In 1946, George Orwell articulated the reasons why he put pen to paper in an essay entitled Why I Write.
In this Web series, authors talk about their literary habits and reading preferences,
and examine Orwell's question that lies at the heart of being an author—why they write.

Anchee Min

Red Azalea 


Anchee Min was born in Shanghai in 1957. During the Cultural Revolution, she was ordered to denounce Pearl Buck as an American imperialist. At 17, she was sent to a labor collective, where a talent scout for Madame Mao’s Shanghai Film Studio recruited her to work as a movie actress. Min moved to the United States in 1984. Her first book, the memoir Red Azalea, became an international bestseller and was published in twenty countries.


Why I write
It’s the best job I can get. I began writing because I wanted to improve my English skill so that I could apply a job to become an office secretary. Today I write to promote understanding between people.


Do you write every day? If so, how many hours?
I write in between one hour to 18 hours a day. It depends on which phrase I’m in when creating a novel. On average I work eight hours a day, although often nothing gets produced (useful) in the end.


Worst source of distraction?
Fun emails.


Best source of inspiration?
Good works by others.


How often do get writers’ block / doubt your own ability?
All the time. It could take me three weeks to write and revise one sentence.


Contemporary writer in any medium who you never miss?
I love to read Chinese but I have to make myself stay away from it, because I know my English would get rusty that way. Yet, I have a hard time reading English, because I learned English when I was already in my 30s. It’s like an old dog tries to learn a new trick – can’t really get it. I have to translate as I read anything in English. I don’t think I have read enough to know who I’d or would not miss.


Favorite Chinese writer?
Li Bai, Du fu and Bai Ju-yi of the Tang Dynasty.


Best book about China?
Mao by Jung Chang.


Favorite book? Writer?
Jane Eyre. Charlotte Bronte.


The book you should have read but haven’t?
A biography of Zhou Enlai.


You look back at the first thing you had published and think…
Thank God I wrote Red Azalea in late 80s. I wouldn’t have had the same ‘voice’ if I try to write it today, I mean I am too American now.


Does writing change anything?
Yes, I am no longer jobless.


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Posted on: December 23rd, 2012 by admin No Comments