Growing up, I had only ever read one British novel featuring Chinese people, and that was Timothy Mo's Sour Sweet. I became a writer to change that.
I am a Chinese Brummie writer. I grew up in a council house with my adoptive parents, my older adopted brothers, a bunch of foster Chinese kids, and loads of pets. My mom had a big heart and was always taking in strays. My dad cleaned the machines at Cadburys and my mom was a foster carer and later a dinner lady. My dad's dream job for me was to be an air hostess. He said I could see the world that way.
Did I always want to be a writer? No. I wanted to be a hairdresser when I was 8, a fashion designer when I was twelve, and a rapper when I was fourteen. But I was rubbish at styling my own hair, I didn't get very far designing Madonna's stage outfits from my bedroom, and I couldn't rap to save my life. I studied American Studies at the University of Birmingham. Whilst attending U C Berkeley on my year abroad, I studied Asian-American and African-American Studies and it opened up a whole new world of history and literature that had been invisible to me growing up in the UK. My dissertations were on how the Chinese were represented in film and literature.
After my studies, I went to live in Taipei to learn Mandarin Chinese (I didn't get very far). Whilst there, someone asked me what I wanted to do with my life and I blurted out 'write books!'. I gained a place on the National Academy of Writing course at Birmingham City University and quit my job in the charity sector. I have had short fiction published in various anthologies and two reluctant reader books. My short plays have been performed in a museum and a Chinese restaurant. I've been a storyteller and have done many school and library visits around the country. I was a participant in Room 204, the Writing West Midlands writer development scheme, in 2015.
In 2016, I was chosen for Megaphone, a brilliant project to find and assist new voices in children's publishing. Myself and four other writers were mentored by author Leila Rasheed; and attended masterclasses with Alex Wheatle, Catherine Johnson and Patrice Lawrence. Check out Megaphone here: https://megaphonewrite.com/
I enjoy writing characters who are ordinary people. I seem to have mastered writing working class and old people, that may be because I spent a long time looking after my dad into his 80s. My first novel is inspired by our relationship.
Recently, I have written a story about a boy whose father was a taxi driver during the Manchester bombings, a girl who grows cactuses when someone in her underground community dies and a girl who collects old umbrellas with her grandad. Writing for children is special because it's a chance to highlight early on that we are more alike than different and you can be very inventive! My latest commission is writing a retelling of the legend of Mulan for young children.
As well as being a writer, I love leading creative writing sessions, eating crisps inside of sandwiches, playing UNO and singing karaoke (I have my own machine which is not sad at all!).
I am DBS checked and am a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators British Isles and the Society of Authors.