I have been following Emmey’s journey of writing for a long time, almost since the beginning of it which is 10 years back, in 2005. As her third or fourth novel Love Under the Hawthorn Tree became a national book sensation among the Chinese readers, I proudly told my friends and family:” you know what, I have witnessed every minute of the rise of Emmey and her work. In fact, I contributed a few short commentaries that are now included in some of her books. ”
I don’t think, as an ordinary reader, you and I would have many such opportunities in our life time to be right there to watch how a person ascended the mountain of success, so to speak.
Yet, fame is not what she was after and she still doesn’t take it in her hands, in a sense. Why would I say that? For the starters, we still don’t know who Emmey really is. No one out of her social circle has seen her pictures or knows her real name or where she lives about, except for that alias “Emmey”.
Well, I come to think of it, really? How could someone just turn her back on popularity? Would I be able to not embrace fame with both hands?
That’s also precisely why attacks of the speculative, presumptuous, malicious and utterly ridiculous nature have once found her. Some netizens claimed that she was not who she appeared to be in her essays and her husband’s, and that she dared not displaying her true identity. They painted a picture where Emmey was distorted to be someone else, and with Emmey’s continued reticence on her true identity, they decried “silence is proof that our attacks are on point.”
As I was there from the beginning, having read all her articles and her husbands and her friends’, being familiar with all the personalities written about in those, I sat back and watched the whole hate farce with some amusement and a lot of admiration for who Emmey is as a person.
Emmey’s husband continued to post witty articles of their family life, which centered around their two lovely children and the great-grandma, while the haters continued to self-split by on one side criticizing the moralities of the characters in Emmey’s articles and meanwhile accusing the articles themselves to be utterly conjured out of imagination.
You guessed right. She is not a pushover, not a man-pleaser, which is why I figured some people turned to hate her from an originally admirer’s position. She said, “ I don’t want those people’s ‘like’ anyway.”
She is right. One of the main haters was going after her for years because of one small incidence: in reply to several of that hater’s tongue-in-the-cheek remarks on Emmey’s first novel, Emmey told that person curtly ‘ please feel free to not come back to read my story.’
That person, arguably someone who took it for granted that herself being a “patron” of Emmey’s free story posts online should have deserved much more gratitude and groveling from the author, was immediately set off in anger. “ How dare you, Emmey, not to appreciate our appreciation of your writing? We are your customers, your partrons, watch your attitude. “
Emmey never watched her attitude. In fact, her attitude never changed according to the preferences of her wide base of readership. She never turned a tad bit more bitter or pernicious under the spades of attacks, and never softened a bit so as to invite more sympathy or to lessen the waves of assaults – she churned out rebuffs which exposed the logical fallacies of the haters’ posts without trying to defend herself. She simply didn’t take the bait.
With so many celebrities’ appearances and personalities being shaped and molded by their fans’ likes and dislikes, you can’t help but respect the courage and ease to be oneself under huge popularity pressure.
You can tell a person’s character by their qualities in a war. You can tell more of a person’s character by their life outside of a war.
For years, Emmey has been writing or re-creating people’s true life stories. She told the readers” I don’t bother to make up fictional story lines. “ From her first novel (10 years on the Swing) to this most recent one( The Blue Wedding Band), her stories have been all based on the true accounts of her acquaintances.
As some critic has pointed out, her stories can be seen as love mysteries or even romantic detective novels, usually featuring a girl-of-your-neighbor kind of young woman who is genuinely in-sophisticated about men and relationships and who searches the answer to the long-hanging-in-the-air question “ does he love me or not?”.
That “he”, as you will read to find out, usually is the type a worthy man who possesses a dashing look, a gentleman’s mannerism and an altruistic heart. You may argue, they all resemble to a certain extent, Emmey’s husband who had been the main character of her very first novel. By the way, that novel itself brought Emmey and her man together after a ten-year break of their relationship.
Are you thinking of Cinderella now? I may agree with you, as a female reader, that seeing the protagonist in her books eventually land the ideal man gives me the same thrilling I had when I read the “happily ever after” fairy tales as a little girl. Yet what is so fantastic about Emmey’s books is, the princes are real and you get to size them up and to look inside them here and there. You get to touch the true texture of a noble character without losing the enjoyment of the artistic arrangements of a novel as you might in a non-fiction article.
Who hasn’t dreamt about the galvanizing prince riding on a white horse coming to rescue you, the ordinary damsel (at least according to your self-appraisal?) in distress? Isn’t every single Disney movie and every single Hollywood movie about that? Yes. But how do you like it when this prince died at age 25, or was accused to be a sex-offender, or had a broken face, or too young(what ? a cradle-rocker the protagonist?), or.. simply declared himself to be gay? What are all these princes thinking? Are they crazy? Or is Emmey crazy?
No, again, Emmey didn’t pull those characters out of thin air. She simply narrated their stories. She is this curator of exquisite taste and a particular eye for beauty in persons, choosing among authentic life experiences the most awe-inspiring ones and weaving them into stories with her witty, extremely-clean and suspenseful style.
Did I tell you she writes stories in her spare time and she is a mother of two, a bioinformatics professional with a ph.D in English literatures? Can you imagine producing 3000 words every other day faithfully for.. nothing? In the beginning, before someone discovered and published Love Under The Hawthorn Tree, when there was no publishing contracts on the horizon and her sole reward in writing was simply to entertain herself and her peers, she stuck to the rigorous writing schedule. Such self-discipline.
Even later when her publishers warned her that posting her stories first online in their entirety will result in a steep plunge in paper-book revenues, she insisted on doing what she always does: give her online followers a full fore-taste. She may be able to make tens of thousands $ more if she could have just cut it off in the middle and “leave us wanting more”.
What? She is not doing this for the money, or the fame? Is she crazy?
So, people trust her and start to knock on her doors to offer their stories. She has indeed a pantry of such precious life accounts to pick and choose and she does choose. Not every single moment in life or every section of your journey or every person that shows up in our lives, is worthy of our time to remember. What I am personally grateful to her is that she gives us scenic windows to see the goodness, the genuine, unidealized, unromanticized(ironically), non-fictional goodness in men and women, to see their struggling and growth and epiphanies.
Who writes about goodness these days? “ Aren’t you cold on the high moral ground” As Maggie smith’s character in Downton Abbey would cleverly put it. No, Emmey isn’t more interested in false hypocritical chicken-soup-for-the-soul heros than we do. She is dedicated to depict the nobilities of a person during unforeseeable crises. She doesn’t wish that to happen, she doesn’t ornament humanity with imaginary traits, she simply unveil the beauty in people.
Honestly, that’s not the fad these days. With all the sit-coms competing on “who creates the most adorable character with the most complicated but forgivable, and vividly demonstrable sins (making meth, sleeping with teenagers, cheating on their spouses repeatedly) ?” , writing a common person’ life that involves a good faithful man(albeit handsome), oh, boring? No “gossip girl” glamour(where everyone is everyone’s soulmate and no, nothing of the self-control sort) for sure, but nothing less than a sensation, each time.
This time, the girl, the protagonist being a little pragmatic and hence middling in the beginning, managed to grow to be wise in her decisions and pure in her motives in pursuing love and marriage. Her epiphany comes from her encounter of some mediocre man who she had strung along as a back-up option, and her reading of Emmey’s life story. When she finally left all self-interest behind to chase the love in her life, the man broke the news that he was gay.
Before that climax, the readers have long suspected that he didn’t have an attraction to females based on his acts as portrayed by Emmey. The layers of that man’s mystery intrigued the readers for 50+ episodes, leaving the readers so wonderfully perplexed in a cloud of mixed signals – precisely how the protagonist had felt while she was experiencing it. Should I spoil the end? Hmmm.
The pleasure from reading Emmey’s books, comes from how intricately she leaves clues and impressions while thickening the mystery all at the same time. A reader would be reaping small excitement here and there by cracking a little part of the mystery with Emmey’s clues, but only finds themselves landing in a space further into the forest. This is exactly the path the protagonist had walked though in her real life, crystalized and repainted with lights focused on key events and persons for you, the dear readers.