Friday, June 1, 2012

Q&A with Mingmei Yip and review of her newest release Skeleton Women

Q&A with Mingmei Yip
Skeleton Women

Please welcome Mingmei Yip to the General Fiction board

Debbie - Mingmei please tell us about your new novel Skeleton Women
Mingmei - Skeleton Women, is a Chinese phrase for femme fatales. My story is about three of them  -- Camilla, the nightclub singer who has been forced to become a spy, Shadow the magician who jumps naked off a tall building, and a gender-ambiguous gossip columnist. All must scheme in order to survive the gang wars in lawless 1930ies Shanghai.

The protagonist Camilla’s mission is to seduce Shanghai’s most powerful crime lord and see that he is assassinated. But then she fell for the gang lord’s handsome, refined son and his hunky bodyguard…

On your bio I noticed that you are a qin musician, for all of us who aren’t familiar with what that is could you tell us.
The qin, or guqin, ancient seven-stringed zither, is very well known in China, but I am one of the few who performs it in the West. It is the oldest Chinese string instrument, dating back 3,000 years. From ancient times to the present day, it has been played in a yaji, elegant gathering,  a small group of close friends who meet in a tranquil garden to recite poetry, paint, do calligraphy, appreciate plum blossoms. As they relax together, they sip tea brewed with melted snow collected from the petals of plum blossoms.

In the past, the qin was played for self-cultivation either in one’s study or in small gatherings, but now we perform in large-scaled concerts, even commercials. 

You write for adults and for children both fiction and non-fiction
Do you have a favorite genre to write?

I love writing for both adults and children. My Novels are Skeleton Women, Song of the Silk Road, Petals from the Sky, and Peach Blossom Pavilion, all by Kensington Books. For adults, I wish my readers, besides being entertained, would be inspired by my brave heroines. I have two children's books (which I both wrote and illustrated) Chinese Children's Favorite Stories and a new one coming out in 2013, all by Tuttle Publishing. For children, I also like to entertain while teaching about right and wrong. My non-fiction books so far have been academic works on Chinese music, however, in the future I might write about subjects of general interest.

Are you a reader, do you have a favorite author or two
My two favorite authors are Eileen Chang, who has been published in English, and a Taiwan writer who called herself Echo. She is celebrated there for her evocative essays on her adventures in Africa with her diver husband. So far she has not been translated into English.

Eleen Chang                                     Echo

Among American writers I particularly enjoy Amy Tan’s and Lisa See’s works.

You are not only a multitalented and multi-genre author but you are also and accomplished musician, TaiChi instructor, painter, illustrator and calligrapher and you hold a Ph.D. as well
What led you to writing adult fiction and where do you find the time for all of your interests
After I emigrated to the United States I realized that no university job was available for the teaching of Chinese music. So I decided to follow my dream and write novels. I had been writing since I was fourteen and was published in a magazine at fifteen – I was very excited to receive ten Hong Kong dollars for it! Despite this, learning to write in a second language was quite challenging. So I read voraciously, took grammar courses, and went to writing conferences.
To fulfill my different interests of writing novels and children’s books, performing on the qin, storytelling and doing calligraphy workshops (the most recent one was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art) I have to set priorities. I have been able to write a novel a year but to do so I had to sacrifice other things I would have liked to do -- watching TV, roaming around the city, hanging out with friends.
Now to relax I watch videos of babies, cats, dogs and pandas online!

Demonstrating calligraphy at the MET, 2012

Storytelling, Delaware Museum of Art, 2011

What are you working on next
A sequel – but also an independent work -- to my 2012 novel Skeleton Women, to be published in 2013. I also just finished my second children’s book to be out in 2013.

You were born and raised in Hong Kong, do you still live there.
No. I married my future husband Geoffrey Redmond, an endocrinologist and also a writer in 1992, and since then made my home in the US. But I go back frequently to visit teachers, friends (unfortunately my parents are no longer in this life) and to indulge myself in tasty dim sum!

Do you have any events or signings at a B&N location, I’m sure fans here would love to meet you in person.
I’m arranging one in New Jersey

Mingmei, thank you for taking time to answer a few questions and good luck with your new novel.

Thank you! Please visit me at

My Review of Skeleton Women

Skeleton Women
Mingmei Yip
ISBN13: 9780758273536
352 pages

In 1930’s Shanghai there’s a name for female spies, skeleton women and this is one of their stories although we will meet three altogether Camilla the singer, Shadow the magician and Rainbow the reporter, but the story is Camilla’s.
The streets of 1930’s Shanghai is no place for innocent girls, it’s dirty, it’s dangerous and it’s ripe with corruption and gang warfare. Camilla is far from innocent although it’s the most fitting of the many masks she wears. Camilla is a spy, a skeleton woman, plucked from a Chinese orphanage at an early age and trained in the art of seduction and espionage. Her boss Big Brother Wang has set her up as a nightclub singer in the cities most popular club, her mission is to seduce and carry out the demise of her boss’s bitter rival, Lung, head of the Flying Dragon gang. She needs her wits and courage about her to plan and carryout her mission what she doesn’t count on is having a rival of her own, finding love and getting a conscience but that’s just what these strange and dangerous times have gotten her. Will Camilla fall or will good fortune shine on her.

Mingmei Yip brings us a poignant and often heartbreaking story of what one native woman has to endure to survive in the vice filled, urban-scape of 1930’s Shanghai. Her storyline is captivating, it’s calamitous and it’s a mix of worldly and ethereal a mix of mystery and drama. Ms. Yip’s first person dialogue impressed me, kept me interested and kept me reading with her journal cum memoir style that few authors pull off as well and I loved how she incorporated in her narrative Chinese customs, legends, myths and beliefs and especially how she quoted from long ago texts on war and strategies. But it was her characters that dominated the pages with their mix of good and bad, east meets west, superstitious and earthly from the star Camilla right down the line they all played their parts to a tee. It’s hard to put this novel in a box but if you like a good amount of fact with your fiction, recent historical fiction, crime fiction and in some cases fantasy I think this will fit the bill.
Ms. Yip thank you for the colorful journey through Shanghai you took me on and I plan to journey with you in the future as well.
Buy the book here and please visit this amazing multitalented author's website here

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