Living abroad has always been a dream of mine. I can only imagine what it must be like to fully immerse oneself into a foreign culture. Think about it. For starters, you'd probably need to learn a new language, or at least enough vocabulary to get by with for daily activities. Not to mention you'd need to know a little something about the customs and social etiquette. Imagine experiencing it all without the safety net of family or a close circle of friends.
That's exactly what New York Times bestselling author Janice Y.K. Lee has written about in her latest release, The Expatriates: A Novel. It's the story of three American women who are living in the same expat community in Hong Kong. Each has her own set of circumstances that she must face while living abroad. Mercy is a Korean American and recent college graduate who is in search of the next best thing. While Margaret and Hilary are wives to spouses whose jobs have relocated them to Hong Kong. Recently, we had a chance to chat with Janice about her compelling new book which is available wherever books are sold.
1. What inspired you to write The Expatriates: A Novel?
I never know what my books will be about until I'm a fair way into them. I start with a single image or a character and the story unfolds from there. So, with The Expatriates, I started with an image of Hilary (although I did not know she was Hilary). She was lying in bed in the middle of the day, she had a dinner party to get ready for, and she did not want to get up. And then from there, I wrote to discover why she was there and what would happen to her. The other two characters came later.
2. How did you blend your personal experiences from living in Hong Kong with those of your fictional characters, Mercy, Hilary, and Margaret?
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Much to the relief of my friends, Mercy, Margaret and Hilary are very much products of my imagination. I am not interested in writing fictionalized versions of people I know in real life. In both of my novels, the characters have grown slowly, from one single image to, hopefully, fully-formed human beings with idiosyncrasies and flaws and redemptive qualities. But the world in which these characters live, is very much a backdrop that I know intimately, having lived in the same world for the past ten years. So I would say I took my personal observations from living in an expat world in Hong Kong and put my characters there.
3. What advice would you share with moms who are embarking on their first experience living aboard?
Be flexible. Be open. Don't go in with too many expectations. Try to see many different perspectives. And be nice!
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