Author of Crazy Rich Asians started writing because of father’s death

Behind the novel's tongue-in-cheek veneer is a touching tale.

By Olivia Lin | May 15, 2017

For Kevin Kwan, author of the Crazy Rich Asians, writing novels was always part of his retirement plan.

But somehow, it ended up happening way earlier than he’d expected.

When his father was diagnosed with cancer in 2009, Kwan decided to take some time off his job as a New York creative to care for him.

Between trips to the doctor’s, they reminisced about the good old days in Singapore, which triggered Kwan to start on his novel. As he lived a privileged life here when he was young (his family relocated to the United States when he was 11), Kwan’s childhood experiences somewhat served as the inspiration for his stories.

After his father’s death in 2010, Kwan started focusing on writing the novel.

How it turned satirical

However, he never planned for the novel to be a satirical piece. In an interview with The Straits Times, the author revealed that the novel started off as dramatised accounts based on memories from young.

But as the stories developed, they somehow shifted to take on a more humorous tone, complete with Singlish jokes that only some would understand. An example would be the character, Tai Toh Lui, whose name translates to “too much money” in a mixture of Chinese and Hokkien.

Other characters in the book

Anyone who has read Crazy Rich Asians would know that its characters are loosely based on people Kwan encountered in his life.

Kwan’s grandfather is Dr. Arthur Kwan, Singapore’s first western-trained ophthalmologist who sounds vaguely like the character, Sir James Young, in his book.

More treasures unearthed from my aunt's old photo albums in Bangkok: my grandparents, Dr. & Mrs. Arthur P.C. Kwan

A post shared by Kevin Kwan (@kevinkwanbooks) on

According to The Straits Times, when asked which character he felt he could relate to the most, Kwan mentioned Alistair Cheng, the misunderstood cousin of the main character, Nicholas Young.

Hard at work.

A post shared by Kevin Kwan (@kevinkwanbooks) on

Now that we know of this, we can’t help but wonder who the real life equivalent of Kitty Pong (Alistair Cheng’s girlfriend in the novel) is.

Related articles:

Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh set to play ultra-rich Singaporeans in ‘Crazy Rich Asians’

Fiona Xie, Pierre Png starring in Crazy Rich Asians movie

That Hollywood film about ultra-rich S’poreans is happening, and they’re casting actors now


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About Olivia Lin

Olivia likes to spook herself out by reading short horror stories and delving into the world of the unknown. She’s also worried that by stating this on an online platform, internet-savvy ghosts might take notice and haunt her at night.

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