Johnny Yip, author Age: 50-something. Career path: I was born in Shanghai and came here with my parents when I was about five years old. I went to the Chinese New Methodist School. I have always loved reading and writing my own stories so there was never any doubt in my mind that I would be a novelist. My first novel was published when I was 17. It was a best-seller and was made into a Mandarin movie. Since then I have published 300 books and have been called the Chinese Barbara Cartland because a lot of my books are love stories. Many of them are based in old Shanghai or during the days of the ancient dynasties. My biggest market is mainland China, although my books are sold in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Chinatowns around the world. I also write travel columns for local publications and a food column for B International, a local English-language magazine. I am not married. Yip's day: I travel for about seven months of the year because I can take my work with me. Being in different environments and countries gives me inspiration for my stories. One great thing about being freelance is that I can manage my own time. As long as I meet my deadlines, I can be anywhere, anytime. I handwrite my novels in Chinese - it's still quicker than using a Chinese typewriter, and I find it easier to express myself with a pen. The advantage of this is that I only need to take my notebook with me. For years I wrote at night and slept during the day, but now I work office hours from 9 am until 4 pm or 5 pm. I try to keep to this schedule wherever I am. When I first started writing books I had to be sitting at my desk, it had to be quiet, the chair had to be right ... But after so many years I can write anywhere now. I usually work on more than one book at a time. The planning stage takes the longest; once my thoughts are clear the writing is easy. I finished one book in six days, but usually they take a few months. I never re-read a book because I'm never satisfied with the result. I rarely eat when I'm writing, but I drink a lot of coffee. In the evenings I may go out for dinner or a wine tasting, and on Sundays I like going to the beach early in the morning. Salary: Never less than $50,000 a month. Ambition: Travel. Nury Vittachi, author and columnist Age: 39. Career path: When I was two, my family was chased out of Sri Lanka during the civil war, and we fled to Singapore. I can remember arriving, virtually penniless, and my dad deciding we should stay at the most expensive hotel so that he could use the limousine service for job interviews. He got a job with Unicef before we had to pay the bill. We moved to Britain in 1964, to a town outside London, and I went to school in Yorkshire. I did a Literature and Theology degree at the University of Sheffield, then briefly moved back to Sri Lanka where I got a job at the Ceylon Daily News. I soon returned to Britain and started work at the Sheffield Star. In the early '80s, I worked for all the infamous Fleet Street tabloids, usually on the worst shifts: I did something like 11 days' worth of shifts a week, going straight from one to the next at the Daily Mirror, Express and others. I got married in 1986. We came to Asia on honeymoon, took a little room in Chungking Mansions, liked Hong Kong and decided to stay. Our wedding presents are still in boxes! I started working for a business magazine, then moved to the Post and wrote the Lai See column for nearly 10 years. I have also written eight books - all best-sellers in Hong Kong. I have two adopted children, aged two and four. Vittachi's day: I'm usually wake up at 5.30 am when the kids jump on me, but I like an early start. By 7 am I am usually on the bus to my office in Causeway Bay. I am very disciplined about writing. I get to the office and start churning it out: I do a regular columns (2 scmp, one in feer) as well as work on my books. I write 2,000 to 4,000 words a day, or until my eyes get blurry and I can't take anymore. I've trained myself to be able to write under any circumstances. My first book took two and a half years, but nowadays I can get one out in a couple of months. I write at least three books a year, and it gets easier each time. I plan each book in my head, then start writing. The first third of the book usually goes according to schedule, then the characters come alive in the second part and I have to negotiate with them: by the third part they have taken over. This is how it should work. I live on croissants and coffee during the day. In the afternoons I often have a meeting with one of the orphanages or children's charities I support, and then go home to be with my children. I try to reserve weekends for the family, but I do have various charity events to support. I love what I do: it's very humbling to think I can touch someone I've never met through my books and make them laugh or cry. Salary: At least $60,000 a month. I aim for a minimum of $100,000 per book. Ambition: To write an international bestseller.