Paul Yee is a Canadian who specialises in writing historical fiction about the plight of Chinese people in his home country. Born in Saskatchewan in 1956, he began writing about 20 years ago when a publisher recruited him to pen a children's book about young people living in Vancouver's Chinatown. Yee had grown up in Chinatown and was doing volunteer work there and, as he had already had a short story published in a magazine, he thought: 'Sure, why not? Even if I can't do it, it won't be embarrassing.' The result was Teach me how to fly Sky Fighter. Since then he has written another 11 books, with more than 100,000 copies sold. Some of his titles have won accolades, including the Governor-General's Literary Award in 1966 for his favourite book, Ghost Train. That book was illustrated by Harvey Chan, who was born in Hong Kong. The story follows the fortunes of a girl born with only one arm and how she deals with the difficulties resulting from this handicap. Choon-yi is left behind in China when her father goes off to North America to find work and survives by selling paintings in the market. He writes and invites her to join him, but things don't go according to plan. Yee's other accolades include the Vancouver Book Award for Saltwater City and the British Columbia Book Prize (Sheila Egoff Award) for Tales from Gold Mountain. He likes the work of other authors and remembers as a child being totally amazed by Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. Now he likes John Irving's books, especially A Prayer for Owen Meany. Yee says that, for him, writing is not just about pen and paper, or tapping computer keys. It also involves going out to do research and reading other books. And if he goes some place where he has to wait in a queue, he takes his work along. He works in the kitchen, backyard, bed, living room or dining room - wherever it is comfortable for him. A historian by training, Yee worked for many years as an archivist. That means he gets a lot of ideas from historical documents, such as old photographs or memoirs. 'To make an idea into a story means you have to create a main character, because readers like to follow the thoughts and actions of someone they care about,' he says. 'Then you need to give that character a quest, a mission or a problem to solve: it should be something with high stakes. After that, the story is about the obstacles and challenges that the character has to overcome in order to succeed.' When visiting schools, Yee talks about where he gets his ideas from and how he does his writing. He reads his stories and then answers any questions the students ask. He believes reading is very important. 'Reading is one of the ways we share knowledge and learn new ideas and new possibilities. 'These can be as practical as instructions for setting up a computer, or they can be mind-stretching, fantasy stories.'