Lisa See

in Conversation with Kathryn Belden

Recorded May 3rd, 2020

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Lisa See in conversation with Kathryn Belden
Sunday, May 3rd, 2020

Lisa See was born in Paris February 18, 1955, but has spent many years in Los Angeles, especially Los Angeles Chinatown. Her mother, Carolyn See, was also a writer and novelist. Her autobiography provides insight into her daughter’s life. Lisa See graduated with a B.A. from Loyola Marymount University in 1979.
See was West Coast correspondent for Publishers Weekly (1983–1996); has written articles for Vogue, Self, and More; has written the libretto for the opera based on On Gold Mountain, and has helped develop the Family Discovery Gallery for the Autry Museum, which depicts 1930s Los Angeles from the perspective of her father as a seven-year-old boy. Her exhibition On Gold Mountain: A Chinese American Experience was featured in the Autry Museum of Western Heritage, and the Smithsonian. See is also a public speaker.

“Read a thousand books, and your words will flow like a river.”

Lisa See, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Lisa’s books include On Gold Mountain: The One-Hundred-Year Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family, a detailed account of See’s family history, and the novels Flower Net, The Interior, Dragon Bones, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Peony in Love and Shanghai Girls, which made it to the 2010 New York Times bestseller list. Both Shanghai Girls and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan received honorable mentions from the Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature.
Lisa’s novel, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, is a powerful story about circumstances, culture, and distance among the Akha people of Xishuangbanna, China. It paints an unforgettable portrait of a little known region and its people and celebrates the bond of family.
Her most recent novel, The Island of Sea Women, is a story about female friendship and family secrets on Jeju Island before, during and in the aftermath of the Korean War. It was released on March 5, 2019.

Visit the Book Passage website to have any of Lisa’s books delivered right to your door.

You’re sure to enjoy these Book Passage favorites:

The Island of Sea Women

See

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

See1

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

shanghaigirls2

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel

SnowFlower2

Get ready to join See in conversation, Saturday, May 3rd.

In the meantime, we invite you to take a moment now to help shape this upcoming conversation:

Check out the list of questions submitted by other registered attendees, and then vote to support any of the ones that match your own interests.
Feel free to add your own question. Then spread the word to make sure others have the chance to help move your question to the top of the shared list.

  • 9

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    What’s your writing process like? How do you begin once you have an idea for a new novel?

  • 6

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    Tell us more about your mystery series set in China!
    Are you still living/working in the Bay Area? If so, how has the pandemic changed your family and work life… or not?

  • 6

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    What sparked your desire & continued interest in research & writing about the Wonderful various females in Asia ?

  • 4

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    Do you think our present culture is leaning toward a matriarchal society? If so, in what ways do you think it will change?

  • 3

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    Not quite a question, just to say that I’ve read several of your books, and it’s given me much insight into China and Chinese immigrants to the USA. And finally last year I was on Angel Island!

  • 3

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    What impact, if any, did you famous mother, Carolyn See, have on your life? I loved her books. I was immensely inspired by her non-fiction work, “Making a Literary Life.”

  • 3

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    Can you talk more about the relationships that you develop and share with your respective support team, paint a picture for us as the writer and how you interact with your editor, print company, publisher, sales people, marketers, other researchers, tour support team members… everyone who plays a part in your author’s journey from when you begin writing to when you tour to support your latest book, who all you see and work with…

  • 2

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    Are you a diver? How did you find your way to understand their underwater world?

  • 2

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    I believe you also spent time as a book reviewer. Were you also writing your own novels during that time? How did you get started writing novels?

  • 1

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    Did you use Hallett Abend (New York Times correspondent in China) as a resource? (He is a cousin once removed.) We are curious as to your most useful resources. W. Hallett

  • 1

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    When I read the passage about Young-sook at the Jeju Peace Memorial, making charcoal rubbings of the names of those she had lost, I was instantly transported to Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. and I wept. Do you often hear from readers who make such unexpected/unintended connections?  I hope you’re pleased by most of them.

  • 1

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    A Giant sigh of relief; hearing how you wake up in the middle of the night to write down a phrase or short sentence that means so much for your current or future project was awesome. I’m sleepless in that way too! As you spoke about forgiveness and your personal experiences with your emotions and feelings on that subject, what key moments in your life have led and continue to lead your direction in your writing? P.S. Cheers from the “other” Tyrus Wong and God Bless Mr. Tyrus Wong!

  • 1

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    Ty Wong here again: in my four books so far, I have my father’s tribute memoir, an over-the-top and wild urban fantasy-fiction novel, a genuine outreach to all people to get back to communicating/workbook and a clever Ponzi-schemer tale full of excess, expense, betrayal and redemption… yes, Mrs. See’s best advice to me back when I had the opportunity to meet her at The Tattered Cover was to write what I wanted to write and I’ve followed her advice! My question is do you think it’s good to vary the range of books a person tries to write or should they “stay in their lane” with just one main genre?

  • 0

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    I just watched the movie for Snow Flower for the first time yesterday. We’re you involved with its making at all? I’m curious why they chose the include the modern day timeline when the book was so evocative.

  • 0

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    Young-Sook and Mi-ja share charcoal rubbings, just as Snow Flower and Lily shared ‘nu shu’ via the secret fan. Can you please share your further thoughts – thanks!

  • 0

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    I have enjoyed 4 of your books, the most recent was The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Ln which seemed more modern to me than some of your other stories. Did you intend this? Also this book in particular, seemed more layered than previous books, that is, tradition and superstitions, history and culture had more detail and depth. Did this book just need this or did you find out more about the Akha people and the tea industry than you expected?

  • 0

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    Why was the 2008 section of the book written in the third person? Also curious why Joon-lee was given breast cancer, not as prevalent for Asian women as some other cancers at the time. Our book club just had our discussion for the book yesterday so this is very timely.

  • 0

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    I’ve written four books now, self-published and am proud of each title and the range of my writing but even more so these days, it’s near impossible to get my titles in front of someone serious in the industry to give me that chance new writers are hoping and praying for to get noticed. I had a signed contract with a national/international famous writer who arbitrarily ended our five-plus-year writing contract and my dreams of being published with the simple click of his mouse when he took my money for his “Writing Coach” program and skipped away, laughing all the way to his bank. I offered several perfectly reasonable solutions and that didn’t fare well either. He immediately discounted and/or trashed my ideas but one was good enough that he tweaked my original story and characters, made it his own and got another book published to add to his own career slate. As for me, my work, passion, ideas, tenacity and two other titles I wrote were nothing more to him than cannon fodder but he did offer me a new contract, if I came up with yet another original idea for him to consider and of course, pay him to re-enter his writing program for a second time, even though he delivered nothing to me during our first signed contract… so my question is, what now?

  • 0

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    I have recently read The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane and The Island of Sea Women and enjoyed them immensely as I was already fascinated both by tea and women sea divers. How did you decide on these topics and how long did it take for you to do the research for these books. You covered such a long passage of history in both and I learned so much as well as enjoyed being immersed in those cultures.