I’m pleased to be featuring Wenyan Lu today who is here to tell us about herself and her writing. Her novel, The Funeral Cryer, sounds so interesting. I haven’t been able to fit it reading it just now unfortunately, but have noted it to read at a future date. In the meantime, let’s find out more about the author.
Thanks for joining me today. First of all, would you tell my blog readers a little about yourself?
I’m Wenyan Lu, from Shanghai, China. I moved to the UK in 2006 with my husband and our son. I am a teacher of creative writing, ESOL and Mandarin Chinese. I am also a literary translator, mostly have translated poems. I hold an MSt in Creative Writing & a Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching Creative Writing from The University of Cambridge. I am the winner of the 2020 SI Leeds Literary Prize with The Funeral Cryer.
I love cooking and knitting. I listen to Beethoven and Dvořák a lot. My favourite singer is Liao Changyong, a Chinese baritone.
I used to live in Oxford, and I now live in Cambridge with my husband Mark and our children, Sean and Carys.
What inspired you to start writing?
I want to tell stories and share my opinions with people from different cultures. I would like people to hear my voice.
Tell me about your journey to publication.
I had been seeking agency representation from around 2018 after I finished a historical novel The Martyr’s Hymn. I searched for agents and sent my writing sample to an established agent. He replied and said he thought the story was very original and interesting, but thought it was quite niche and there wasn’t a market for it. Instead of continuing to query, I sent the complete novel to the SI Leeds Literary Prize, and it was longlisted. Then I edited it and entered the Bridport First Novel Prize, and it was longlisted. I kept editing The Martyr’s Hymn when I was writing The Funeral Cryer. During that time, I sent The Martyr’s Hymn to a couple of agents, but had no interest from them. In 2020 I entered the SI Leeds Literary Prize with The Funeral Cryer, and won. I’m glad I entered the competition – it was over a month into the first national lockdown during the pandemic. While I was waiting for the results, I started querying again; I contacted about 10 agents, and there were a few full manuscripts requests. Although it might seem that I acquired representation because I won the prize, the truth was that Kemi Ogunsanwo at The Good Literary Agency had passion and belief in my book before the results were out. She’s been great and we’re growing strong together.
My advice for budding authors who are seeking representation is that keep writing and editing, and you’ll find someone who loves your work. You only need one agent, so don’t be put off if you’re turned down by many. Entering writing competitions is a great way to help you become disciplined to meet deadlines and edit your work as much as possible.
I’m glad The Funeral Cryer has a chance to be published, and at the same time, I’m still editing The Martyr’s Hymn and I hope a home can be found for it.
In a nutshell, what is your book about?
My book is about how every human being has the same destination in life and how we survive and try to find hope when we’re trapped in life.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
The title is what my protagonist does for a living, so it was straightforward and I didn’t really think hard.
How do you plan to celebrate publication day?
I have to go to work on my publication day. My husband is going to collect me from work and take me somewhere. But I don’t know about his plan.
Do you have a work in progress just now?
I have finished a new novel after The Funeral Cryer, and Kemi is reading it right now. I have just started another novel.
What one book would you recommend to a friend and why?
Too Loud a Solitude. I’m always fascinated about human being’s potential and mental strength under oppression.
What are you reading just now?
I’m rereading Fahrenheit 451.
If you were on Desert Island Discs, what one book would you take with you?
A Tale of Two Cities.
Is there a book you’d love to see made into a film?
My own book: The Funeral Cryer.
How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?
I tweet, but not often. I also have a Facebook account, but haven’t really used it for a long time. I’m learning how to use Instagram.
And finally, if you could be a character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?
The mermaid in The Little Mermaid. I read it when I was very little, and I was touched by and sad about the mermaid’s sacrifice for love. I thought she deserved something better.
About The Funeral Cryer
The Funeral Cryer long ago accepted the mundane realities of her life: avoided by fellow villagers because of the stigma attached to her job as a professional mourner and under-appreciated by The Husband, whose fecklessness has pushed the couple close to the brink of break-up. But just when things couldn’t be bleaker, The Funeral Cryer takes a leap of faith – and in so doing things start to take a surprising turn for the better . . .
Dark, moving and wry, The Funeral Cryer is both an illuminating depiction of a ‘left behind’ society – and proof that it’s never too late to change your life.
The Funeral Cryer is published by Allen and Unwin and available now in hardback, ebook and audiobook editions. Thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for the opportunity to take part in the blogtour.