BLOND, FAIR-SKINNED Australian Kylie Chan lived in Hong Kong for 10 years as what she calls 'a Chinese wife'. So when she decided to try writing a book four years ago, it seemed natural to draw on her life here for inspiration. But for Chan - her marriage over and living back in Australia with her children - this was to be no memoir or travelogue, nor a fictionalised account of her working life as a mobile IT consultant to Hong Kong expatriates. Rather, the ardent reader of fantasy and science fiction - 'a good escape from the life of a single mum in suburbia' - wrote a fantasy trilogy, summoning up the gods and goddesses worshipped in Hong Kong, and the demons who seek to destroy them. In the world Chan has created, the gods and demons live on Earth in human form, their battles taking place in modern-day Hong Kong - an apartment on the Peak, a house in Guangzhou, even the Jockey Club. Chan's heroine, Emma, is human - an Australian nanny to the daughter of wealthy businessman John Chen, the alter ego of Xuan Wu, also known as the Dark Emperor and Pak Tai, who has a temple dedicated to him. Other key players are Bai Hu (the White Tiger), Kwan Yin, Qing Long and Zhu Que. Chan says she'd be surprised if any Hongkongers were offended by the idea of their gods being used to create a fantasy world. 'I sincerely hope not,' she says. 'I haven't checked with anyone. Some characters are regulars on TV. They're more like mythology than a religion. I'm just continuing the storytelling tradition. 'I've stuck as much as I can to the canon of the mythology, although it's different with Xuan Wu because there are so many stories about him. I've done lots of research on the Tao and Buddhist religions. 'I hope I haven't offended anyone, but I wasn't expecting interest from China,' says Chan, whose publishers and agent are trying to sell worldwide rights to her lively and highly readable stories. Chan says she researched Chinese mythology through the internet and libraries, but was hampered because she doesn't read Chinese. 'When you're in Hong Kong, you just see the surface - the Monkey King flying past on TV in an advert for peanuts. When I went into it and researched it, the stories started to emerge and they're wonderful.' Chan won a three-book contract from HarperCollins' fantasy imprint, Voyager, after taking a course with HarperCollins chief editor Linda Funnell at the Queensland Writer's Centre. Although she'd already written the entire trilogy - each book almost 600 pages - she showed Funnell only 10 pages. 'It's awful to be 40 years old then suddenly realise you're a born writer,' Chan says. 'It's an absolute blast! It's one of the most fun things I've done in a long time. Pulling apart computers - I don't have to do that any more.' The first volume of her Dark Heavens Trilogy, White Tiger, is just out, to be followed by Red Phoenix in February. And her fourth book is well under way. 'The story is definitely not over yet. There are nine books in my fevered imagination.' Chan says the fantasy genre sparks ideas and inspires her, offering something beyond the everyday realm. 'I have an inquiring mind and want to see a fantasy world that's unusual, and I love to be surprised. You can wield a weapon and fight monsters. When I started, it was great fun creating my world.' She began writing fantasy because she ran out of books to read. And she had often thought she could do just as good a job as many of the authors she read. 'I devoured everything on the fantasy shelves in the bookshops. I can read a novel in a day easily. 'I thought, 'This is the height of the J.K. Rowling thing. There's money to be made in this, but I have to come up with something different. I have access to my Chinese culture and I could use that.' It grew from there. 'Being married to a Chinese man for 20 years, I spent more than half my life living as a Chinese. There's a different way of living than the western way.' Canberra-born Chan, who has a business degree in IT and worked as a computer programmer after university, met her husband in Australia. They married in a traditional ceremony in China in 1985, as well as having a white wedding in Australia. The couple lived in Australia for the first seven years of their marriage, then moved to Hong Kong when her husband was offered a good job. They had a small flat in North Point and spent time with her husband's parents in Western. 'I was lucky my mother-in-law doesn't speak a word of English - there was nothing to argue about,' says Chan, whose Cantonese is 'pretty awful'. Her in-laws 'were great, provided I showed them the right amount of respect'. With son William and daughter Madeleine, the Chans moved to South Horizons, then Kowloon City and later Sha Tin. Those locations, along with places they went for holidays - Britain, France, Borneo and Australia - all feature in Chan's fiction. 'I wanted to share what Hong Kong was like with readers from the west,' she says. 'A lot of people from Australia have no idea about Hong Kong - the concept of Filipino helpers, for example. 'There are two layers to Hong Kong: the slick, western surface that you see in Central; then if you head to Western district, that's 100 per cent Chinese.' Chan visited Hong Kong several times to fact-check locations as she wrote. Now she's a full-time writer, scraping by on her advances, a lack of funds means she's losing touch with the city. 'I'll have to go back and do some research,' she says. 'There are places I have to go, myths I have to bring up.' By and large, she lets the stories write themselves. 'It's been like sitting on top of a runaway stage coach driven by the characters themselves. I'm just holding the reins. It's been like a movie unfolding in my head. The story started to grow and I'd need to find out something about a character.' Future volumes will take readers to Hanoi and Japan, so Chan is planning trips there. She's also working on a website, so fans can follow the adventures of Emma and the god she falls in love with. WRITER'S NOTES Genre Fantasy Latest book Dark Heavens Book One: White Tiger (Voyager, A$20.99 [HK$125], dymocks.com.au) Age 41 Born Canberra, Australia Lives Brisbane Family Son William, 18; daughter Madeleine, 11 Other jobs Computer programmer; IT consultant Next projects Dark Heavens Book Two: Red Phoenix and Dark Heavens Book Three: Blue Dragon Author's bookshelf Giants of the Frost by Kim Wilkins 'Kim blends Norse mythology and modern-day science into a love story that reaches far beyond the everyday.' Nylon Angel by Marianne de Pierres 'A fast-paced and razor-sharp ride through a future that is disturbingly possible.' The Stone Mage and the Sea by Sean Williams 'Something different from any other fantasy I've read - magic and adventure in a world with a distinctly Australian twist.' The T'En Trilogy by Cory Daniells 'A riveting fantasy set in a world where two races struggle for supremacy and the heroine must choose which people to support with her unique powers.' Medalon by Jennifer Fallon 'It's addictive, as the depth of the characters and the world they live in unfolds.'