(10th) Karen KaoKaren is the child of Chinese immigrants who settled in the United States in the 1950s. She grew up in Los Angeles listening to stories of Old Shanghai. Out of those stories emerged her debut novel, The Dancing Girl and the Turtle, published in 2017 by the UK independent Linen Press.
But it's not as if this was easy.
In the beginning
Karen started out as a poet and had the great good fortune to be mentored by some of the great American poets of her day. She had a few poems published while still in college. She thought her writing career had taken off.
Then somewhere along the line she took a left turn and ended up in law school, then a law firm in Washington, DC and before she knew it, Karen was a corporate lawyer in Amsterdam specialized in cross-border mergers and acquisitions. It was a high-flying lifestyle that involved long nights at the negotiation table surviving on coffee and cigarettes.
It was also a way of life that did not allow for time to think or feel, let alone write. In 2011, Karen threw it all away and became a full-time author.
The Shanghai Quartet
Since then, her life has become immeasurably more manageable and a helluva lot more fun. To date, she's had two short stories and numerous essays published in places as far-flung as Mississippi and Hong Kong, Canada and Shanghai.
Karen is currently at work on more novels set in Shanghai. She hopes someday to produce four of them, with interlocking characters, that cast a new light on the events you see in The Dancing Girl and the Turtle. Karen calls this massive project The Shanghai Quartet.
The Dancing Girl and the Turtle
This novel is set in Shanghai on the eve of the Second Sino-Japanese War. Song Anyi is on the road to Shanghai when she's raped and left for dead. She survives, only to be confronted by silence and shame. This is a dark tale of a woman fighting for her sense of self. The South China Morning Post said this novel "makes Fifty Shades of Grey look light bondage". While The Contemporary Small Press said: "The human need for intimacy and understanding is apparent on every page."
The Dancing Girl and the Turtle is available for purchase via Linen Press, Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.