I like Stories About Tragic Rich People, Don’t You? :)

Hello! I answered this question on the Pulse It boards but thought I would re-post here too.

One question that a lot of you guys want to know is: why write about super-rich people?

Well, I have to blame the escapist entertainment of my youth. I have always loved stories about mega-rich, mega-tragic people, like Dynasty, Dallas and Falcon Crest, and when I was a kid, I sneakily read all of my mom’s Jackie Collins and Judith Krantz books. Those books were all about people whose problems were on a larger scale in every way – diamonds, jets, furs, cheating boyfriends of aristocratic heritage. I loved them. The world they showed was so different from the world I lived in.

But also: Not TOO different.

When I was growing up in Manila, my mother’s family lived in a four-mansion estate, walled in and guarded by sentries, and I was brought up on stories of fortunes lost and won, married into and out of, and the strict rules of being in “society”. (An ordinary conversation around the table would be like, “Oh, Lola, she could have married the heir to the [BIGGEST ELECTRIC COMPANY IN THE COUNTRY], he was so in love with her, but she didn’t, and now look what happened.”) It was like a 19th century novel—you know, she could have married Mr. Darcy! My grandfather was from a very wealthy, landed Chinese family, who disowned him for marrying my grandmother, who was Filipino-Spanish. (My grandmother’s family wasn’t too shabby either—she was a debutante and from a prominent Spanish line. But you know, she wasn’t Chinese, which didn’t sit well with my grandfather’s fam.) On my dad’s side, there were vast provincial holdings, real-estate and ties to the Marcos clan, (my grandmother was one of Imelda Marcos’s Blue Ladies – a “lady in waiting”).

When I was little my parents would have our clothes custom-made for three months of travel to Europe. My dad had a tailor in Hong Kong and all his suits made there. Vacations were on private beaches, sometimes private islands (flown there by friend’s private jets). It was this lush, kind of feudal life and it all ended when my dad’s investment bank went under and we had to move to America and become humble immigrants.

But I still remembered what it was like: the chauffeurs, the servants, the entitlement. My parent’s glamorous, crazy parties. My mom teaching me how to put together a dinner menu with our chef. The thought that I would have to learn to cook never crossed either of our minds! All good famiies had personal chefs. What I needed to learn was how to plan dinner menus!

So in a way, my childhood had become, for me, as fantastical as the stories in Judith Krantz’s novels. Because it was gone in a poof. And now we were living in America, working at the mall, and all that ordinary stuff. (I had never seen my mother wash dishes until we moved here.)

My stories are my escape, and also a remembrance of what my life was like, a way to reconnect with my childhood.