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.

Mo Zhi Hong

The Year of the Shanghai Shark


Mo Zhi Hong’s debut novel, The Year of the Shanghai Shark, about China’s post-80s generation, won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book for Southeast Asia and Pacific.


Why I write
Writing involves a lot of thinking, and people might be stimulated by what I am thinking.


Do you write every day? If so, how many hours?
I try to write an hour or two every day and little more on weekends.


Worst source of distraction?
The Internet. Since I write on a laptop sometimes I start reading e-mails and surf online when I’m stuck with my writing. It’s really annoying.


Best source of inspiration?
Life in general is the best source. People I meet, things I heard and good books I read are inspirational sources for me.


How often do you get writers’ block/doubt your own ability?
All the time. My brain sometimes goes blank for half an hour during writing. I have to reread quite a lot of what I’ve done.


Contemporary writer in any medium who you never miss?
I don’t really have one writer in the ‘never miss’ category, but I do read James Fallows’ blog a lot. He writes really interesting political and sociological commentaries about China.


Favorite Chinese writer?
It’s hard to say. But I can tell you the last Chinese novel I read. It’s The Noodle Maker by Ma Jian. And one of my favorite Chinese writers is the Nobel prize winner Gao Xingjiao whose essays I read when I lived in China.


Best book about China?
I don’t really read books about China.


Favorite book?
Another tricky question. There are a lot. I can only tell you the book I recently read. It’s A Little History of the World written by a German E.H. Gombrich in 1935. It’s an Europe-centric book about world history between WWI and WWII. The author wrote it for his grandchildren, so it’s a bit like a children’s book. But it is really well-written. I tend to read more non-fiction right now.


Favorite writer?
I am quite old-school person. I enjoy reading classics written by Russian and American writers in the 17th and 18th century rather than contemporary books.


The book you should have read but haven’t?
The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Again, it’s a non-fiction book.


You look back at the first thing you had published and think…
I wish I could have held onto it a bit longer before I gave it to my publisher. I could have done a better job if there were more time to rewrite.


Does writing change anything?
Subconsciously, it does. I am now squeezed for time and always don’t have enough. It makes me feel frustrated sometimes yet productive. It makes you take more time to seriously think about what you’ve seen.


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Posted on: March 7th, 2013 by JFK Miller No Comments