Upon the release of the third book in the “Crazy Rich” trilogy, Rich People Problems, author Kevin Kwan finds himself at a unique point in his career and in eager anticipation of the movie adaptation of his first book. National Book Store recently brought GIST to Kevin’s book signing in Cebu City, Philippines to witness exactly how big of a hit he is with Filipinos, as well as watch him and Kris Aquino, who plays a role in the Crazy Rich Asians film, meet for the very first time. We sat down with the author for a brief interview and asked him about writing the trilogy, saying goodbye to his characters, and the upcoming film.
GIST: What kind of relationship have you developed with the characters that you’ve created throughout the Crazy Rich trilogy and which character are you most sad about saying goodbye to?
KEVIN KWAN: I think that I have a much deeper understanding of these characters now and it’s very enriching to go through their lives and be able to channel their voices and their stories. It’s unique and special, I don’t know how else to describe. Who am I gonna miss the most? Probably, Astrid. She was always one of the emotional cores of the books, and so now that she’s at that point in her journey where we leave her in the books, it makes me want to keep writing.
And would you?
Definitely! But for now I really want to explore new characters and new themes. And really give it a rest with this crowd.
Do you try to outdo yourself in terms of the lavishness or the richness with every book?
Not really. From book one and book two, there was definitely going to be a ramping up, and I feel like a lot of readers — especially the Western readers — have reacted against that. They say the lavishness is so outrageous. But the thing is, it’s all true! I’m just portraying this world of China rich where things are so extreme, it’s wealth and spending that’s so out of balance with the planet, that it does become a bit grotesque, and I think that’s what readers are reacting against. But, I try to just tell the truth. And book three is into more of the family story, and the spending and lifestyle is there, but it’s incidental to the story.
Who am I gonna miss the most? Probably, Astrid. She was always one of the emotional cores of the books.
Was Crazy Rich Asians the book that you’ve wanted to write?
Absolutely. A lot of it was also inspired by childhood experiences and memories, and traveling to Asia, and being part of a loud, crazy, big Asian family. I have a lot of stories just surviving in that family.
You always knew that it was going to be a trilogy. What’s your process like in terms of the trilogy structure?
I had a very original vision and it was always the same. I always knew the story, and how to get there was the jigsaw puzzle, connecting how to get there. And all this happened in my head. I never really created an outline. It was just, day-to-day, I would write a chapter here and a chapter there. The inspiration just came. One day it was about Astrid, the next day it was back to Rachel. It depended on which characters would miss writing about.
Which book for you was the most challenging to write?
Book two was the most challenging because I am a complete outsider to the world of the Chinese rich, and I also don’t speak Mandarin. So there were so many barriers there. It really took the most research to go there and understand them and immerse myself in that world and that way of thinking.
So when you meet people from this world in real life, do you ever have that tendency to apply them to the Crazy Rich universe?
I really don’t. I just try to meet everyone at face value. And maybe, in retrospect, I’ll be inspired by them in some way. But I don’t really draw these complicated charts and stuff.
What do you look forward to about the movie?
I look forward to seeing it, actually! I’ve only seen bits and pieces of it. So I can’t wait to see the completed movie and I’m looking forward to how the fans will react.
What’s the status of the movie right now?
It’s in post-production. They’re just finishing editing. At some point they’re going to announce a release date for it next year, so it’s a very exciting time.
Did you have very specific instructions for recreating the world, in terms of richness?
Absolutely. I worked with the production designer and costume designer and John, to bring that vision to life. I think the fashion is going to be spectacular. I don’t think you’ll be seeing a lot of logos, but you’ll notice how great everyone looks and how they really fit their characters. The costumes really portray who they are. Astrid is always going to look like Astrid, this amazing, timeless, fashionable creature.
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Crazy Rich Asians, China Rich Girlfriend, and Rich People Problems are available in National Book Store, National Book Store Express, and Powerbooks. Shop online at nationalbookstore.com. Share your excitement by using the #KevinKwaninCebu. For more updates, follow NBS on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube (@nbsalert), join their public chat on Viber, and visit their blog (blog.nationalbookstore.com).