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.
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.
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.