Boston-area mystery author G.X. Chen is here today to tell us a little bit about her newest book, The Mystery of Moutai.
G.X. Chen is a freelancer who lives in Boston with her husband (both of her mystery novels are based in Boston). She permanently moved from China to the US after Tiananmen Massacre in 1989. Previously published books include (a mystery novel) and (a historic fiction/romance) and several other novels in Chinese.
Please tell us about your current release.
The Mystery of Moutai is an even-paced murder mystery with interesting characters and a plot of intrigue. It also has a bit of Chinese culture and history. I tend to introduce a part of Chinese history in my book, i.e. the Cultural Revolution in this one.
What inspired you to write this book?
I’ve heard and read quite a few incidents of unethical conduct in academia over the years that made me decide to write something about it. What is better than a fictional murder mystery?
In the spring of 1994, John Chan, an athletic teenager, vaulted up the stairs of an old apartment building on the edge of Chinatown in the city of Boston, taking two steps at a time while carrying a hockey stick and a duffel bag full of shoulder pads, helmets, gloves, and skates. He was tired but very excited because he had just played an important hockey game at his school—the winner would go on to the division finals—and he could hardly wait to tell his mother that he had a winning goal in the second period and was congratulated by all of his teammates and his coach. John was starving. Looking forward to a hug; a hot shower; and a hearty, homemade meal, he was rushing toward his apartment, which was located on the third floor of the five-story brick building.
After the door swung open by a touch of the end of his hockey stick, John stopped in alarm. Even if she was expecting a guest, his mother always locked the apartment door—she was afraid of burglars ever since their next-door neighbor had a break-in several months ago. John dropped the duffel bag, placed the hockey stick against the wall and peeked inside the apartment apprehensively. It was late in the afternoon, but the west-facing apartment was still well lit by the sun, which was sinking slowly on the horizon.
His jaw dropped when he saw what had become of his home, which was always neat and clean no matter how hectic the occupants’ lives were. The living room was in total disarray, the floor covered with bits and pieces of books and magazines, and all the drawers and cabinet doors in the kitchen were pulled open—his home had been turned upside down, ransacked.
His voice echoed as he called out, “Mom, I’m home! Where are you?”
No response; the apartment was eerily quiet. Hesitantly, John opened the door wider and entered, trying not to step on the fallen books because he knew his mother, Shao Mei, loved them. A former physics professor at Beijing University, Shao Mei kept all the books she had brought with her from China, even though most of them were getting flimsy and falling apart.
What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m currently working on a murder mystery which will take the readers to the rural China and the great famine in early sixties which killed more than 15 million people in three years.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I was an accidental writer. I started reading (instead of solving math problems) when I was home during the Cultural Revolution (schools have been closed nationwide). My first novel published when I was 24 so I think I considered myself as a writer when I was in early twenties.
Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I have a full-time job so my time of writing is in a block of time, maybe 2 hours a day in late afternoon or early evening. I bring a Microsoft Surface instead of an iPad when I travel so I can work on my book using a memory stick.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I like to make up stories when I am walking to and from my office (1.2 miles each way), so when I sit down in late afternoon after work, I know what to write.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a scientist when I was a kid but it got altered by the Cultural Revolution when I was forced to quit school. Without a teacher, it was very hard to study science so I turned to read and write instead.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I’m self-taught, only had six years of formal education (five years in primary school and one year in middle school) before I went on to study literature in college. I recorded that part of experience (my generation) in the historic novel Forget Me Not: A Love Story of the East published last year.