me interviewed by me, or five Q&As to sum up what I know about myself

Q: What do you have in common with other Chinese authors living and working in the West? 

A: To answer this, I’d like to borrow from my all time favourite Franz Kafka, who wrote in his diary: ”What have I in common with Jew? I have hardly anything in common with myself…” As an author I struggle to find a voice of my own, which I believe could only be achieved by destroying any old habits and mechanism or at least re-thinking them.

Q: You finished your latest manuscript  recently. Butterfly is your first novel written in English. Can you describe your work in one tagline?  

A: I shared my manuscript with several of my readers. One of them came up with this tagline: “Butterfly, to put in one sentence, is the Chinese answer to The Reader (Bernhard Schlink), crossed with The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje).” 

Q: Your own tagline?

A: As an author I don’t think in taglines. I would rather write about subjects that engage me long enough to finish a novel. This is a story that deals with the highly controversial subject of Sino-Japanese War, the Rape of Nanking whose shadow follows to our time and continues to influence people of two major Asian powers and their lives. Butterfly is, simply put, a love story between an unamed young Japanese soldier and a married Chinese woman. I am always drawn to such emotional cul-de-sac, the taboo so to speak. How far would one go to love? Is love love, or is love politics? Is love enough to save us? I wrote the story with these questions in my mind. I want people think. 

Q: You were published in Dutch. Why the shift to English?

A:  The reason is a quite obvious one, isn’t it. I want to reach an international readership, English seems to me a sensible choice.

Q: Most English writers have an agent representing them worldwide, this in contrast to the Dutch publishing climate where an author deals directly with publishing companies. You are currently looking for international representation for your work…

A: Yes, I’m in the middle of the hunt. It’s a whole new terrain for me, and I find it tiring and ominous a journey. I have browsed through – I don’t know – probably hundreds of UK/US agency websites, I find their tone very scary.  I felt kind of overwhelmed by gulit that I’d ever written a book! Well, one must be masochistic to want this. Fortunately, there are exceptions…

Q: What’s next? You are working on something new in between the hunting scenes?

A: I’m writing my second novel in English. I’d like to end the year with something new and positive despite it all.

julie 超辣

Determined dreamer. Published author in English, Dutch, and Chinese. Former People’s Liberation Army (PLA) captain turned artist entrepreneur and screenwriter. She survived the Cultural Revolution as a baby. In the 1990’s she left for London and has lived and worked in free exile ever since. Her work covers a wide spectrum. As journalist, she creates content covering a range of topics on contemporary China from an insider perspective. In 2008, during the Beijing Olympics, she hosted a 5-episode talk show TV China for Netherlands’ national broadcaster and discussed China’s media landscape with media stars and experts from both China and the Netherlands. From 2013-2016 she was the Editor-in-Chief of the English/Chinese bilingual magazine XiN 新, focusing on today’s China shaped by consumerism. O’yang contributes a weekly column to Hoje Macau on contemporary Chinese art and culture. Her English language book titles include: Butterfly, a historical crime love story set in the Second World War. Since May 2016 O'yang has been collaborating with Flemish photographer Filip Naudts on an art project, which has resulted in the photo novel The Picture of Dorya Glenn. Julie works from the Netherlands and Denmark.

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