Interview with Paul C.R. Monk, Author of That Spring in Beijing
20 May 2021
What can you tell us about your new release, That Spring in Beijing?
I happened to be in Beijing during the global pandemic and became caught there for 6 months. It was so absorbing to see first-hand how the Chinese managed to take control of this tiny enemy before any vaccine was available that I decided to include it in a book. But instead of writing a disaster novel, I decided to put it in a love story which became “a chronicle of love in a forbidden city” which in turn is the novel’s tagline.
What or who inspired you to become an author?
Ever since I was a lad I’ve found great pleasure in creating word pictures. And as I discovered more mature novels, I began to understand the magic of marrying word pictures and dialogue with a plot. Writing gave me not only an escape hatch into imaginary worlds but also a career as, in the real world, I became a writer on a number of narrative projects.
What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?
Needless to say, my list changes all the time. But my first favorite book when on the cusp of young adulthood was Dylan Thomas’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog. I remember buying the book in England, and some years later, as fate would have it, my parents ended up moving to Wales just a few miles down the road from Laugharne where the great poet and story-teller had his boathouse. So it will come as no great surprise to know that my second son is called Dylan. Being a bit of a romantic, I also loved Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. Ken Follet’s The Pillars of the Earth is still at the top of my list. The Short Stories of Katherine Mansfield was also a favorite as is Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.
Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?
I’d love to hear a few more anecdotes and words of wisdom from David Attenborough.
What’s your favorite thing about writing?
I take great pleasure in doing research. It gives extra meaning to any trips I undertake, such was the case for That Spring In Beijing as I found myself caught in the Chinese capital during the pandemic which forms the background to this love story. But for me the most pleasurable experience as a writer is probably during the editing stage when the book is written but needs the final polish.
What is a typical day like for you?
I like to start early around 6 or 7 because that’s when the creative juices seem to flow in most abundance. I have a break at 10-ish then work until lunchtime. The rest of the day is spent doing research or marketing. I also like to sneak in an extra hour of writing at night when everything is calm. It’s always nice to be able to wake up and tuck straight into something you started the previous evening.
Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?
Of course friends are very important, but for someone who travels a lot moments of friendship are much more numerous and you can experience them with people you barely know. So I tend to willingly push the doors into those little moments because they can lead you to some enchanted gardens where friendships can blossom like along the avenues of Beijing in the spring. Also, by doing so, it provides a whole palette of personalities to choose from when composing new characters.
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