How to write about money – specifically the intrigues of a financial world capable of provoking angst and awe amongst us plebs – is a perennial problem for Hong Kong writers, many of whom have a background in banking and see it, justifiably, as a stimulating setting for their work. Like any writer exposing an arena of life with which the general public may be unfamiliar, the central question on their minds is how much of their specialist knowledge to share with the reader and how much to retain; how much to spell out and how much to spin with. We all like to learn something new when reading fiction; thanks to Dickens’ social observations ‘the novel invaded the essay’, as Sebald put it. Equally, we have all rolled our eyes at over-elaborate detail in courtroom melodramas or sci-fi adventures. Worse, we may have dropped the book altogether; perhaps in exchange for some decent non-fiction in which we know the technical stuff is more likely to be pared-down and relevant to the topic at hand.
Fortunately for everyone plotting their own financially rewarding thriller, the Hong Kong Writers Circle can offer both an inspiring success story and some practical advice thanks to former-banker Phillip Y. Kim, whose novel Nothing Gained was published by Penguin last year. In the latest HKWC podcast he tells fellow writer SCC Overton how much of his rich experience he left in and how much he left out in order to create a Hong Kong novel that Time Out described as ‘glittering with tension’.