It is a pleasure to welcome Mimi Kwa to my blog, Mrs B’s Book Reviews for A Tea Break with Mrs B, an author interview series. To help celebrate the release of House of Kwa we sat down for a chat. Thanks Mimi
What is your drink of choice as we sit down for a chat about your new book?
I’ll have a matcha latte please, with almond milk and no sweetener. Thank you.
Can you give us an overview of your writing career to date?
I have been a writer for twenty years in the sense that journalists are writers and have been very lucky to have been an ABC news anchor for most of that. This is my first book. Writing in long form has been an extreme departure from sixty second daily news yarns!
What kick started to creation of your book, House of Kwa?
My Dad sued me in the Supreme Court and in an attempt to understand how a father could do that to his child I began excavating the family’s past. I suppose I wanted to find a way to make sense of our relationship and somehow mend it if I could.
What themes and issues dominate House of Kwa?
There are so many, but I would say family and inherited trauma is one major one, and then there’s strength, resilience, dysfunction, mental illness, forgiveness, love. Survival is a big one throughout.
How long did it take you to write House of Kwa?
Five years sitting in my car at my kids’ basketball, soccer, footy, swimming, jujitsu, rowing and dancing. I have four children so there were lots of opportunities to use waiting around at sport as writing time. If I had focussed solely on writing, without my television work or the retail shop I also ran over the past few years, I might have finished the book in a year but, of course, that’s not how life is for most first time authors. Writing over a long period hopefully benefits the end result for the reader. It has definitely had its benefits to me personally, allowing me time to work through some quite challenging memories.
What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing House of Kwa?
The most surprising thing I discovered was how truly healing telling your own story can be. It was for me. I broke down to break through during the writing process and experienced an awakening that I could only come about from the deep self-introspection of my memoir writing journey.
What do you hope readers will take away from the experience of reading House of Kwa?
I hope readers will take away the idea our present day relationships are inextricably linked to the past of not only our parents but our ancestors too, and that by trying to understanding the past we go a long way to understand ourselves.
What writers have inspired you to become a published author?
There are so many! Meaghan Wilson Anastasios mentored me from the beginning in the very literal sense directly inspiring me by telling me to buy a laptop! The synergy I felt with Trent Dalton’s novel Boy Swallows Universe, and knowing it was based on his true story and that he was a journalist like me who had come through some tricky times – well that really inspired me to keep going. Tara Westover’s Educated was also instrumental in my writing journey giving me the courage to speak about some difficult things so it was absolutely amazing to me when my publisher compared my book to that one without any prompting at all! I am in awe and gratitude to the multitudes of authors who have influenced my journey.
What does your writing space look like?
I have three main writing spaces: my car – a lot of my instagram posts are of me of writing in my car, my balcony – I have a hanging chair and lots of plants and crystals around me, and third is what our family calls the ‘good room’ (ala The Castle) where there’s a fireplace and usually our cavoodle or Burmese cat curled up on a bean bag, often both!
When you are not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
I love spending time with the family and after that I love painting and creating in general. Last night, I was up until midnight sewing doona covers and pillow cases. It’s not unusual to find me doing something creative once the family is in bed. Me time walks and yoga are also wonderful.
What book is next on your reading pile? I have three on the go: Rodham, Shuggie Bain, and The French Gift. I just finished Healing is the New High.
What are you working on writing wise at present?
I’m writing about gratitude and forgiveness and the strategies I used to reconcile past trauma and I have another family history writing project on the go!
Thank you for the lovely tea break and chat Mimi. Congratulations on the release of your new book, House of Kwa.
The dragon circles and swoops … a tiger running alone in the night …
Mimi Kwa ignored the letter for days. When she finally opened it, the news was so shocking her hair turned grey. Why would a father sue his own daughter?
The collision was over the estate of Mimi’s beloved Aunt Theresa, but its seed had been sown long ago. In an attempt to understand how it had come to this, Mimi unspools her rich family history in House of Kwa.
One of a wealthy silk merchant’s 32 children, Mimi’s father, Francis, was just a little boy when the Kwa family became caught up in the brutal and devastating Japanese occupation of Hong Kong during World War II. Years later, he was sent to study in Australia by his now independent and successful older sister Theresa. There he met and married Mimi’s mother, a nineteen-year-old with an undiagnosed, chronic mental illness. Soon after, ‘tiger’ Mimi arrived, and her struggle with the past – and the dragon – began …
Riveting, colourful and often darkly humorous, House of Kwa is an epic family drama spanning four generations, and an unforgettable story about how one woman finds the courage to stand up for her freedom and independence, squaring off against the ghosts of the past and finally putting them to rest. Throughout, her inspiration is Francis’s late older sister, the jet-setting, free-spirited Aunt Theresa, whose extraordinary life is a beacon of hope in the darkness.
House of Kwa by Mimi Kwa was published on 4th June 2021 by ABC Books. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
Connect with Mimi here: