Lisa See is the New York Times bestselling author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Peony in Love, and Shanghai Girls. Her latest novel, Dreams of Joy, is now available in paperback.
Would you name three things that inspire you to write?
The desire to find out more about something that intrigues me, the desire to delve deeply into a single emotion (like love), and the desire to stay happy and busy.
What is one essential element of your writing process?
A thousand words a days, no matter what.
Of all the places that you’ve visited, which one stands out most in your mind?
Would you describe your work space?
I work in a very bright and airy room that overlooks our garden. However, I have bamboo blinds covering the window right where I work and my desk faces the wall so I won’t get distracted. On my desk, I have Chinese wind-up toys, things my children made for me in elementary school (including a lamp with a shade made entirely of buttons – a second grade project), and all the notebooks I’ve used to take notes for each of my books.
What book have you reread most?
The Jungle Book, Volume II
Of all your work, is there a character you feel closest to?
Yes! There’s a character that has appeared in all my books. In Dreams of Joy, she was Madame Hu; in Shanghai Girls, she was Pearl’s mother-in-law; in Peony in Love, she was the grandmother; in Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, she was the matchmaker; in my three mysteries, she was the Neighborhood Committee Director; and in On Gold Mountain, my book about my family, she was my actual grandmother. Writing about my grandmother, who’s been gone many years now, allows me to be with her every day.
If you could offer a childhood version of yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Don’t worry so much.