RD: Were the Chinese aspects of The Silent Girl inspired by your own heritage?
TG: Very much so! My mother is an immigrant from China, and she filled my head with stories about ghosts and fighting monks in China, so the world of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was a very familiar one. I’ve wanted to write about those tales for years, but only with this book did I feel ready to integrate my Asian-American past into a story.
RD: Are both your parents Chinese?
TG: My father was second-generation Chinese-American, born in 1923 in California. My mother emigrated to the States from China when she was in her early twenties, in part to escape the political turmoil in China.
RD: Do you feel that Chinese culture is very much a part of your life?
TG: Throughout most of my life, I’ve tried to downplay my Chinese heritage because I wanted so much to be an American. I was the only Asian kid in my elementary school, and I longed to be like everyone else. I insisted on American food; I was embarrassed by my mother’s poor English. Only with maturity did I come to appreciate my own Chinese roots: not just the food and the ancient history, but also the philosophy of child-rearing and the respect for education and knowledge.
RD: How did you first come across the legend of the Monkey King?
TG: As a child, hearing the tales from my mother. I also vaguely recall watching a cartoon series about the Monkey King on TV.
RD: Do you believe, as many Chinese do, that the spirits of our ancestors are all around us, watching over us?
TG: No, I’m afraid I’m too much an evidence-based person. My background in science makes me demand proof before I’ll believe anything. It may also be my rebellious response to the fact that my mother was a big believer in parapsychology. She threw some pretty interesting dinner parties with spiritual mediums who’d occasionally go into trances right in the middle of a conversation.
RD: Could you describe your home and its location?
TG: I live in a small town of 5,000 people on Maine’s mid-coast. My home is right on the ocean, and from my office I need only glance sideways to see the water and the seabirds.
RD: Your books have ranged widely across so many settings and topics—from nuns and space stations to mummies and biblical stories. What, in particular, sparks your imagination?
TG: I never know what will capture my curiosity. I’m interested in many things, and when I run across an interesting bit of information, I’ll often want to delve more deeply. Then a story gets going in my head and, the next thing you know, I’m writing a book about it.
RD: You studied anthropology before deciding on medical school—what attracted you to the subject?
TG: It embodied everything I loved: travel to foreign lands, history and unfamiliar cultures. I still think that, if I weren’t a writer, I would be working very happily in some field of anthropology or archaeology.
RD: You’ve said that you like to tap into something that raises the hairs on the back of your neck when writing ... Where does that taste for chills come from, do you think?
TG: It comes from my mother’s love of horror films. When I was small, she used to take my brother and me to every scary film that Hollywood ever made. I learned to associate entertainment with thrills and chills, and I think that’s what makes me gravitate towards writing scary stories.
RD: How did you meet your husband and was it love at first sight?
TG: We met in medical school in San Francisco, and yes—I’d have to say that it was love at first sight!
RD: How old are your two sons and what are they into right now?
TG: They’re twenty-nine and twenty-seven years old. My older son is now in China, earning his credentials to teach Mandarin in American schools. My younger son works as a professional photographer in New York.
RD: If your family had to pick three adjectives that are quintessentially ‘Tess’ what would they be?
TG: Persistent (some would say obsessive!). Curious. Solitary.
RD: What is your most cherished dream or ambition?
TG: To write the stories that I want to tell—not just what the market demands.
RD: And if you could offer one piece of wisdom or life-advice to our readers, from your own heart, what would it be?
TG: No experience in life is wasted; learn from your mistakes and move on.
Post A Comment