"Nine Fold Heaven’s Camilla: Character study and development" by Mingmei Yip
Nine Fold Heaven’s Camilla: Character study and development
by Mingmei Yip
I like to write about strong woman characters who are determined to survive and, against all odds, achieve success and happiness. My most recent female protagonists are a spy and a magician in The Nine Fold Heaven and Skeleton Women. My first novel, Peach Blossom Pavilion, is about China’s last courtesan. My other heroines include an adventurer and aspiring writer in Song of the Silk Road, and a would-be-Buddhist nun in Petals from the Sky. All were thrust onto an unexpected path in life through no choice of their own and are forced to use their limited resources to reinvent their lives.
The night club singer Camilla in The Nine Fold Heaven and Skeleton Women was an orphan who, rescued by the gangster Big Brother Wang, was forced to become a spy. From childhood, she was forced to learn the four nothingnesses: no attachments; no feelings; no conscience; no friends. Her gangster boss expects her to kill without mercy, but then she falls in love with Jinying, the son of Master Lung, the very man she is expected to murder. Worse, she also falls for Lung’s most trusted bodyguard, Gao.
Camilla needs to use every bit of courage and cunning she possesses to get out of this dangerous situation. If she kills Lung, his son Jinying will never forgive her, and Lung’s bodyguard Gao, her other lover, might kill her. But if she does not kill Lung, she will be killed by her own boss, Big Brother Wang.
Although Camilla was never taught love or compassion, only to scheme and kill, love seeps in her life through one of her spy’s accomplishments – singing. Through her singing lessons Camilla came to recognize her emotions. She is well aware that singing has opened a dangerous door, but she still can’t help but fall in love with two of the men in her life.
Pregnant by one of her lovers, she secretly gives birth to a baby but is told that he was stillborn. Learning from dreams that her son might still be alive, she risks everything to find him and reunite with his father.
Many “what ifs” in Camilla’s life could have led her to a very different fate. If her parents had not been murdered by the gangster boss so he could use her as his secret weapon, she would have been an ordinary, decent, law-abiding girl and lived un uneventful life. Fate forced her to be a scheming and heartless assassin – but then she fell in love. Once she experiences love, she cannot turn back.
But Camilla was not born to be evil. Forced into a life she did not want she manages to use her cunning against her gangster boss and escape his cruel world. I think most can sympathize with her and be glad not to have had the difficult life she has had. I would like my readers to ponder the different lives fate brings us and the limits to our choices.
Mingmei Yip was born in China, received her Ph.D. from the University of Paris, Sorbonne, and held faculty appointments at the Chinese University and Baptist University in Hong Kong. She’s published five books in Chinese, written several columns for seven major Hong Kong newspapers, and has appeared on over forty TV and radio programs in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Mainland China, and the U.S. She immigrated to the United States in 1992, where she now lives in New York City.