For this blog tour I am delighed to introduce Kate, the main character of The Orchid Tree, which will be published on 15th February and is available to pre-oder from Amazon.
1. What is the name of your main character? Is she fictional?
Kate Wolseley is a fictional character, although I’ve given her the physical characteristics of my mother at her age.
Colonial Hong Kong between 1941-1945 and from 1948-1949. My grandparents were interned by the Japanese during WWII. The idea for “The Orchid Tree” came to me when I was researching their life behind barbed wire in the Stanley Civilian Internment Camp. My father joined the Chinese Maritime Customs after his demob from the Royal Navy, and his experiences chasing smugglers up and down the South China Coast inspired the start of Part 2. I wanted to bring alive a time and place that no longer exist, and I hope my knowledge of the era lends an authenticity to my writing that readers will enjoy.
4. What should we know about Kate?
I don’t want to give away the story, so I’ll keep this brief. Kate has lived a pampered existence, in a house full of servants, at the pinnacle of pre-war Hong Kong society. Spoiled by her father, but lacking the attention of her mother, she finds comfort in the love of her Chinese amah (nanny). Her background is typical “stiff upper lip” British, except Kate is more open than her parents. As a result of her over-protected upbringing, she’s young for her age, which is fifteen at the start of the novel.
4. What is the main conflict?
Initially, WWII. Kate is interned with her parents in a squalid camp and has to endure cramped conditions, humiliation, disease, and starvation. She befriends 17 year-old Charles – who’s half Chinese – and they give their hearts to each other under the orchid tree. Kate’s father doesn’t approve of their relationship. Can their love survive war and bigotry?
In December 1948, she returns to the colony after three years in Australia, determined to put the past behind her and come of age. Her goal is to create a new life for herself in a society on the brink of change. She wants to be independent, overcome prejudice, and make herself a part of the new Hong Kong, while holding onto her never-to-be-forgotten love for Charles. An Englishman, James, arrives in the territory and becomes the link between Kate and Sofia Rodrigues, the step-sister of a Macau gangster. The communist-nationalist struggle in China spills over into Hong Kong, catapulting the protagonists into the turmoil with disastrous consequences.
A recurrent location in the novel, the orchid tree, Bauhinia Blakeana, has become the emblem of Hong Kong. I was privileged to have grown up there during the post-war era, and I still consider it home.