Our favorite Crazy Rich Asian, Kevin Kwan, has been on a wild, glamorous ride this year. Rich People Problems, the last book in his trilogy, was released last May; the Crazy Rich Asians movie just wrapped last June; and this August, he’s coming back to Manila for a book tour! With all this happening, we were lucky to be able to chat with him for a while to talk about the A-list adventure he calls life.
FULLY BOOKED: You mentioned before that you’ve always envisioned this Crazy Rich story as a trilogy. When you first started writing, did you already have Rich People Problems and the ending in mind? Or did you keep adding new stories as you went along?
KEVIN KWAN: Even before I wrote the first word of “Crazy Rich Asians,” I had the whole story mapped out and I knew it would take three books to tell the full tale. Along the way of course, I did include additional storylines and characters as I became inspired. This was especially true for the second book, “China Rich Girlfriend.” I went to China to do research for the book, and in the process met so many fascinating people and had some almost unbelievable adventures. I couldn’t resist including some of them in the book!
Over the course of the books, we get to meet more and more members of the Shang-Young-T’sien clan, and we’re sure they all have a story to tell. How did you pick which members deserved the spotlight? What was it like fleshing out these eccentric characters?
Something special happens in the course of writing a novel: the characters really begin to speak to you. So for me it was like having an enormous chess board of all these characters to play with, and as I wrote my chapters, some of the characters would advance on the chessboard in unexpected ways. In “Rich People Problems,” for example, I wasn’t intending on writing as much as I did about Nick’s longtime nanny Ah Ling, but she just insisted on being heard! The same happened with Oliver T’sien’s storyline. I’ve heard from many other authors that the same thing happens to them when they write.
Who do you relate to most among the lavish characters of the Rich series, and why?
Kitty Pong, of course. I’m nothing but a cold, calculating gold digger! Just kidding. I think the character I most relate to is Alistair Cheng, Nick’s cousin. In the family, he’s always thought of as the good-for-nothing cousin, because he’s more creative and works in film production. I think in many ways I play the same role in my family. Just the other day, a relative of mine said to my mother, “Nobody reads Kevin’s books in Singapore! Tell him to stop wasting his time!” (At this point, “Rich People Problems” had already been No. 1 on the Straits Times Bestseller List for five weeks.)
We know most, if not all, your characters and their crazy adventures are based on real-life events. Who among this crazy bunch would you like to meet in real life?
I’ve met and know very well all the people who inspire this crazy bunch! I would say the ones I wish I could spend more time with are Astrid, Alistair….and Kitty.
Let’s play a little game of “Kiss, Marry, or Kill”: Rachel Chu, Kitty Pong, and Colette Bing.
Kiss: Rachel. Marry: Kitty Pong (provided she divorces Jack Bing and gets a huge settlement and use of the planes.) Kill: I don’t believe in violence for any reason. But I might be tempted to kill Colette with kindness—maybe it would encourage her to truly expand her philanthropy to causes that don’t just promote her social-climbing agenda.
Oh, how about the Young women: Felicity, Catherine, Victoria, and Alix? We can change the game to “Kiss, Marry, Kill, or Disinherit.”
Kiss: Why isn’t Astrid on this list? She’s technically a Young too! Marry: Catherine. (Would that make me a Thai prince?) Kill: Victoria. Once again, I would kill her with kindness, because I think she’s a damaged soul that could use some good therapy. Disinherit: Alix. Because she probably wouldn’t care…she’s not materialistic and she’s also made her own fortune unlike her sisters!
What is your ultimate rich people problem?
Going to a sumptuous breakfast buffet at some wonderful hotel in the Philippines and trying to choose between more pancakes, more siomai, more sushi, more fried eggs with sausages on top of garlic rice, more pancit luglog or another slice of ensaymada. (I’m happy to say I’ve achieved that problem!)
How’s the movie coming along? Can you give us a little teaser, a particular bit we should all look forward to?
The movie production wrapped at the end of June, and it all went so amazingly well. I was on set for part of the filming, and everything—from the gifted performances to the glorious costumes and set design to the brilliance of our director Jon M. Chu—exceeded my expectations by a million miles. I think people are going to be absolutely blown away by EVERYTHING—from the party at Tyersall Park to Colin’s Bachelor Party to Araminta’s wedding scene. It all looks so jawdroppingly amazing. I think you might particularly enjoy seeing Filipino star Nico Santos as part of our wonderful cast. His performances were so funny they brought tears to my eyes. Actually, I think I ruined one take because I laughed so loudly at one of his jokes, you could hear it in the scene. Thankfully, Jon forgave me and I wasn’t banned from the set.
Now that the trilogy is over, do you have something new down the pipeline?
I’m in the midst of creating an original television series for STX Entertainment. It will be a globetrotting one hour drama that I hope my fans will come to love as much as they have my books!
Before we let you go, we need to prove that you are indeed Kevin Kwan, and not a hyper-realistic robot tasked to do interviews while the real Kevin Kwan is on a private jet to his personal island, finally taking a break from all this crazy rich business.
What do you want to ask Kevin Kwan? Tune in to twitter.com/_fullybooked on Friday, July 21, 2017, from 1-2pm, as Kevin Kwan takes over @_fullybooked on Twitter! Start thinking of your questions—but no spoilers please!
Catch up on Kevin Kwan’s bestselling trilogy before he comes to Manila! Crazy Rich Asians, China Rich Girlfriend, and Rich People Problems are available in Fully Booked stores and at Fully Booked Online.