Hong Kong single mother forks out HK$10,000 to publish romance novel inspired by her painful marriage
Gigi Lau urges Hongkongers to rediscover the joy of reading, as she pursues writing dream by cultivating an online following
Not everyone would be willing to fork out HK$10,000 of their hard-earned money to publish a book, but a turn of life events five years ago, which saw Hongkonger Gigi Lau, back in the city of her birth, luggage in tow at the airport and five months pregnant, spurred her to put her experience into prose.
The 35-year-old office clerk and aspiring author first posted drafts of her story online in 2015. A year later, she dug into her own pockets to print From The Bottom Of My Heart, a romance novel about a couple broken up by fate but with the belief they would reunite one day.
Lau has sold 100 copies of her debut title to date, and is aiming to complete three other books while working as a single mother to raise her five-year-old daughter. She has recouped only 5 per cent of her investment in the paperback, but counts this as a necessary loss to further her dream.
Known as Miss Independent to her online readers, she says: “Many Hong Kong authors are putting their works online, as a way to test the waters before deciding to go through with publication.”
She was also inspired by viral novel Lost on a Red Minibus to Tai Po by internet user Mr Pizza, she says. The work was later made into the Cantonese film The Midnight After.
Lau’s own story started in 2008, when she quit her marketing job and went to Britain on a study trip. She worked to support herself and later met a local resident who would become her husband. The couple married but there was no happily ever after.
“I didn’t have much of a choice back then. A lot of factors went into the separation,” Lau says. “There was a lot of misunderstanding with his family, and most importantly, it was the death of his father just a few days after our wedding that triggered it.
“There was a lot of blame involved ... so in the end I left and came back to Hong Kong.”
Five months pregnant and having endured a 20-hour flight from Bournemouth, Lau arrived in the city dizzy from the whirlwind of events in Britain and uncertain about her future.
The couple divorced in the end and Lau is no longer on speaking terms with her ex-husband.
The pain from the breakdown of her marriage led her to revisit a childhood passion: writing. After numerous online drafts, she published her first book in 2016.
“Having been through what I went through, I was new again to the city and trying my best to get used to the lifestyle here again. I was very fragile emotionally but when I wrote, I felt powerful,” she says.
“I refused to let myself go because I knew I needed to carry on and get it together for my daughter.”
“I am not looking for a fortune from my works,” Lau says. “Putting your writing online is something that local authors are beginning to do. I just want others to see my creativity. Real fans ... even after they’ve read the story online, would want to purchase the actual paperback.”
Lau intends to forge on and realise her dream of writing full-time one day.
“It’s nice to know your fans are chasing the chapters and sometimes they would offer feedback which encourages me to go on,” she says.
“Not enough of us in Hong Kong read. People are not enjoying the process of reading. Instead they are reading for academic reasons.
“When you read, it opens your eyes and you’re able to travel anywhere.”