometimes submit samples of my writing to enter competitions held by the Shanghai newspapers for children.
What was your favourite book as a child?
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
If you had to recommend everyone to read just one book what would it be?Shakespeare's King Lear.
When you're not writing, what do you do?
I like to play tennis and go to concerts and plays. I also get great pleasure from reading books.
Where do you do your writing?
I like to write in public libraries during the day. In the evenings after dinner, I type up my handwritten notes on the computer and edit them.
What is your earliest memory?
The first book my Aunt Baba read to me when I was three years old. It was a colorful picture-book, loosely bound like a stack of flash cards. Each page had a picture of an animal on the front and the appropriate Chinese character on the back. To me, this book was special because I knew my aunt had bought it just for me. Even after a span of half a century, I can still hear the timbre of her voice, see the brilliant drawings and feel the warmth and comfort of her lap as we explored `the world of living things' together.
What makes you laugh?
Original remarks made by children expressing their delight or curiosity.
What makes you cry?
Loneliness, fear and yearning in the eyes of the unwanted child.
What are you working on at the moment?
A screenplay based on Chinese Cinderella and the Secret Dragon Society.