Crazy about Kevin Kwan in Cebu
This is overwhelming, amazing,” said Kevin Kwan as he looked at the crowd that had gathered at SM City Seaside Cebu for his book signing.
National Book Store (NBS) had flown the “Crazy Rich Asians” author to Cebu after his book signing in Metro Books in Hong Kong, which is also owned by NBS. “It was really interesting to meet a new audience that I never met before because in Hong Kong, at all my previous signings, it’s been a very high society crowd and a lot of expats and a lot of international people… This time, it was a very very local crowd… There were some crazy rich people there but also a lot of young people, a lot of young readers. It was nice to see that, ‘Wow, I have a bigger audience than just the tai-tais and all the tycoons,’” Kevin said.
Kevin has been on a tour to promote the third book in his crazy rich trilogy, “Rich People Problems.” We devoured it just like we did his other books—they are always such a fun read and a multisensory experience because of the way Kevin injects food and fashion in the chapters of his novels about extreme wealth, high society scandals and family feuds. “I have a great time while writing my books. I laugh myself silly at times writing these ridiculous stories and these ridiculous lines that some of these characters say. I’m in on the joke too, you know,” he said.
“Rich People Problems” has had the Philippines buzzing not just because it’s a delightful and delicious read but also because the book features Manila, Palawan and some figures from local society.
Crazy rich chat
Hours before his Cebu signing, Super sat with Kevin at the presidential suite of Shangri-La Mactan to talk about the many exciting things in his future: the “Crazy Rich Asians” movie adaptation, which is now post-production (it’s coming out next year and we can’t wait), the TV show he’s working on and the books he’s planning to write.
And after hours of signing books, Kevin managed to squeeze in more fun before flying off for the Australia stop of his book tour—enjoying dinner at The Pig & Palm hosted by National Book Store managing director Xandra Ramos-Padilla and finally getting to try Jollibee with Kris Aquino.
“It’s been a really amazing experience. I’ve never been this tired in my life but had so much fun in my life at the same time, it’s been great,” Kevin said.
Is garlic rice still your favorite Filipino food discovery?
It really is. It’s amazing and so brilliant and simple and I don’t know why other people haven’t thought about it in other cultures. I’m eating it every morning as much as I can.
You’ve had the chance to see some of the Filipino characters you wrote about—what was their reaction?
The ones I actually included are inspired by people I know and I’m friends with so they were very excited and surprised and flattered, I think, to be fictionalized in the book. I like to do that for all my friends.
Are there people who have complained about not being included?
You know, a few. I have to confess (laughs).
What are your thoughts on Filipino society? How different is it from other societies?
It is very different. I think people here have such a warmth and a hospitality and a generosity. Also, they know how to have fun. A lot of times when I go to parties in other countries, it’s a much more stiff crowd, everyone’s on display, everyone’s trying to impress each other and here they are just having fun. It feels like family.
What sets apart your Filipino fans from your other fans?
The passion and how vocal they are and how unafraid they are to share their feelings… I really appreciate that. I love hearing what people have to say even if it’s negative. I always invite people to say if they think there’s something that can be better or if there’s something they want more of, let me know. I’m writing to entertain people, I’m not writing to entertain myself.
What’s the craziest crazy rich thing you’ve witnessed in the Philippines?
This is the first country I’ve been to where some of my readers have sent their maids or their bodyguards to get their books signed. They won’t come themselves. That’s been very eye-opening.
Can you talk about Kris Aquino’s role in “Crazy Rich Asians?”
I can’t say a thing, unfortunately. Sorry.
Is it true it was written for her?
I can’t say anything at all.
Can I bribe you with garlic rice?
(laughs) You can feed me a lot of garlic rice, I’ll eat all of it but I won’t tell you anything.
Damn it. Is Eddie still your favorite character to write?
Eddie and Kitty have become my favorite characters to write. Especially in the third book, it was really fun.
It’s a trilogy. So is it really the end?
It’s the end for now.
Noooo. We need more.
I have so many new stories and new characters to share with you from my TV show, from my next book. I feel like people need to give me a chance so I can prove to them that I can actually do something different.
How excited are you about the “Crazy Rich Asians” movie?
I’m beyond excited.
What are your thoughts on the casting? Michelle Yeoh is a dream…
Come true, absolutely. Everyone in this movie is just so brilliant and brings such a unique perspective to the movie, you know. They had so much fun and they really got into their characters. I think it’s really going to surprise people who ends up playing who. Because it’s not what they think it might be, you know. There are a lot of inaccuracies that have been reported in the press. There have been a lot of inaccuracies.
So Ken Jeong is not Eddie?
You shall see.
Can you talk about Nico?
Nico is brilliant. I think people are going to be so proud of him, Filipinos especially. He had me cracking up. If that gives away anything about his role. He was so funny and so brilliant and he did a lot of improving and had me on the floor, rolling, crying, in tears from laughter from how great he was.
How does it feel to be making history? This is the first major Hollywood film with an all-Asian cast in forever. Did you dream it would happen?
Never. I never even thought we would be here, at this point. I don’t think it’s sunk in. It’s too much for me to take in that this book has become such a part of the cultural conversation, that it is part of the hopes and dreams of so many people now that we get it right. I just hope that people love it.
Fashion and food are a big part of your books—are they going to be a big part of your movie?
You better believe it. Jon Chu said to me, if people don’t leave my movie hungry, I will have failed. There’s gonna be so much food porn and so much fashion porn. I can’t wait.
I know you can’t say a lot about the movie but any set stories you can share?
It was amazing for me to land in Malaysia and be taken to the set of Tyersall Park. They took a historic mansion on top of KL and transformed it. To walk in and to see my book come alive in almost exactly the way I described it in the books, I can’t tell you how unbelievable it felt… I felt like I was at an amazing party that had come alive from the pages of my book. The set designer is Nelson Coates, he’s an award-winning production designer and his most recent movie was “Fifty Shades Darker” so you know he brings this elegance, this powerful vision to the set designs. People are going to pee their pants. Not just the house but all the different scenes. It’s just unbelievable.
Of course you can’t tell me but I’m going to ask anyway. Are you going to have a cameo in the movie?
I play a potted plant. (laughs) I’m a palm tree. They dress me up in brown and leaves.
Should be a really elegant plant tree.
Oh you’re very sweet. It’s a big fat palm tree.
I want to talk about your TV show. Is it true it’s going to be about an entirely different…
Completely different. Completely original series, original characters, original story. I can tell you that it’s partially set in Hong Kong. People are going to get lots of new stories and new characters but on TV, not just something they can read.
You have crazy months ahead of you. Will you have time to write new books?
I will be writing new ones. You’ll see. I have to pay the rent. (laughs)
What are rich people problems that you’ve had to contend with?
That I’ve had to contend with? None. (laughs) None whatsoever.
Do you have people showing off in hopes that they’d become a character in the book?
That’s become a new thing. I’ve noticed that. In some places I’ll go, people will go out of their way and want to show me things or tell me about their lives or tell me some scandal they’ve heard.
What is the most unforgettable thing someone has said about your work?
A Chinese woman came up to me at a signing and she said, “Thank you for writing books that make me proud of who I am.”
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