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?
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.