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January 22, 2010

Talking with Janice Y. K. Lee about THE PIANO TEACHER - Part 2

Posted by webmaster
For today's post, my conversation with Janice Y.K. Lee, author of THE PIANO TEACHER continues.

As Janice and I continued to chat, we got into a little bit more about her experience writing the book and how it has been received by readers and book clubs.

Previous Post: Talking with Janice Y. K. Lee about THE PIANO TEACHER - Part 1

RGG: This book took you a long time to write, didn’t it?

JYKL: It took 5 years.

RGG: And 4 kids I think, right? So does that mean for every book you’re going to spend 5 years and have 4 more children?

JYKL: I hope not! Though with 4 kids at home, it might mean that my next book will take 10 years to write!

RGG: After that much time, is it strange to have the book out of your hands and out in the world?

JYKL: It’s very odd. It’s very funny to have a discussion about my characters with people. It’s very fun, but it’s also quite surreal. I was living with these characters by myself and developing them and now people are asking questions about them and forming their own opinions and ideas. You know, I never imagined the book would become public in this way.

RGG: Have you been to many book clubs and had feedback in that type of group environment?

JYKL: I have. In Hong Kong where I live there are a lot of book clubs of expatriate women. So I went to a few. It was lovely. It was very intimate. They asked a lot of good questions. They obviously all had a very strong connection to Hong Kong and so they basically would just drill me!

RGG: Are you in a book club yourself?

JYKL: I am. I hadn’t been in one ever, and then when I moved to Hong Kong, a friend asked me and I thought “ugh”. I used to read books for a living, much as you do, so I never thought I would want to be in a book club. I had this weird resistance against it. But as it turns out I love it. We have busy schedules so we meet every 6 to 8 weeks. But really it is just wonderful.

RGG: So is it weird to be on the receiving end of the critiques and comments? Since you are in a book club AND did review books for a living, how does it feel to be the one being critiqued?

JYKL: It does feel weird. Because you know I joined this book club while I was writing my book but it wasn’t something most of the group knew about because it wasn’t something I necessarily told people about. And we did several books and then around two years into the book club I sold my book and then a year later we did my book for book club. In my own book club…it was really funny.

RGG: And I’m sure no one said a bad word about it.

JYKL: No. It was a love fest in my book club of course.

RGG: I think it’s almost always a love fest when the author is there. I think most people have a hard time criticizing and author’s work to their face.

JYKL: Yes – that’s probably true.

RGG: What is the most interesting theme book clubs are pulling out of your book and talking about do you feel?

JYKL: They love hearing about the historical detail and the research that went into it. They are also interested in talking about the characters, Will, Claire and Trudy and how I conceived of them and how I wrote about them. We also end up talking about themes and what I wanted to people to go away with.

RGG: So what is it that you want people to go away with?

JYKL: As I mentioned earlier, I think it is that in times of great stress you make decisions that are not really yours but then people will always label you with those. I find that very interesting.

RGG: I’ve heard the book compared to the The English Patient. Do you find that to be true?

JYKL: Oh I wish. I think Michael Ondaatje is such a genius. That was such a beautiful book and such a beautiful movie. So I think it’s similar in that they have war time settings, love affairs and idea of the British everywhere.