AAP staff report
The fifth novel in Mingmei Yip’s series of cross-cultural Chinese women who find themselves in life-affirming adventures was released in July.
“The Nine Fold Heaven” is the story about an ex-singer and spy who undertakes an emotional and dangerous journey to reunite with her lost lovers. A series of events results in her discovering that the life she left behind was not as she was told.
She learns baby she had and was told was stillborn may be alive. She also discover the secret of her parents’ murder.
“Nine Fold Heaven” has a connection to Yip’s previous novel, “Skeleton Women” but can be read as a stand alone book.
In this mesmerizing new novel, Mingmei Yip draw readers deeper into the exotic world of 1930s Shanghai first explored in Skeleton Women, and into the lives of the unforgettable Camilla, Shadow, and Rainbow Chang.
When Shadow, a gifted, ambitious magician, competed with the beautiful singer spy Camilla for the affections of organized crime leader Master Lung, she almost lost everything. Hiding out in Hong Kong, performing in a run-down circus, Shadow has no idea that Camilla, too, is on the run with her lover, Jinying – Lung’s son.
Yet while Camilla and Shadow were once enemies, now their only hope of freedom lies in joining forces to eliminate the ruthless gangster Big Brother Wang. Despite the danger,
Shadow, Camilla, and Jinying return to Shanghai. Camilla also has her own secret agenda – she has heard a rumor that her baby son is alive. And in a city teeming with spies and rivals – including the vengeful gossip columnist Rainbow Chang – each battles for a future in a country on the verge of monumental change.
Nine Fold Heaven is part of a series of Skeleton Women (femmes fatales) but can be read as a stand alone book.
This year Yip also has a new and second children’s book, “Grandma Panda’s China Storybook” from Tuttle Publishing in which she both wrote and illustrated. www.mingmeiyip.com
Interview with Mingmei Yip
AAP: Does the new book have any direct connection with any in the series as far as characters or stories? Or is it part of the series in the theme of the type of characters and the adversity and challenges they face that is consistent throughout the novels?
YIP: The Nine Fold Heaven is part of a series about Camilla the nightclub singer and female spy – the first book about Camilla is Skeleton Women.
The Nine Fold Heaven is the ongoing of Camilla and her friends/enemies, the magician Shadow, and the gossip columnist Rainbow. The new novel begins with Camilla’s emotionally and physically dangerous journey back to Shanghai in search of her two lost lovers and her baby whom she was told was stillborn. In The Nine Fold Heaven, we meet some new characters. First she allies with a naïve American ambassador who tries to clean up the Shanghai gangs. Though Camilla does her best to protect him, he is undone by the ruthless Rainbow Chang. On her own again but hiding from vengeful gang members, Camilla resumes her search for her lost infant son. In an orphanage she befriends a lonely blind girl from whom she learns the truth about her baby.
AAP: Can you say where you got the inspiration for this book and a little bit about the central character’s personality and predicament?
YIP: I think it was Tolstoy who said that for a family a beautiful daughter is like an egg laid by Satan. This saying inspired me to write about smart women who use their beauty in pursuit of ruthless schemes. Their stories are told in my fourth and fifth novels, The Nine Fold Heaven and Skeleton Women.
When I was young, I often heard the phrase “skeleton women” — referring to beautiful but scheming women who can turn any man, or woman, into skeletons with a blink of their mascaraed eyes. Ironically, these women cannot control their own life but are exploited by powerful men: gangsters, police, politicians.
Intrigued by these women and their glamorous, but ultimately sad, lives, I decided to bring them back to life by writing about them.
I’m also always intrigued by the dark, inscrutable world of gangsters, a world that is invisible to most of us, but affects us just the same. Black societies have been influential in China for thousands of years, inhabiting their own shadow world with esoteric rituals and harsh moral codes.
In The Nine Fold Heaven, the singer spy Camilla and the magician Shadow, both, though talented and beautiful, are marginal women who live at the mercy of their gangster bosses. Ordinary people could not prevail against gangsters – they had had little recourse no matter what was done to them and their family. Camilla, an orphan, has been trained since childhood for one purpose only — to assassinate her boss’s rival, Master Lung. Her task becomes all but impossible when she falls in love with Lung’s chief bodyguard – and also with his son. Unwilling to accept her subservient role, Camilla hatches a plot to use her spy training to avenge herself against her gangster boss.
AAP: Did you do anything special to research for this book?
YIP: Yes. Most important, I traveled extensively in the places in China where these things happened. Then I read many books about the black societies’ culture – their relationships with police and politicians, their moral codes, rituals, even their special methods of torture. Some powerful politicians were gangsters before they turned to politics. The world of 1930ies Shanghai was a dark one, but it is part of China’s long history and so worth learning about. It serves as a reminder of how the veneer of civilization too easily wears thin.
Visit Mingmei at www.mingmeiyip.com, www.facebook.com/ SilkRoadRomance.MingmeiYip, Twitter, Amazon page, and Goodread. View a book trailer at www.youtube.com/ watch?v= F2g6Ggga4a0.