Interview to Jean Kwok
Were you born a writer or did you become one?
I think a little bit of both. I loved books from the moment I could read and I was always reading. However, since I grew up in so much poverty – I worked in a clothing factory when I was 5 years old – I never wanted to be a writer. I wanted to have a job that would be financially secure. It was only when I was studying at Harvard University that I decided to follow my deepest dream, which was to become a writer.
What was secret ingredient of your story?
I wanted to tell a story that would keep readers involved, so I was hoping to entertain them while maybe teaching them something at the same time. I wanted to introduce readers to a new world, one they might not have seen before, but I wanted them to enjoy reading the book too, to love my characters so they would keep reading to find out what had happened to them.
Kimberly is a part fiction and a part of me as well. I think that many immigrant working class children grow up to be strong, determined and lonely at the same time.
What is your opinion about publishing today?
I think that publishing is made up of many people who love books, which is a wonderful thing. I’ve only had positive experiences in publishing. My publishing teams in America and other countries have really done their best for me and my book, and I’m very grateful. I think that people will always love to read, that they will need to read. The publishing world may change – paper books may be published less and digital ones more – but that basic need for good books remains.
What is your opinion of writing programs at universities?
I went to the Masters of Fine Arts program in Fiction at Columbia University. I think writing programs are wonderful things and can train people to write at a professional level. However, they are also very expensive, and that is a very difficult decision, if you want to invest so much money in a career like writing, which might earn you no money in the end. It’s also important to find the right program for you. I grew up in New York City, so I felt at home in the urban environment of Columbia, while someone else might want a smaller program.
What is your message to all of the young people that want to become writers?
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