Q & A with The Star Mail

Note: The following is a Q&A session I did with with the Star Mail, for a bit of fun. It was written on April 1 and published by Ranges Trader Star Mail on May 18, 2021, Page 6. The three books chose for the photo above are: The Rich Man’s House by Andrew McGahan (Allen & Unwin, September 2019), Mao’s Last Dancer by Li Cunxin (Viking, September 2003), and The Secret River by Kate Grenville (Text Publishing, July 2005).

What is something people don’t know about you?

I chose my English name “Christine” based on Stephen King’s 1983 horror novel, about a haunted car that goes on a killing spree. I am a fan of horror fiction and films, anything dark and scary, buried deep both within and beyond humanity. People are often shocked when I tell them my English name has nothing to do with Christianity.

What was your most memorable moment? Why?

I remember being late for a class in the last year of my university studies in Taiwan. Instead of entering the classroom, I stayed outside, in an empty corridor, thinking whether I should go to graduate school in Taiwan or try something overseas. I remember the moment I made my decision, how the afternoon sunlight made everything around me look golden but a bit antique-ish, how quiet it was, apart from the lecturer’s voice droning on and on. I then decided to study overseas, and that changed everything in my life. It is only when I look back that I feel the weight of that decision, but at that moment I was acutely aware that once I had made my decision, I should follow it through and take on all the relevant responsibilities. It was a good decision.

What do you love most about the Yarra Ranges?

The community — people are kind and friendly, and willing to help whenever anyone requires assistance. We are an artistic community as well, very diverse, and I am constantly learning from people of all sorts of unique backgrounds. I love that feeling of being part of something great and warm. Whether it is saying hello to parents and kids at the school crossing, or admiring those pets being brought to our local vet, or receiving a yucca plant from a neighbour, or checking out an excellent book from our local library. It is simply great to live and work here.

What event, past, present or future would you like to witness?

I would like to witness a woman being properly elected as our prime minister, who is intelligent, highly competent and totally accountable, and who cares about those in need and pain. I would like to witness this woman being recognised and respected as a great national leader, an extraordinary individual, who acts as a role model for generations of people to come, no matter what ethnic, cultural and gender backgrounds they are from. Hopefully this can happen some time in the near future.

Favourite book or movie?

I once wrote an article, listing the three books I would definitely carry if I were to abandon everything and run for my life, such as escaping bushfires, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, alien invasions, etc. These three books are: The Stand by Stephen King (1979), Hannibal by Thomas Harris (1999), and The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough (1977). I love how beautifully these books are written, how they portray the choices that seemingly ordinary individuals can make under extraordinary circumstances. If I could add a fourth book, I guess it would be The Rich Man’s House by Andrew McGahan (2019).

Which four guests, dead or alive, would you invite to a dinner party?

Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Colleen Mccullough and Bryce Courtenay. I would cook ten different Chinese dishes and six Western-style desserts for them, and then just sit down and listen to them talking. And I would ask them for an autograph before they leave. 

What are your hobbies?

I enjoy reading, writing, watching movies, translating books, listening to music, and travelling. These days I am also learning a bit about gardening, both indoors and  outdoors, which is very therapeutic.

What was your most embarrassing moment?

When I read things wrong, it can be both embarrassing and hilarious. It can be a great source of entertainment (for others) and a good ice-breaker (for myself). For example, I once saw a half-hidden shop sign saying “ass cut to size”, which turned out to be “glass cut to size”. The other day it took me a while to finally realise that a “coronavirus dinosaur” in a news headline was in fact a “carnivores dinosaur”. I also read “nuance” as “nuisance” very often. 

What was your favourite subject at school?

Language and literature — back in Taiwan it was Chinese language and literature, and now in Australia it is English language and literature. I love anything and everything to do with words. I love learning how words are invented, interpreted and enriched, and how words can inform and empower people. Hopefully I can get to learn Auslan in the near future.

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