Interview: Three Quick Questions with Wai Chim
CF: Tell us how your heritage infuses your work …
WC: I grew up in the US but my parents made sure to uphold a lot of wonderful Chinese traditions in our household. As a child, I remember feeling a little “awkward” about some of these customs because I just wanted to eat pizza or mac and cheese!
Now that I’m older, I’ve come to realise how very special that bit of my heritage is. What I try to do in my work is to reinterpret some of these great stories and traditions in a way that is approachable and relatable to a Western audience. I hope that in this way, I not only get to introduce some of the great aspects of Chinese culture to Australian children, but I can also reach out to Chinese-Australian kids so they can feel in touch with and proud of their roots.
CF: We’re coming into the Chinese Year of the Snake. Who are your favourite literary snakes?
WC: Snakes are some of the most fascinating creatures in literature and I think the characterisation of snakes has been used as a literary device to explore the delineations of good and evil - to play with the borders of morality. One of my favourite courses was studying Milton’s Paradise Lost in university. The serpent in Milton’s work was so wonderfully complex, sinister, proud and clever – such an amazing character. I am also very fond of the Chinese legend from my youth, Madam White Snake, which tells the story of two snake spirits that come to Earth in human form. It’s another great story that plays with the grey areas of good and evil.
CF: You are a member of a writers’ group. How does that help or hinder your creative process?
WC: I love my writers’ group; we meet once a month and discuss our progress and take turns sharing our work. It’s great to have a group of people to relate to and who understand the complexity that comes with creating a work. Writing can definitely be a lonely endeavour where you’re always living in your head and I think a writers’ group is a great way to help take yourself outside of that process of always creating and to just look at the work. It’s being able to take a breath, examine what you already have and to get some fresh perspective.
Wai Chim is an Australian author.