Murong Xuecun is the pen name of Chinese author Hao Qun. His debut work Leave Me Alone: A Novel of Chengdu (2002), which was distributed online, became an Internet sensation in China, and was long listed for the Man Asian Literary Prize in 2008. His follow-up novel, Dancing Through Red Dust, a tale of corruption in legal circles, was published in 2008.
Murong’s writing deals mostly with social issues in contemporary China, exploring themes such as corruption, business-government relations, and general disillusionment over modern life. He has recently emerged as one of the foremost critics of censorship in China.
Why do you write?
For many reasons. First as a living; I actually write to feed myself. I also write out of vanity as writing can satisfy my ego. Other times I feel responsible to write down the things and people I observe. But most often it stems from my own desire. Through writing, I am able to create a new fictional world in which everything is controlled by me. It is every enjoyable.
Do you write every day? If so, how many hours?
Not everyday. But when starting a new work, I devote myself fully to it, thinking about the plot all the time – when walking, eating and dreaming. When I finish, I feel I deserve a good holiday, until the next new work.
What is your worst source of distraction?
Everything can distract me, I like traveling, watching movies, chatting with friends, playing the chess and reading. I find it almost impossible to write in my home as there are too many distractions. So I often leave home and go somewhere foreign. Then only can I write smoothly.
What is your best source of inspiration?
Books and films are my primary sources. For example, I watched Akira Kurosawa’s The Lower Depths in which a women is a liar. I used this idea to write a story Shuo Huang De Nv Ren Bu Hui Si, which means: Lying Women Won’t Die. Second, of course, comes life. I live in China, where strange things happen everyday, which are all my sources of inspiration.
How often do you get writers’ block or doubt your own ability?
I meet difficulties very often; some of which I am unable to overcome. I have more than 20 unfinished novels, the longest one is over 60,000 words. In 2006, I lived in Lhasa, got stuck, so I walked around my house again and again at 3am.
When I doubt, I say to myself: you can’t be a writer, change a career. For the most troublesome times, I even thought about suicide, if I die, nothing needs to be worried about.
Which contemporary writer in any medium do you always read?
I like the works of Gabriel García Márquez, Gunter Grass, Patrick Süskind, Graham Greene, John Updike. I have read their books more than once. As for Chinese writers, I like Yu Hua, Su Tong, Han Dong as well as Han Han.
Who is your favorite Chinese writer (living or dead)?
My favorite poet is Li Bai who lived in the Tang Dynasty about 1,200 years ago. My favorite novelist is Pu Songling of the Qing Dynasty about 300 years ago.
What is the best book about China you’ve ever read?
Marx Weber’s Confucianism and Taoism.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez.
Favorite writer (living or dead)?
I must say Gabriel García Márquez is the one who I most admire, and I feel Graham Greene is my soul mate.
What is the book you know you should have read but haven’t?
Lots. If I must name one, I would say Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, but unfortunately this book hasn’t been translated into Chinese.
Answers translated from Chinese.