Amy Tan working on new book as health improves

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - American novelist Amy Tan is working on a new novel with her health now improved after suffering neurological Lyme disease.

Author Amy Tan sings as part of the Rock Bottom Remainders, a literary garage band, in this 2004 photo. REUTERS/Rock Bottom Remainders Management/Handout

Tan, 55, is mainly known for her books exploring mother-daughter relationships, such as “The Joy Luck Club,” and what it means to be raised as a first generation Asian American but she has also written two children’s books.

She is writing a new novel, collaborating on an original television pilot with director Wayne Wang and co-writer Ron Bass, and creating a libretto for her book “The Bonesetter’s Daughter” which premieres in September 2008 with the San Francisco Opera.

But since 1999 the San Francisco based author has suffered from neurological Lyme disease which was only diagnosed when the disease had reached a late stage, causing fatigue, hallucinations and memory lapses.

She spoke to Reuters about her health and writing:

Q: How is your health?

A: “I am doing really, really well but I am not cured. I did have some terrible moments when I could not memorize anything and it did affect my writing, but I am doing really well now. It makes this huge difference when you have your mind back.”

Q: How did your illness affect you?

A: “It slowed me down, I was writing in circles and could only write short things. I could not concentrate on writing a novel. You find out what is required to write when you are missing some of the pieces of your brain. I also learned what an amazing thing the brain is as it keeps everything together.”

Q: What are you working on?

A: “I am working on too many things -- a libretto for an opera for 2008, a story for National Geographic and also researching a new novel. I have started parts of it. I am also learning French. I’ve been taking on a little bit too much.”

Q: Why are you learning French?

A: “I come to Paris probably at least twice a year and I have a lot of French friends. I want to be able to read French novels in French. There is something about translation that makes you wonder what you are missing.”

Q: Your last novel was about Burma. Was this a break from your other novels about mother-daughter relationships or upbringing as an Asian American?

A: “I guess I don’t see these huge departures like readers do. There is a continuum for me. I hope as a person I am growing and that I am growing as a writer. The commonality is that I have always been looking for a voice. In many ways that voice is the same voice I have had through all of my books.”

Q: What is your new book about?

A: “I never talk about what a new book is about as it will leave me. There is a story in Chinese where a man goes to a magical place and is overwhelmed by the beauty and the peace. He has to leave and they tell him that if he tells anyone where this place is he will never find it again. That is the metaphor for writing. You are in a secret place and discovering it but once you tell people it is gone.”