Writer Yangsze Choo will be in Everett on Sunday to discuss her second novel, “The Night Tiger.” Her first book, “The Ghost Bride,” has been turned into a six-episode, Chinese-language Netflix miniseries and will be available for streaming on Thursday.
A Harvard graduate, Choo, 46, wrote for fun while she worked as a management consultant. When she became a stay-at-home mom, she found more time to pursue her passion for writing.
Here Choo talks about the new television series, the inspiration behind her books and how she became a novelist.
The Netflix series based on your first novel “The Ghost Bride” premieres on Jan. 23. How long was that project in the works?
It’s been about two years. I was pushing my shopping cart around Trader Joe’s when my agent called me and said Netflix might be interested. It wasn’t anything I was expecting — not at all.
You attended the premiere of the show in Taiwan last week. How did you like it?
The story is a little different from the book, but very cool. I think I’m both humbled and surprised they would do this. A while ago, when talking to my agent, I was thinking no one’s ever going to do this — half of (the book) takes place in the world of the dead. They built the entire replica of the underworld.
A “girly” question for you: What did you wear to the premiere?
I found a Navy jumpsuit and a nice necklace from the Museum of Modern Art. I don’t normally dress up very much. Two fashionable friends said, “At least you must accessorize.” It was very neat to see the cast.
Where did you get your inspiration for “The Ghost Bride”?
I’m from Malaysia. I think a lot of things that inspire me are places, like old houses. “The Ghost Bride” was inspired by a tiny house in Malaysia. When I was 10 or so, I had a friend who knew some relative of this ancient crumbling Chinese house. She said, “I can take you into the house.” It was rooms within rooms, all in ruins.
In the tropics, the trees grow up. The roof was broken. And people were still living in it — the last descendants of a great family. Now, that house has been renovated. Last year they were shooting part of “The Ghost Bride” there.
Your second novel, “The Night Tiger” is set in 1930s colonial Malaysia. Tell me how that story developed.
My parents grew up in Malaysia’s Kinta Valley. The book is filled with a lot of details that come from my mom. When she was little, she lived in this very small hamlet where there was nothing to do. Anytime there was a party in the big house, all the little kids would stand outside on the wall. Part of the things the houseboy observed in “The Night Tiger” is this childhood fascination with the lives of other people.
You graduated from Harvard. What did you study?
I got a concentration in social studies, a confluence of political science, economics and philosophy. Afterward, I got a job as a management consultant.
What led you to make the leap to writing novels?
That jump into writing — I didn’t really plan it. Most writers need some kind of day job. And somebody in the family needs health insurance. But I stopped work for a while. I developed a lot of wrist problems; I wasn’t able to type for a bit. Then I became a stay-at-home mom. While I had always been writing for fun, when I was home with my kids, I spent my time writing. Writing, many times, is like an escape. There were times when I would get a babysitter to go to the library and write. I need a lot of silence … empty space to do something creative.
What’s your writing process?
The short answer is, there is none. I don’t have an outline. Writing is sort of like riding a bicycle at night with the lights off. Sometimes it’s great, other times it’s a slog.
All those food photos on your Instagram account look fantastic. What’s your favorite recipe of the moment?
Oh, my goodness. I discovered a Meyer lemon cake that’s made with two whole lemons. I’ve been making it once a week. It’s really delicious. I also realize that cooking is procrastination. The kids said, “I guess you didn’t do any writing today — dinner looks elaborate.” It makes one feel that one has produced something.
Your biography says you live in California with your husband, children and several chickens.
Alas, (they are) no more. They were all finished off by a hawk. It was pretty awful. One hawk removed a chicken a day. When the spring comes, we may get another flock.
When I was a child in Malaysia, there were a lot of wild chickens. A friend of my dad’s would feed jungle chickens. The eggs he gave us were the best, with a bright-orange yolk. I live in a suburb where you can’t have a rooster. So we had six hens. It was very nice to have chicks. I would love to have them again.
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
An evening with Yangsze Choo, author of “The Night Tiger” is scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 26 at the Everett Public Library’s Evergreen branch, 9512 Evergreen Way, Everett. While the author event is free, a special reception at 6 p.m. costs $16 and includes a paperback copy of the book. Tickets may be purchased in advance via Brown Paper Tickets or at the door. Call 425-257-8250 or go to www.epls.org for more information.