Author John Saeki talks us through the process of writing his new novel, The Tiger Hunters of Tai O.

The Tiger Hunters of Tai O came into existence as a direct result of hiking on Lantau island.

Hikes are a great way of putting yourself in touch with places that have resisted change over the decades. You can walk off the main road and immediately find yourself transported to a physical environment that is similar to that in the 1800s, the 1910s or the 1950s. I remember being at Tung Chung Fort and reading up on how the Hong Kong police had used it as a base decades ago and I started wondering what life would have been like for young recruits posted there. Simon Lee, the Eurasian officer banished from Central to Lantau, came to life early on.

I didn’t really have any plot in mind but I’d go on walks with my girlfriend Catherine — who is thankfully my wife now — and I’d start describing him and the things he got up to. He didn’t have a name then but I figured out the backstory of how he ended up on Lantau early on. He was definitely a city boy thrown into a backwater, he was out of place, but he had his own way of connecting with the locals. He was probably a bit like James Herriot thrown into deep-dark Yorkshire as a vet, though that wasn’t intentional.