I’ve always been fascinated by women who use their beauty, talent, and especially intelligence to achieve impossible deeds. My novels are about such strong, diligent, unflinching women who worked against all odds and succeeded.
I like happy endings because life, as Buddhism says, is already full of suffering, so why add to it with an unhappy ending? How we can navigate our way across the sea of suffering to the other shore of happiness, is what I am interested to write about. I want my readers feel uplifted after they read my books, to know that in life, struggles are unavoidable but it is usually in our power to make them end well. There are happy outcomes in life, too, not just in fiction. Nevertheless, getting to the happy outcome requires that we use our judgment in deciding when to strive and when to just go with the flow.
In doing so, we can learn compassion and wisdom.
Camilla, the protagonist in my new novel Skeleton Women, is an orphan rescued by a gangster head only to be trained to ingratiate herself with another gangster so as to be able to assassinate him. Camilla began life as an orphan, possessing nothing, and as a spy, all she was allowed to possess is only the “four nothings,” no friends, no identity, no emotion, no scruples.
So Camilla cannot allow herself to open to her feelings for other people, let alone feel compassion. But because of her love of books, she has gained wisdom -- from her years of studying the Art of War, the Thirty-Six Stratagems, and other ancient guides to survival amidst adversity. She knows that to have a chance at a happy life, she must somehow escape her bondage to gangsters and the violence that surrounds her. So she uses the wisdom of the ancient Chinese sages to plan her escape – and in the process learns compassion.
Writing about strong women who never give up, I feel that they become my teachers. We are all on journeys, but theirs are tougher and more miserable. Like my character in my earlier novel, Petals from the Sky, I had a father who was a compulsive gambler and a mother who was lost in the modern world. As a graduate student, I had to use some of my scholarship money to pay my father’s gambling debts and support my mother. Of course, I also followed the tradition of so many Chinese and waitressed in a Chinese restaurant – for less than minimum wage. Fortunately, in those days rent and food in Hong Kong were cheap.
Now I have a comfortable life, but getting there was a long journey. I hope that along the way, like my heroines, I acquired some wisdom and even compassion.
What are some things you have overcome in your life? One commenter will win an autographed copy of Skeleton Women.
About the Author:
Mingmei’s new novel is Skeleton Women (Kensington 2012), the story of three femmes fatales.
Mingmei’s debut novel Peach Blossom Pavilion (Kensington, 2008), story of the last musician courtesan of China, has received numerous favorable reviews and is now in its fifth printing. Her second novel is Petals from the Sky, (Kensington, 2010) a Buddhist love story. Her third novel Song of the Silk Road, (Kensington, April 2011) is a romantic adventure on China’s fabled route with the lure of a three million dollar reward. Publisher’s Weekly describes it as “filled with unique companions, unforeseen dangers, unexpected joys, and bitter sorrows…part epic, part coming-of-age story, part modern fairy tale…”
Mingmei’s other work in English is Chinese Children’s Favorite Stories (Tuttle Publishing), which she both wrote and illustrated. Her second children’s book, also by Tuttle, will come out 2013.
In Hong Kong, Mingmei was a columnist for seven major newspapers. She has appeared on over sixty TV and radio programs in Hong Kong, Taiwan, China and the US.
Please visit Mingmei at: www.mingmeiyip.com.
Camilla is a young orphan when she is adopted by a master crime lord and turned into the singing sensation of Shanghai. She lives in luxury but knows none of the wealth is really hers. She is one of the skeleton women, who lure men to their ruin and death. In her case, it’s literal, since she is also trained in knife-throwing and contortion.
Her assignment: attract the attention of another crime lord and help see he is assassinated. But can she stay in his good graces with competition from Shadow, a famed magician, and Rainbow Chang, the ambiguously sexed gossip columnist? And will she be able to resist falling for either the gang lord’s son or his hunky bodyguard?