3 Minutes with Kevin Kwan
posted by Vicki in Dot Dot Dot
Throughout my career in publishing, I have met quite a number of interesting personalities. Some I had personally interviewed; some interviewed via email, others I met and still many others I breathed the same air in the room with, such as Cate Blanchett, Chow Yun-Fat and Tony Leung. But more than the Michelin-star chefs, international fashion icons and movie star sightings, I am a silly, blushing fan girl most when meeting a fellow writer like me.
When my beautiful friend Chris Yam-Daez –whose husband Jamie owns the mega-bookstore Fully Booked –invited me to the Manila send-off party for author Kevin Kwan at Salon De Ning, The Peninsula Manila, I had only read the short introduction to his international bestseller Crazy Rich Asians by way of a free preview on Scribd. I made my way to Fully Booked to buy a copy so as to not look like a total ass if I ever met the author. Kwan was in town from New York to promote the sequel to his book, China Rich Girlfriend.
I was halfway into the novel before I realized what a genius Kevin Kwan is. The story is about a young, handsome Singaporean professor living in New York who asks his Chinese-American girlfriend to go home with him for a summer trip. Ultimately, it’s revealed that he’s from one of Asia’s most prominent, richest families. Aside from knowing his Versace from his Giambattista Valli, Kwan’s light take on Chinese culture, Asian mothers and the eccentric behavior of the rich are spot on and totally hilarious. I know exactly what he’s talking about when he describes scenes in Hong Kong or Singapore and his characters remind me of people I know, friends even, who live in Manila – making it even more of a delicious page-turner. There’s the artsy guy; there’s the social climber fashion whore who marries up; there’s a bad boy bachelor who likes to live the good life; there’s the guy who makes his children wear matching Ralph Lauren outfits, there’s your serpent-tongued plastic socialite and so many, many more. Ironically, in the books Kwan always mentions the lifestyle society magazines Singapore Tattle and Hong Kong Tattle and I used to work as a features editor for the Philippine Tatler, so I personally found those scenes, as well as the tongue-in-cheek articles showcasing bold faced names, highly amusing.
I bought China Rich Girlfriend during the event and when my number was called, Kevin graciously not only signed both my books but also engaged me in three minutes of conversation. Here’s how that went down:
As soon as shook hands and I sat down Kevin complimented me on my Saint Laurent gun clutch, which prompted me to say, “You have great taste in fashion!”
Kevin Kwan: I was a student at Parson’s School of Design in New York so I kind of know what I’m talking about.
The Gypsetters Net: Which character in your book do you most associate yourself with?
KK: Alistair Cheng, the creative one.
TGN: When did you move from Singapore to Texas?
KK: When I was 10 years old.
TGN: It’s amazing how you were able to identify and differentiate Chinese characters from Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Mainland China. How did you do this, having lived abroad most of your life?
KK: Thankfully my father shared a lot of his memories with me which in a large part inspired my books.
TGN: Is there a real life Astrid in your life?
KK: Yes there is. Let’s just say she’s – somewhere.
Congrats to you Kevin Kwan, on the release of your new book and it was absolutely amazing to meet you; a big thank you to Chris and Fully Booked for the honor, to Moet Chandon for the free-flowing champagne, Salon de Ning for the food and to our favorite sex writer Bambina Olivares representing Asia Society for a very interesting interview.
I’m now done with Crazy Rich Asians and have been savoring China Rich Girlfriend as slowly as I can….I highly recommend you to buy your own copies for a fun light read, perfect for the airplane or while on your next gypset travel. Virtually romp through vibrant Asia and for just a moment, feel what it’s like how the other half live, while either ensconced in your own private jet or perhaps frugally traveling economy.
May all your gypsetting dreams come true,
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We are two friends who were former magazine editors. Having moved onto other things, we both realized that the creative flow the publishing world used to offer us was missing from our lives. Armed with a common love of travel to the exotic and familiar, a penchant for the bohemian, an obsession with food and a lust for writing, we decided to collaborate our unique and fashionable journeys through life together in one passion project.
We are The Gypsetters.