The Year of the Dragon! So fiery after the sweet and mild year of the Rabbit. (HA! Have you been paying attention to the world? The dragon it is!) The Lunar New Year arrives on Sat, Feb 10, so I’m celebrating with a countdown. After all, my latest Spice Shop mystery, Between a Wok and a Dead Place, is set at the Lunar New Year. For the next 10 days, I’ll be sharing snippets of the story and its origins, recipes, other books of the season, and more. And there will be giveaways — signed paperbacks and audio codes.
Here’s how it all started. A few years ago, Mr. Right and I visited Seattle’s Wing Luke Museum, chronicling the history of the Asian community in the Pacific Northwest, and toured the Kong Yick Hotel, a community center and residential hotel dating back to the 1880s. Naturally I started to wonder: What if a body was found in the basement of an old hotel? What other secrets might linger in a building where so many people had lived and worked—and died? So I created the Gold Rush Hotel on what was, when I last saw it, a vacant lot in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District.
The research was a book nerd’s dream. I pored over oral histories from early residents of the CID, as it’s called, along with maps and photos, and an intriguing account of the residential hotels, which were vital to the region’s culture and economy.
When I read a historian’s account of traveling with her father as a child in the early 1970s delivering fruits and vegetables, and his visits to the old Chinese hotels and restaurants, I felt one of those satisfying clicks writers live for. Community is key to immigrants, but especially to those who have faced extreme prejudice and legal exclusion. That, I realized, was why Francis Wu, my fictional hotelier, held on to the Gold Rush long after it closed. Why he was so determined that it stay in the family, despite his son’s indifference.
And why he did not destroy the apothecary in the basement, despite what it had cost him.
Join me over the next week and a half to celebrate the Lunar New Year as only book — and food — lovers can!