Date of this Version
February 13, 2008 in The China Beat http://www.thechinabeat.org/
This week, The China Beat interviews Catherine Sampson, former BBC journalist and The Times correspondent, as well as the author of four mystery novels (see below). You can learn a lot more about her on her website, which also includes an exciting blog.
NB: What was the most intriguing, amusing, inspiring, or eye-opening story that you covered in China?
CS: I worked as a journalist in Beijing for The Times of London between 1988 and 1993. Both the most inspiring and then the most awful was 1989. The student demonstrations went on for 6 weeks and drew in all sorts of other people. It was an exhilarating time, a gutsy, good-natured, hopeful, time. It all came to a horrible end on June 4th, and the next few years in China were bleak ones. I haven’t worked as a journalist here since 1994, and it’s June 4th that stays with me, the political intrigue that surrounded it, and the myriad stories of bravery and tragedy. I think we’re wrong if we believe people have forgotten about 1989 in the excitement of economic activity that has swept the country.
NB: How has your “previous” life as a journalist impacted your work as a novelist?
CS: My ‘previous life’ as a journalist reminded me to keep my sentences short, my storyline clear, and to deliver on deadline. I think it also made me a good editor of my own writing. But starting to write as a novelist I also had to learn how to leave journalism behind, and to shift stylistic gear entirely. My ‘previous life’ as a journalist in China also taught me a lot about the country, so that when I started writing about it in fiction, it felt like a natural step.