Julie O'Yang is novelist and visual artist based in The Netherlands.
Born and brought up in China, Julie O'Yang came to Europe in 1990s to study at the University of London. Then she read Japanese Language and Culture at the University of Leiden, Holland, and Tokyo, Japan. Her fiction, short fiction, poetry and articles have appeared in publications worldwide.
website: www.julieoyang.com |
Congratulations on the release of your book “Butterfly”. What kind of response you have been receiving?
I have to admit that I’m not very much a fan of reviews. I try to avoid them; most of the time they are distracting. Reviews are neither illuminating nor does a writer learn from things said or written about him/her.
Up until now I’ve been receiving splendid responses from peers as well as (wanna-be-) readers. Most encouraging words. I love to talk to my readers. I love to hear from real readers out there, then I know I’m not alone. I think my next book should be a law book to disallow loneliness (laughs). Seriously though, I’m grateful to the people who are allowing me to exist. I wake up every morning knowing that my voice is heard. I do realise it’s a great responsibility. I have the power to change, change at least some little things, some little old dominating ways of thinking...
Tell us something about your book Butterfly?
>>The story and its main drive, the main get-up-and-go is the WWII/Sino-Japanese war (1931-1945). I took in hand a notorious chapter, the Massacre of Nanking, also known as the Rape of Nanking. The subject is taboo and has remained on the censored list of both China and Japan till this moment we talk. However, I want the rapedhistory we have to produce some beautiful offspring –
Butterfly centres around the fatal love between a married Chinese woman and a much younger Japanese soldier. Then she finds out that the young stranger carries a dark secret, that he was her blood enemy. It’s a haunting love story a la Romeo and Juliet, but in my version, I allow the forbidden love to grow old through a time warp; I made the bending shore of Yangtze River magic and eternal for that purpose. Time is a river, you can’t step in it twice. But you can. It’s a modern fairytale. I wanted to write a contemporary Odyssey bang on the drum anno 2012 –
How long did it take you to complete writing the book?
>>It took me three weeks to complete the first draft of the entire book. But the first draft is not art, as any good writer can tell you.
>> It took me three weeks to complete the first draft of the entire book. But the first draft is not art, as any good writer can tell you.
What is the inspiration behind the story?
>> I’m an omnivorous muse serving myself. Whatever inspires me, from Newton to Einstein, from Dante to a wilted rose wrapped in dewdrops and dusty cobweb, everything seems to bring a brainwave in a shrew motion I like to see –
“Zhuangzi dreamed he was a butterfly, flitting around in the sky; then he awoke. Now he wonders: Am I a man who dreamt of being a butterfly, or am I a butterfly dreaming that I am a man.”
It’s an ancient Chinese tale, one of my favourite Taoist tales from the Spring & Autumn Period. I remember that I was leafing through a book randomly and caught myself re-reading the tale. I hear my heart break with a small, clean sound. An entire vision unfolded with war horses, and a woman’s face surfacing from deep, dark water. Then I knew my story.
What is the message you want to convey through your book?
>>I give the world good stories. That’s my moral duty, the one and only.
Tell us something about your book previous work?
I’m a published author in Chinese, Dutch and English.
If you were a man, would there be anything different about your book?
>> “…I am a woman again – as I always am when I write,” Virginia Woolf’s said. I disagree with her. Writing is pretty much like acting, less glamorous and less paid perhaps. But aside from that, I tend to believe a writer is no-one and hence everyone. So to answer your question. Sometimes I’m even a 5000-year-old cicada found in a crashed UFO if that happens to be the place where I must be at a certain point of time.
One book you would love to have written?
>>Butterfly, a novel by Julie O’Yang.
Could you tell us something about your future plans? Have you started planning for your next book?
>>I’m working on two books at the moment. Two novels. They fight for my attention.
Any message for Himani Vashishta’s Diary readers...
>>I’m very happy to see so many young faces here: Stay young.
Thank you Julie for your time. Wish you all the best for your future works.
>>Thank you for your time, Himani!