The 2017 Life Power List

A crazy year for author

PHOTO: COURTESY OF KEVIN KWAN

3 Kevin Kwan, 43, writer

The book Crazy Rich Asians put this Singapore-born, United States-based author on the Life Power List in 2013 and made him a global publishing phenomenon.

This year, with a star-studded, Warner Bros-produced film adaptation of that novel, as well as a new book out, he returns.

The movie, helmed by Chinese-American director Jon M. Chu and starring the likes of actresses Michelle Yeoh, Constance Wu and Gemma Chan, is a refreshingly Asian-driven effort in a predominantly white film industry.

Crazy Rich Asians introduced the world to a new side of Singapore - the lives of the Republic's outrageously wealthy. Its raucous humour also challenged the stereotype of straitlaced Asians. More than one million copies are in print worldwide.

The bestseller has grown into a trilogy, the last instalment of which was published this May.

Titled Rich People Problems, the story details how the Shang-Young clan flock to their matriarch's deathbed in the hope of inheriting her estate, Tyersall Park.

Filming for Crazy Rich Asians began this year. It will be released in August next year.

"It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say this has been the busiest year of my life," says Kwan over the telephone from Los Angeles, fresh from his Europe book tour.

He dropped in on the shoot earlier this year and was "awe-struck" to witness scenes such as an elaborate flower-viewing party at the family's mansion. "To see 200 extras redoing scenes at 4am in a house completely designed straight out of my book, all for one minute of film - it was an unforgettable experience."

His three books - including China Rich Girlfriend (2015) - have spent more than 60 weeks on The Straits Times' bestsellers list for fiction, which is collated from major bookstores in Singapore.

Kwan, who is single, hopes the books and film will keep challenging Asian stereotypes around the world. "When I first moved to the US in 1985, I would tell my classmates I came from Singapore and they would ask, 'What part of China is that?' and 'How can you speak English so well?' Now I don't have to explain that any more."

He adds: "I hope readers and viewers who don't live in Singapore come away with a sense of the richness of our culture."

Olivia Ho

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 03, 2017, with the headline 'A crazy year for author'. Print Edition | Subscribe