What’s Unique about Hong Kong?

The current manuscript is a dual-timeline novel set in Hong Kong. For some reason I’ve found it easier to create the atmosphere of historical Hong Kong (1912-1914) than that of modern-day Hong Kong. So I decided to ask friends to share their thoughts on what makes this city/region special.

The results are in:

  1. The natural beauty of Hong Kong is unbelievable …lush green trees – in fact, green everywhere – and beautiful South China Sea; tropical island scenery; contrast between mountains and sea; and contrast between natural and modern
  2. Public transportation makes life easy for residents and visitors and the city runs efficiently and is kept very clean
  3. Foodie heaven for all tastes and budgets, and more so now, even for aspiring vegans
  4. Great place for outdoor activities ….. beautiful parks and lush hiking trails, rock-climbing, hidden waterfalls and swimming holes, beaches
  5. Very high tech
  6. Fresh markets and street markets are in abundance
  7. Hong Kong has the best skyline in the world
  8. Most of the families in HK hire overseas domestic helpers from Philippines and Indonesia to look after their children and housework. On Sundays these women (95% women) gather in large clusters in different parts of the city to eat, talk, dance, and sell things
  9. Hong Kong is one of the safest places to live in the world
  10. Mountain views
  11. Orchids everywhere
  12. Shopping paradise, again for all interests and budgets, and for what you can’t get here, “almost no borders” insofar as online shopping is concerned
  13. Stanley market and all its small, unique shops
  14. Sunday’s in Shek O and going to the Thai restaurant for lunch
  15. Taking the fast ferry to Macau and a walk in its Portuguese colonial parts
  16. Soho area for great shops and restaurants
  17. Visiting Sai Kung for fresh fish and Sunday bbq
  18. The Foreign Correspondents Club
  19. Views from Kowloon looking over at Hong Kong Island
  20. Edginess and party scene on the streets especially on Friday evenings in Lan Kwai Fong
  21. Walking around the stilt house village of Tai O
  22. Non-stop direct flights to almost anywhere one might wish to go, with almost hassle-free airport, exit and entry
  23. It’s a special place that is full of energy, with people who have drive, resilience, and a “can do” attitude; some of this has been overshadowed by more recent politics
  24. A cosmopolitan city that is very diverse in terms of food, shops, culture, etc.
  25. The British influence from colonial days also makes it unique in terms of culture and diversity and the blend of old and new, western and Chinese
  26. The many foot massage shops
  27. High tea at all of the beautiful hotels
  28. The islands surrounding Hong Kong including Lamma Island for a fish lunch, Cheung Chau, Lantau, and the fishing villages that seem frozen in time
  29. Live seafood available everywhere
  30. Street snacks 
  31. Fast pace of the city, the bustle on the streets
  32. Incredible density of skyscrapers and high-rises; HK ranks #1 of numbers of completed skyscrapers that are taller than 150m
  33. The Peak
  34. A Symphony of Light has set the Victoria Harbour ablaze every night since 2004.
  35. You can see many mainlanders carrying their luggage around Causeway Bay and Tsim Sea Tsui for shopping everyday
  36. Contrasts: In the harbour, you can see junks next to cruise ships; on the streets you can see people hang drying their clothes outside their windows next to gigantic sky scrapers
  37. Stark differences between the classes. There is so much wealth in HK (which most people see), and there is poverty that many people could not imagine.
  38. Made-to-measure clothing available in a few days time

Now, all I have to do is convey some/most of this in the novel in a seamless, unobtrusive fashion! PS – photos are all from my personal collection.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

A 1910 Chinese Wedding

The current work-in-progress is set in Hong Kong with two timelines, one in 2015, the other in 1912. I’ve included a wedding in the historical timeline – not the actual event, but a photo of the Chinese bride and groom, which my protagonist discovers. And what would that have looked like? An important question when you’re writing historical fiction.

Fortunately, Google did not disappoint.

I found several photos – some with very traditional garb, others more western in style. Ultimately, I chose to create a composite based on two photos – taking the bride’s outfit from one and the groom’s from the other. Then making up the rest.

I like the way this bride’s dress seems to combine Asian and Western styles.

And I thought the groom’s formal attire in this photo would suit my concept for the male character in my story. Both photos came from Pinterest boards.

Here’s an early draft of the brief description included in the manuscript. No doubt it will change 🙂

Patricia looked at the couple standing in front of a folding screen on which a scene of birds and blossoms and distant hills had been painted. Her great-grandmother wore a white dress with a multi-tiered skirt that blended Western and Chinese styling, and a circlet of what looked like pearls in her hair. She sat stiffly upright in a chair next to Li Tao-Kai. Patricia thought he looked handsome in his long cutaway jacket and formal attire, one hand resting on the back of the chair, the other holding a top hat and white gloves.

Research – about an hour. Words = 95. Historical fiction takes a lot of time!

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

The evolution of a novel (3)

… or how East Rising Sun morphs into The Admiral’s Wife. I left off with my wonderful colleagues at Lake Union suggesting I weave a historical thread into the contemporary novel I set in Hong Kong. And you might recall that I was not exactly pleased 🙂

This little suggestion was tantamount to starting over. I fussed and fumed, muttering less than positive statements about my publisher. “They have no idea how difficult this is!” “Why did they encourage me to write this novel in the first place?” “I should throw it out and work on something else.” Mutter, mutter, mutter. My poor husband had to listen to all this and I’m grateful for his patience and encouragement.

After several days of paralysis an idea twigged. I scrolled through the WIP looking for something I’d written – a few throwaway lines about one of my characters’ family background.

Early in the nineteenth century, the Wen family fortune began with diamond mining in China then expanded to ship building and lucrative trading across Asia. In a move against the British, Patricia’s great-great-great-grandfather used his trading company, cleverly hidden behind several shell companies, to transport opium to Europe and Britain. That decision generated even more wealth.

Maybe this could lead somewhere. Thoughts swirled around. This could happen. No, that wouldn’t work. What about this? What about that? I kept mulling until something finally gelled.

I now had two story lines and a sense of how they would connect. The present day story featured two expat women: Patricia, a Chinese American, and Sara who was from Boston. The past storyline focused on Winifred, the admiral’s wife, who was British and had arrived in Hong Kong because her husband had been posted there. And of course, there was a connection between the two stories that would gradually emerge.

I discussed the general idea with my editor. She liked it and made several suggestions. She wanted roughly 75 pages and a chapter-by-chapter synopsis. I worked on it for several weeks – hardly did anything else. My agent reviewed it. I made changes. My agent reviewed it again. A few minor edits. Then we sent it off.

Wait, wait, wait. After a heads up from my agent, I received feedback from my Lake Union editor. The floor plummeted out from under me again – they weren’t going to take it. Didn’t think my writing was good enough. But, but, but.

To make matters worse, I then sent the same material off to a freelance editor I work with. She gave me the honest truth. Definitely not my best writing and there’s too many main characters. You should cut out one of them.

Bloody hell. Did I tell you writing is hard work?

So here’s where I am. The present day story features Patricia, my Chinese American character. She’s married. She and her husband have moved to Hong Kong to reunite with her parents and older brother. Having lived in the US her entire life, this new world is foreign and disorienting. The past story focuses on Winifred, the admiral’s wife. She’s moved to Hong Kong because of her husband’s naval career. She too finds the place foreign and disorienting. And there’s a mystery connecting the two timelines – hopefully a fascinating, dramatic connection.

The novel has taken shape. I’m excited about it and love my main characters. With any luck I’ll have the first draft completed by the end of March.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.