Archive for April 2009
Moving to the United States in 1996 she had work published in the New Yorker as well as winning awards and fellowships from the Lannan Foundation and the Whiting Foundation.
Her first collection of works, Thousand Years of Good Prayers, won the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, PEN/Hemingway Award, Guardian First Book Award, and California Book Award for first fiction.
Her most recent novel The Vagrants follows a small group in a small town during the 1970s when China was going through a social and political revolution towards a more open and free society.
In the middle of all this hype and excitement Yiyun Li took some time out to chat to The Scribbler. Read the interview below.
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THE SCRIBBLER: What is different about your writing that helps it stand out from other new writers at the moment?
YIYUN LI: I don’t think that is a question I can answer.
TS: As a ‘New Voice of 2009’ you must be inspired by some very contemporary authors. Which writers do you enjoy reading and draw inspiration from?
YL: Of the contemporary authors, I feel greatly indebted to William Trevor, whose novels and stories I read for inspiration.
TS: Our readers will be very interested in how you approach a writing project. Where do you lift your ideas from?
YL: I look for situations in life (from newspapers and from conversations with people) that fascinate or baffle me, and I then go on to make up characters to explore the situations.
TS: When you first began writing how easy was it to find and sign to publisher? Can you talk us through that process?
YL: I suppose I had my share of rejection letters from literary magazines, though I was fortunate enough to have a story published in The New Yorker early in my career, which helped when I signed up with the publisher.
TS: What obstacles have you come across in your writing and how did you overcome them?
YL: I write in a second language, so I am always aware that language will remain a challenge. I keep reading and writing, which seems the only way to deal with the challenge, if not to overcome it.
TS: We often hear that artists have trouble dealing with their own pieces (i.e. musicians not able to listen to their albums etc.)
YL: How do you feel about your own work? Are you comfortable with it? After I finish my work I don’t think about it anymore. I am comfortable for my work to be read by the world, as by the time my words are in print I am distant enough from them.
TS: Have you already started work on your next book? Is it difficult to leave one piece behind and start new one?
YL: I have started to work on my next book, a collection of stories. I don’t find it hard to leave a piece behind. In fact, it is always a joy to leave the old behind and start something new.
TS: What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given and advice would you give to our budding readers today?
YL: James Alan McPherson, who was my mentor when I began to write, rarely discussed the crafts of writing when I met him, but every time we met he would say to me, “Keep writing.” An I do believe that is the best advice given to me, and I would pass it on to young writers.
TS: In your opinion what is The Vagrants about?
YL: I don’t think I’d talk about a novel that way, not my books or other authors’ books.
TS: What books inspired you to pick up the pen and star writing?
YL: Many of William Trevor’s stories and novels inspired me to start writing. So has Graham Greene’s work.
TS: What is your learning background, and do you feel it helped you in writing your novel?
YL: I had a science background – I was trained to become an immunologist when I gave up that career to become a writer.
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Click on the clip to see a trailer for the film adaptation of Yiyun Li’s A Thousand Years Of Good Prayers
Discuss, promote or rant about Yiyun Li or any of your favourite new writers for 2009, and expect more Q&As with the novelists on the Waterstones ones to watch list 2009.
Words: Seamus Swords
Published in 1995, the collection of loosely connected short stories captures a week in L.A. in 1983, featuring movie executives, rock stars, a vampire and other morally challenged characters in adventures laced with sex, drugs and violence.
Unfortunately the word on the grapevine is that the filmmakers have decided to omit the supernatural elements of the book from the film version.
Already premiered at film festivals around the globe, The Informers will be released later this summer.
For all the latest information on the movie including reviews, footage, further trailers and hopefully the odd interview stay with The Scribbler.
To see the trailer click below:
What do you think of the trailer? It looks like the movie will do the book justice. What is your opinion? What are the best and worst movie adaptations in your view?
Words: Dean Samways