It’s hard to believe that we’re almost to Chinese New Year’s Day again. The year slipped by so quickly! I hope you all had a productive and prosperous year of the Rooster. It was a wonderful year for me, as you might have noticed on my books tab: the third book in my Mei-hua trilogy, Trapped, was nominated for an Agatha Award and for a Silver Falchion Award. Both are great honors.
Deadly Relations launches on—you guessed it—February 16th, Chinese New Year’s Day. I hope the new protagonists are as popular with you as Mei-hua is. I think of this new venture as the Itinerant Scholar series–even through there are two protagonists—one male and one female.
Why one male and one female? Because although Imperial China was definitely diverse socially and culturally, the genders were very much separated from each other in their everyday life. For my story, that meant it would be very difficult for a man to be able to find out first-hand what was going on in the women’s world and visa-versa. It would also be quite difficult for a woman to fully penetrate the men’s domain. To overcome this problem, I decided to have a team of two: Shu-chang, a young itinerant scholar, and Xiang-hua, a young women’s doctor.
Both characters are fictional, yet either could have actually existed in late 14th century China. In fact, Xiang-hua is modeled after Tan Yunxian, an accomplished female doctor who really lived during the Ming Dynasty. Tan also wrote the only book ever published by a female doctor in which she described her patients and the medical applications she used to treat their problems. Her book has been especially helpful to me in developing Xiang-hua, as a character, as well as suggesting what her family might have been like. These are the kind of resources that are gold to an author.
If you’re interested in a translation of Tan Yunxian’s book, check out Miscellaneous Records of a Female Doctor translated by Lorraine Wilcox with Yue Lu.