In February 1999, Hong Kong became my new home. I grew up on the Australian beach, so this was a strange, at times frustrating world. But I was naïve and hopeful enough to not put too much thought into where I was and what we were doing.
I’d worked as a journalist since graduating (major in creative writing) and for as long as I can remember, wrote creatively in my spare time without any publication luck. Journalism was as close to doing what I loved doing all day while getting paid for it.
Within weeks of being in Hong Kong, I started as the stock market reporter for the South China Morning Post and have written for the newspaper on and off since, most recently as a freelancer, among other communication and writing jobs along the way.
Over time, I became a permanent resident and having lived in Hong Kong for so long, with no intention to leave, I wanted some insight into its future. Since the 1997 handover from Britain to China, countless newspaper column inches were devoted to the Central Government’s plans for One Country, Two Systems, which was how Hong Kong had been governed since. There was always trouble potentially brewing. But despite being more aware of what could happen, we got on with it, because life in Hong Kong stayed pretty much the same. We hoped it always would.
And then, one day in 2014, tens of thousands of people dressed in black t-shirts emerged from downtown stations and took over the streets of Central. Although I saw this swarm from a distance, there was immediately an electric frisson in the air. Then, you could protest against the Mainland. These kids seemed so pleased to be running with that birthright.
For about three months, Central was turned into a campground. If you tried to enter Central from the eastern side of the Island – by car, bus and sometimes by the underground train – it was blocked. The protestors, however, were smiling, peaceful, taking a stance on what they saw as future voting rights being changed by the Mainland during upcoming elections. I went down to see it up close and was amazed – they’d grown herb gardens, used gas stoves to cook noodles, plastered dramatic protest art on building walls, played music and studied textbooks under umbrellas, even during late summer deluges. Eventually, they were pepper sprayed; forced to go. We all said: “They’ll be back”. But secretly, I thought that when they did, it would not be peaceful.
That’s when inspiration hit – a novel about disparate people in Hong Kong for various reasons and a huge, violent protest looming, which is why one of my characters is a protest organiser. I wanted to explore why they felt emboldened to face China’s might. But my book is not just about protests or political change. That was one way to expose the multi-layers of Hong Kong society, considering most people see it only as a tourist hotspot.
My Road to Publication
My family and I spent two years in Sydney while my eldest son finished school there. During this hiatus, writing the book became a way of keeping a connection. I sent the manuscript to a few publishers and agents with no luck. Determined, I reworked it again and again and again. I can’t stress enough the importance of that finickity process. Back in Hong Kong, I tried more agents and – as my husband said – “The rejections are getting much better”.
It was during this time protestors were back on the streets. But they were angry, organised and structured. Violence ensued. I knew my book had to get out from my personal clutches. I sent it to Lauren Parsons at Legend Times and in late 2019, the acceptance email arrived. I’d always told myself that the day I got published, I’d open a bottle of very good champagne a supportive friend had given me for just that moment. But instead, I was prepping for a colonoscopy the night Lauren’s email arrived, having turned a certain age that year (!) So instead, I was guzzling that vile pre-op liquid. I’ve drunk enough champagne since to make up for it.
My book is character-driven mystery set in Hong Kong, but some chapters travel to the UK, Australia and China as I delve into backstories and how each person came to be in the city.
(c) Suzanne Harrison
Follow me on Instagram @suzannejs.455 or on Twitter @suzannej123
About The Colour of Thunder:
One small island, six troubled lives, and the storm of the century is on its way.
In one of the world’s most vibrant international cities, present day Hong Kong, the lives of six people become irreversibly intertwined. The past is catching up with those running from it, while the futures of others hangs dangerously in the balance. But who knows the most? And what will they do to keep it that way?
‘I thoroughly enjoyed reading this gripping and intriguing mystery… Not only is the story full of deep secrets and provocative characters but it also captures the many compelling and diverse facets of Hong Kong in the narrative. This captivating and dynamic book is a must for anyone who enjoys a stormy atmospheric ride set in a city rich in culture and intrigue.’ Jules Hannaford, author of Fool Me Twice, Podcaster of Hong Kong Confidential
‘I was utterly immersed in this complex, intriguing, vividly atmospheric tale of Hong Kong.’ Charity Norman
Order your copy online here.