Skip to main content

Author Interview: Christopher Cheng


Today, let's get to know award winning Australian children's book author Christopher Cheng. I've asked Chris a few questions so that he can introduce himself and his work to readers of Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind.

Thank you so much for sharing, Chris!


What was it like growing up Asian Australian? How has the experience informed, influenced, and/or inspired your work as a writer for young readers?

My dad is from Hong Kong and my mother was born here of European ancestry. I have the best of both worlds being half Australian born Chinese. I got to live in Australia but travel to Hong Kong regularly as a kid, meeting relatives and having just the best fun!!!! Growing up I was in a school with kids whose parents were of a range of different heritages. There were though only a few of Chinese ancestry and I would think that it is true to say that I really didn't think that I was much different to any of the other kids - although I did have a Chinese name! Now as I travel throughout Australian country towns I am on the lookout for evidence of the Chinese immigrants - especially in the names written on the buildings in the towns. Even the cemeteries where the Chinese were buried, those were either Chinese who didn't need to have their {remains} sent back to be with their ancestors. Australia was their home now. They were amazing folk and maybe I think it would have caused just a bit of concern for their ancestors back in China!!!

What is it like being an Asian Australian writer for young readers? What are the challenges and rewards?

I LOVE being who I am - an Asian Australian writer. Being half Chinese I have a unique view of the Chinese 'story'. Many of the cultural mores I know and I think that can add that insight to the stories I write. I certainly didn't grow up knowing the festivals and all the procedures and processes although on our frequents trips to Hong Kong as a child I was fascinated by the rituals and the happenings - my grandfather's property even had a Buddhist temple on it and I remember the early morning calls and chants. I vividly remembers the wafting smells of the incense and all those offerings! The family still own the property and the residence there! As I have grown older I have become more and more fascinated by the Chinese life and the culture and the rituals - the festivals and the celebrations I adore.

One of the other really amazing things that has been welded to my brain when my first historical fiction novel came out happened in one of the schools where I was conducting an author visit / writing workshop. This school had quite a large number of Asian students. One of the boys came up to me and asked me to sign the book - which of course I love doing - and then he leant close and whispered to me ... I really love what you write - you write for boys like ME! Talk about getting instant goosebumps ... I had to take a sip of water and would I have been permitted to give him a hug it would have been done so.




Can you tell us a bit about the books you have written featuring Asian Australian characters?

I have especially loved writing my historical fiction stories of the Chinese Diaspora. I have three at the moment, New Gold Mountain, The Melting Pot and Seams of Gold.




The first two titles are based on incidents that actually did happen here in the 19th and early 20th centuries. They are very true to the facts - written in diary form. The characters of course are made up but I even used the names of Chinese immigrants here in Australia - I found those names on the documents in our oldest library. The third is more an amalgamation of bits and pieces I gathered.

What a wonderful story of these Chinese immigrants. So much of Australia, and a few years earlier the United states of America, was built on the back of the Chinese worker. The Chinese here were brilliant traders and extremely clever at extracting the gold. They were ingenious.

When I am writing I spend HUGE amounts of time (read lots, read weeks and weeks, read weeks and months) researching the facts behind the story. This has two benefits ...

ONE

I get to gather more and more factual material, I love to find out the weather conditions at the time. I read copies of the local papers that were printed, I love delving into the government archives (and no it is not to inhale the musty smell of all those old papers and documents!). I get fascinated about the real life characters that I uncover - what they were doing, how they lived and more.

and TWO

When I FINALLY get down to writing the story it is mostly formulated already. I simply have to write down the words. Through all that research my fictional characters are forming. The story just flows from my head and out through the keyboard ... I will though have already been gathering notes and scribbling those in my Made-In-China red spined book we get nice and cheap from the newsagent here! And the plan for the story will have already been scribbled, mind map style, onto my wardrobe wall, so the actual story writing just falls out - mostly. Of course then there is the editing part which I HATE! But thankfully I have great editors.

PS ... I have the BEST job in the world!!!!!

Thank you again, Chris! =D

Comments

  1. Thanks for introducing me to Christopher Chang and his stories.

    The other day, a co-worker and I were discussing the need for a Aussie book connection.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Doret, it looks like the Australian children's and YA publishing industry is doing really well. I can't wait to get my hands on some of those books!

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Ako'y Isang Mabuting Pilipino (I Am A Good Filipino) by Noel Cabangon and Jomike Tejido

This one is a real crowd pleaser: Ako'y Isang Mabuting Pilipino , Lampara Books ' 2012 picture book adaptation of Noel Cabangon 's song, with Cabangon's original Filipino lyrics, functional English translations by Becky Bravo , and illustrations by Jomike Tejido ! Cabangon's inspiring lyrics remind children of the ways they can be good Filipinos, such as doing their best in school and obeying their parents. There are plenty of reminders for adults too, such as following traffic rules and not selling their votes during elections. Tejido's illustrations are warm and wholesome, acrylic paintings on hand-woven mats that depict different ways to be good citizens.    You just can't go wrong with Ako'y Isang Mabuting Pilipino ! Children and adults will understand and appreciate the lyrics and paintings. The chords of the song are provided, so music lovers can play and sing along. There are notes and guide questions for educators. There is even

Author Interview: Edna Cabcabin Moran

This was originally posted at Into the Wardrobe on May 28, 2009. Today, I am SO PROUD to present my interview with Filipino American author illustrator Edna Cabcabin Moran . *bursts with pride* Welcome, Edna!! Author/Illustrator, Edna Cabcabin Moran. Photo by Mark Moran. Can you tell us a bit about your Asian American heritage? My parents are from Eastern Samar, Philippines, an historic island in the Visayan island chain. My father was a U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer who brought my mom and older siblings to this country. I am the first American-born child in the family. Growing up, I always felt like I straddled two cultures. I'm very American in the way I dress, speak and carry myself. I don't know Tagalog and I lost touch with my parent's dialect, Waray Waray. However, I have strong cultural roots and have retained much of my Filipino-ness which includes a deep, abiding respect for the elders and their stories. Perhaps the family meal is a good indicator of how one is ra

Author Interview: May Tobias-Papa

Citation for Araw sa Palengke [ A Day at the Market ], written by May Tobias-Papa and illustrated by Isabel Roxas ( Adarna House , 2008), from the Philippine National Children's Book Awards 2010 : "Listen well," her mother tells her. "Hold on to me tightly, ha? So you won't get lost. And don't point at things that you want me to buy for you." And so the story begins with a promise: "Yes, Nanay, I promise." Early one morning, a little girl accompanies her mother to the market. They take readers with them. The market is hot and noisy, smelly and muddy, but it's also fascinating and colorful, because it's seen from a point of view that's only about three feet tall. When they arrive home, and our little girl unpacks the bayong (bag) to find a surprise wrapped in newspaper at the bottom, it's her joy we feel in the little dance that she does. Araw sa Palengke is a true marriage of text and visual image. The story by May Tobias-Pa