Thanks to my awesome Fully Booked family, I got the chance to interview the author of best-selling books Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend — Kevin Kwan!
I got to Fully Booked a little past 10AM and there was a line outside for Kevin Kwan’s book tour. Just to let you know, I’ve never interviewed anyone before so I was kind of nervous interviewing such a famous author but he was such a cool guy, I had a great time talking to him!! It was really like talking to a friend. Kevin, if you ever get to read this, THANK YOU for being so fun!?
SAAB: Your novel is loosely based on your childhood. I personally write mostly non-fiction and I find it difficult to write fiction or something based on nothing, is this also the case for you?
KEVIN KWAN: It’s interesting because I started out writing non-fiction. As a journalist I did travel pieces and profile pieces of different people, things like that. So I come from a non-fiction [background] and I mainly read non-fiction, like, I read very little fiction, actually. When the first book came out I said, “it’s fiction, it’s fiction” but I think now people know that it’s very much based on reality. I always say I’m just an observer of people so everything is based on real things I’ve seen or it’s inspired by real people because everything has to be rooted in reality for me, that’s how I tell a story. I just don’t have the creativity to make something up, you know? (laughs)
S: Because it’s based on real things that happened, were there any notable figures in society that voiced their disapproval of your exposé of sorts?
KK: Not openly and the thing is I don’t really expose anyone. You know, there’s never any malicious intent in my books and any stories that are in the book, any scandals and things like that, they’re already so well-known within that social set. I’ve changed all the names or changed the situations so you’ll never be able to take my situations and Google them and find the real story. They’re changed enough so that it’s entertaining for readers but people who know will know what it’s based on. You know, I’m making people laugh, I like entertaining people and also I cast a spotlight on this world and make people think.
S: I know you toned down the stuff at the parties and you had to delete some of the scenes so I wanna know, what’s the craziest thing that YOU have personally seen at a party thrown by a Crazy Rich Asian?
KK: The thing is, I wouldn’t be able to tell you.
S: Hey, I’d believe you!
KK: Yeah, you’d believe me but they would know that I’m talking about the situation. It’s such a famous party, such a famous wedding, they would recognize it immediately. But I’ll just say that so many of the things I witnessed, I’ve changed slightly to put in the books. So you know, Araminta’s wedding and things like that. But, you know, I wanna be invited again by my friends so I can’t really state them. (laughs)
S: A lot of the things that happen in the book are an effect of being in a tight-knit family. What’s your personal take on how families are very close in Asia? Do you prefer the Western way of moving out when you turn 18?
KK: I think every culture is different and every city is different — Singapore, Hong Kong, Manila — every city has a different way of how they live their lives and their relationships with their families. Some are much more close-knit, some are too close-knit, sometimes people are also very very independent so I think it really depends. And it really depends on the culture. I think in the American culture there’s something, to me, that’s very sad about how when you’re 18 you’re almost basically thrown out of the house. I lived at home until I was 21 and all my friends in high school when they went away to college, that was it. My brother stayed home until he was 25 but he saved up enough money to buy a house. So at age 25 he could afford his own swanky pad whereas all his friends would just [have] graduate[d] from college. So I think every family is different — to each his own. But there is something about the Chinese culture where you know families are, by nature, much more close-knit to a point where it gets very, very dysfunctional. I mean these are adult children in my book who are in their 50s and their 60s still beholden to grandma so to me that’s a little too extreme.
S: Going off-course, I want to know if you’re also a fashionista like some of the characters in your book.
KK: I would never consider myself as a fashionista.
S: But you like a lot of designers, right?
KK: Yeah, I appreciate fashion. I actually love just good design, I love great clothing and great tailoring. For myself, I’m always looking for interesting things that for me are comfortable to wear and that I’m interested in wearing as a means of self-expression but I don’t follow it as crazily as some people do. There was a point in my life when I was very trendy in the way that I dressed but not anymore. I think when you reach a certain age, you’ve got to tone it down. Otherwise you just look kind of desperate, quite frankly. And I know people in New York who are pushing 60 and they still dress like they’re 18 years old going clubbing and it’s like, “look in the mirror,” you know? Cos this might not be your perfect look (laughs). There’s a reason jackets were well-tailored, you know what I mean? (laughs) Because it works. I think everything is appropriate to people’s personalities and what they want to do but I would never. In New York, there’s so many hardcore fashionistas that just eat, sleep and breathe fashion and I’m definitely not one of those people although I used to be a long time ago.
S: Can you name 3 designers that you really love?
KK: I really love Dries Van Noten, I think he’s just been an amazing designer over the past 30 years. He’s just very quietly done his own thing and people have paid attention here and there. I think he’s really amazing and he’s one of my favorite designers. You need 3? (laughs) There’s just so much talent out there right now.
S: What if I give you 3 choices and you have to choose which one you would fuck, marry, or kill?
KK: Oh wow, this is a good one (laughs)
S: Christian Dior, Hermès and Lanvin. Just their designs, not the designers!
KK: (laughs) I would say… Hermès, marry. Christian Dior, fuck. Lanvin, kill. That would be my pick.
So when I asked him to sign my book when I finished our interview, this is what he wrote:
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