Whoever came up with the idea if inviting Welsh Chinese writer Peter Ho Davies to the Festival deserves a medal. What a star.
On stage with US-based New Zealand novelist Paula Morris he was totally at ease, charming, articulate and entertaining and the largest audience of the Festival thus far went away afterwards content with an hour well spent.
I felt for Paula Morris, recently arrived from the US with a heavy cold which has left her with a crumbling voice but she battled nobly on and was an excellent Chair for Davies. They are of a similar age one suspects, they both have three books published and they are both foreigners in the U.S. where they teach creative writing, Davies at Michigan and Morris in Louisiana.
Davies makes for an interesting subject. Born in Coventry to a Malaysian Chinese mother and a Welsh father, university degrees in both quantum physics and English, two collections of award-winning short stories and a widely acclaimed novel published, and named in 2003 as one of Granta's twent "Best of Young Britsih Novelists", (this before he had published a novel!). With all this material to mine Morris had an easy task filling in the hour and her thoughtful questions led to her subject talking about short stories v the novel, the opportunity short fiction provided him to deal with his mixed ethnic heritage, the seven years it took him to write The Welsh Girl, the danger of fictionalising real people, (Rudolf Hess in his case), previous doubts about his Welshness, how he is categorised as a writer- Chinese Welsh, British, American, Asian American, - all of thee but really none of these, he raised a laugh when he threw Sino Celtic as a possible definition!
There was also informative discussion on the writing process, his crossing of the Atlantic to take up a teaching post, the teaching of creative writing, the difficult balance between family, teaching & writing, and his wife also being a writer . Davies provided lengthy, thoughtful answers both to questions from the Chair and from the audience.