Bestselling Author Kevin Kwan Discusses Musical Inspiration and How Places Can Become Characters Too

Kevin Kwan is one of the most distinguished authors of our time, and has captivated fans with his international bestsellers, Crazy Rich Asians, China Rich Girlfriend, and Rich People Problems. The trilogy commanded the top three positions of the New York Times bestseller list for several weeks in 2018. The film adaptation of Crazy Rich Asians became one of Hollywood’s highest-grossing rom-coms, leading to Kevin being named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. 

For the Record sat down with Kevin to learn more about his creative process and the musical inspiration for his newest novel, Lies & Weddings

What’s your earliest memory of stories being read aloud to you?

It would have been in kindergarten in Singapore, and I remember that the teacher would read to us from books while we sat on the floor around her. My grandfather also read to me from “The Monkey God” series of books that he had in his library. I remember sitting on his lap and marveling at all the amazing illustrations in the book as he read.

What’s your writing process like? Where do you get inspiration?

The inspiration for my new novel Lies & Weddings first came to me on the Big Island of Hawaii.  I stayed in a little bungalow on the beach and suddenly words filled my head and I began writing a chapter a day. I write chronologically, without any outlines, and I let the story take me where it wants. As the plot revolved around destination weddings, I continued to move—to Los Angeles, London, Morocco, and Venice for more inspiration. The places really begin to become characters in my books.

Does a narrator reading your words aloud change the experience for the listener?

Absolutely! Audiobooks need to be performed, there’s an art to it. The Lies & Weddings audiobook is read by Jing Lusi, a wonderful actress who was in the Crazy Rich Asians movie.  Jing did an incredible job—she made the story riveting and brought all the characters to life in the most gripping and hilarious way.

Can you tell us about the playlist you made for your new novel, Lies & Weddings?

I designed this playlist to set the mood for different scenes and echo the emotional journey I take my readers on throughout the book. “Songbird” by Fleetwood Mac is the pivotal song that helped me get to the heart of the emotions that my heroine Eden experienced when she was feeling most lost. “I Can See For Miles” by Kathleen Smith is a gorgeous love ballad that I picture during the wedding scene that takes place in a hot air balloon ride over the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. Then there’s Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You.” It’s the song I imagined Rufus and Eden would listen to as they drove down a beautiful desolate highway on a moonlit night.

What are you listening to or reading right now?

I’m listening to lots of classic Björk, the jazz piano stylings of Joey Alexander, and I recently discovered the music of the Ethiopian Jazz legend Mulatu Astatke. And I’m reading Lea Carpenter’s latest novel, “Ilium.”

Stream Kevin’s Lies & Weddings playlist and experience the musical journey for yourself