Having this conversation with Katy was very difficult, and not just for the obvious reason you might think. The conversation was hard because I don’t think she always agreed with me about what was in her best interest. A writer of a multicultural novel or interracial romance who overlooks cultural differences does so at their peril.
Anyway, here’s the interview with Katy about The Diary of Katy Yehonala and you can see for yourself how unreasonable Katy can be. We’re talking about being a hero in a multicultural novel, or I was trying to…
Katy: First of all Robert, my name’s on this new book of yours so I need to get one or two things off my chest, okay?
Me: Sure, I didn’t create you to be a wallflower. What’s on your mind, Katy?
Katy: Firstly, did you know how cold it was going to be up near the Siberian border in winter? I know you want to exploit my misfortunes for monetary gain, but that was pretty mean sending me to a gulag when I was only ten. You write multicultural romance novels, not arctic survival epics.
Me: Don’t be such a princess. I’ve been skiing at Aspen and I know how cold it gets in the snow. Though I admit, sometimes I couldn’t wait to get back to the chalet for a decent steak and a Grange Hermitage after a day on the slopes. You need to toughen up a bit, Katy. Don’t make me regret giving you Empress Cixi Yehonala as your ancestor. I never read about her complaining over a bit of snow.
Katy: A bit of snow!! That’s like saying the Gobi Desert is a bit of sand. So it’s going to be one of those conversations, is it? Secondly, what about making me carry those buckets of everyone else’s poop? Was that supposed to be character-building? I call it child abuse.
Me: Could have been worse. I might have had you tripping over with a full load. Anyway, you had a nice friend, that Mei kid, and don’t forget how you loved the walk in the mountains with your dad.
Katy: Thanks for nothing. Neither of those relationships ended well. How come I got to be the one who got a psychopath for an author? Didn’t you ever read Jane Austen’s stuff? Women have a great time in her stories.
Me: Look, it wasn’t my fault you were born during the Cultural Revolution. Don’t be so ungrateful, it was tough for a lot of people in China back then. I did my best to help – I gave you a nice mum and dad, a nanny, and even a terrific house to live in. You had it pretty good, considering.
Katy: Considering what? You took those away as well the first chance you had. Every time I thought I was doing okay, you pulled the rug from under my feet.
Me: Oh, come on, Katy, it wouldn’t have been much of a story if you lived happily ever after from page one. At least I didn’t make you poor. You should learn to look on the bright side.
Katy: That’s easy for you to say. Well, okay, I suppose it wasn’t all bad, and I admit my little doggie, Maomaochong, was a nice touch. And that time with Emily and her family was great. Thanks for inventing her, I enjoyed you sending me off to England. And that stuff at the Taj Mahal, well…that was amazing.
Me: There you go, you see. I always had your best interests at heart. And what about Simon? Surely you’re not complaining about him?
Katy: No, of course not, but the racist boyfriend you hooked me up with first wasn’t your finest literary achievement. You tricked me, especially by making me drink an extra glass of wine to lower my guard. That date ended pretty badly, even you have to admit you went a bit too far.
Me: Mmm, I agree the dating episode was unfortunate, and so was the Lagos stuff – but those Nigerian beaches were fabulous weren’t they? And it makes great reading, every book needs a bit of spice.
Katy: Listen Robert, I was there remember, and those disasters weren’t so “great” for me. You definitely need to see a relationship counsellor, I can see the reason you still live by yourself. And why did you take Simon away so soon? A year isn’t enough time for a love affair. Are you going to bring him back to me one day?
Me: We’ll see. I gave you a kid and the chance to be with your mum in exchange. Why aren’t you ever happy? Maybe I should have made you all Danish, those Scandinavians are a much more cheerful bunch of people.
Katy: We’re fine being Chinese thanks very much. Having a daughter is all well and good too, but now I’m worried you’re going to do something terrible to her and Mama. Why can’t I let them know what’s in your mind for them in the rest of the book? Knowing would help them sleep better.
Me: And ruin the surprise? Come on Katy, you know how these novels work. There’s no point in giving you the ending, it’s the journey that matters. Besides, you believe in fate.
Katy: I didn’t agree to accept fate without complaining. That was your idea. And you’re not the one who has to wake up every morning worrying if your author’s had too much wine the night before and might be in a bad mood at the keyboard.
Me: Don’t worry, Katy, I never drink and scribe, and I know the ending. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and you’ll be fine. I’m going to write another book afterwards and you’ll be in it, so relax. I thought you might like to travel more next time.
Katy: Don’t play your smarty-pants word games with me, Robert. It had better be first-class travel after all the stuff you’re putting me through. Do all the others get to be in the next book too?
Me: The book will be about family, Katy. You can tell them that much.
Katy: I hope you leave enough of us around to still be a family.
Me: What’s with you Chinese protagonists, you’re always finding something to complain about, I should have asked Amy Tan to write the story. I’ll bet the Danes would be easier to deal with. Okay, why don’t you tell me what you want next time.
Katy: How about you find me someone nice to settle down with? I’m not getting any younger, you know. Maybe walks on the beach would be nice, sipping a nice shiraz at sunset. There must still be some remnant of romance in that black heart of yours. Jane Austen always let her girls live happily ever after.
Me:: I’ll have a look at Pride and Prejudice if it will make you happy, but to be honest, you don’t seem the type and you know I like a good multicultural novel or a multicultural romance. By the way, have you read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? I’m writing Australian crime fiction books now, one might suit you.
Katy: Don’t you dare!![sigh]
Check out my new novel,The Diary of Katy Yehonala, a great multicultural romance novel – plus an interesting life story. Katy’s a girl who follows her destiny, like we all can.
Robert Barclay is an Australian author of some of the best Australian crime fiction books. His new Australian multicultural novel follows the lives of Katy Yehonala and her daughter, Clara, his strong female protagonists as they confront the evils of society.