Celebrated crime writer Qiu Xiaolong answered questions from students at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University today, with words of inspiration and advice for young creative writers in China.
He was speaking at an event held at the University as part of the Bookworm Literary Festival.
Qiu (pictured above), who is originally from China but writes his detective novels in English, told students that writing in your non-native language can actually be an advantage, as it allows writers to use unique and interesting phrases with relative ease: “It has to do with different linguistic sensibilities. If you write only in one language you are not aware of other linguistic sensibilities.
“One thing I remember from George Orwell’s ‘Politics and the English Language’ is that to be a good writer you must avoid clichés at all cost. This can be easier for non-native writers of English as even phrases that seem like clichés in their native language can sound fresh and unique when written in English.”
Qiu was introduced to the audience by James Roebuck, an English for Academic Purposes tutor in the XJTLU Language Centre, who also directed the questions from XJTLU students including Yu Zirong and Yiwen Sun.
The talk was held on the XJTLU campus as part of the Bookworm Literary Festival, which is in its fourth year of collaboration with the University, with previous years including talks by Scottish novelist and travel writer Sophie Cooke and physician and writer Vincent Lam.
Qiu’s ‘Inspector Chen’ novels have sold over a million copies worldwide and been adapted into a BBC radio programme.
Describing his origins as a writer, Qiu spoke of his time as a ‘literary youth’. After studying in Missouri, in the United States, he returned to China in the mid-nineties and began to write about what he saw as a “society in transition”, choosing a policeman as a convenient protagonist for stories about problems in society.
In response to student Ling Chen’s question on the advice Qiu would give to young people who want to make a living out of writing, he stressed the importance of not comparing yourself to others in terms of material wealth, saying: “If you’re passionate about writing it’s rewarding enough, whether you make a little or a lot of money.”