From GIS to Global Bestseller: A Literary Journey with alumna Yangsze Choo

Embark on a literary journey with Yangsze Choo, a distinguished member of our alumni community from the Class of ’89. Renowned as the author of the captivating novel “The Ghost Bride,” Yangsze Choo achieved remarkable success, securing a spot on the New York Times best-seller list. Not only did her literary prowess gain recognition, but the novel was also handpicked as a Best Book by The novel’s rich narrative later found its way onto the screen as the Netflix-original series “The Ghost Bride,” bringing her storytelling brilliance to a global audience. Following this triumph, Yangsze Choo continued to weave enchanting tales with her second novel, “The Night Tiger,” a Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick, as well as a Big Jubilee Read for Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee, and now unveils her latest literary gem, “The Fox Wife.” For those eager to delve into the realms of her latest creation, be sure to visit her website to secure a copy.

Visit to explore Yangsze Choo’s latest literary masterpiece, “The Fox Wife,” and immerse yourself in a world where storytelling transcends boundaries and captivates the imagination. Yangsze Choo, invites readers to embark on a new adventure, following the success of her previou New York Times best-sellers, “The Ghost Bride” and “The Night Tiger”. Her storytelling finesse has not only garnered literary acclaim but has also left an indelible mark on screens worldwide through the Netflix-original series inspired by her debut novel. As we celebrate her literary journey, don’t miss the opportunity to add “The Fox Wife” to your collection and witness the continued brilliance of a truly remarkable alumna.

Your debut novel, “The Ghost Bride,” not only became a New York Times best-seller but also inspired a Netflix-original series. How did the transition from writing the novel to seeing it adapted for the screen influence your perspective on storytelling?

I wasn’t involved in the screenplay of the Netflix series, as the story is different from the novel, but it was really fun to see it take a different form. I think stories, as we pass them along, acquire a life of their own as they enter other people’s imaginations. I was lucky enough to visit the set of Netflix production while they were filming and I loved seeing how all the different creative elements had come together in new and imaginative ways, such as the gorgeous sets, the costumes and all the thought that gone into them, as well as talking to the actors, the director and producers and other folks behind the scenes who began to imagine and dream of this world. 


“The Night Tiger” and now “The Fox Wife” showcase your ability to blend historical fiction with elements of mystery and the supernatural. What draws you to explore these themes in your work, and how do you approach weaving them into your narratives?

I’ve always been drawn to strange tales that make you wonder what really happened. All of my books were actually prompted by this feeling of curiosity about old stories. For The Ghost Bride, t was about the marriage to the dead, and for both The Night Tiger and The Fox Wife, the idea of shapeshifters (harimau jadian, and foxes) that might live amongst us pretending to be human. The first chapter of each novel really came out of questions I had about the unknown, and how to explain these odd happenings. I don’t write with an outline, which is sometimes to my detriment, but when things are flowing well, it’s really exciting to see the story unfolding on the page before me, in ways which weave together both wonder, curiosity, as well as historical elements that I find very interesting. It’s a bit like listening to music, when you’re trying to balance different themes. Of course, the downside to not having an outline is that you can also really get stuck!

As a member of the GIS alumni from the Class of ’89, how do you believe your experiences at GIS contributed to your journey as an author? Are there specific memories or lessons from your time at GIS that have influenced your storytelling?

I was lucky enough to enjoy my English classes at GIS. I remember writing little essays and stories, as well as the fresh cardboard scent of our brown exercise books when they were handed out at the beginning of term. The wide lines, that I tried to fill with neat handwriting, and how we had to bend the covers back a few times so they would lie flat. In fact, the memory of getting new exercise books and the excitement I felt about them went into a little detail of The Night Tiger, on p6, when Ji Lin thinks about missing school.


Your books often delve into cultural and historical contexts. How do you go about researching and incorporating these elements into your novels to ensure an authentic portrayal of the settings and time periods you explore?

I’ve always enjoyed reading about history, and the wonderful thing about writing fiction is that you get to research your interests while you’re writing. In fact, you could say that the books are set during those times because I was already familiar with that period and could then picture the world of the novel unfolding. I also like to write about places I’ve been to, because there’s so much about a setting, including how the clouds look, or the scent of the sea, that helps to bring a story to life for the reader. The Night Tiger, for example, was inspired by a number of train rides I took as a child on the old KTM railway, the one with no aircon in third class, which went very slowly. I remember seeing the green jungle pass before the windows, the rattle of the carriage, and feeling like I had gone back in time. 


The literary world is evolving, with increasing emphasis on diverse voices and perspectives. How do you see your role as an author in contributing to the broader conversation about representation and diversity in literature?

I started writing because these were topics that I found odd and interesting, like Chinese ghost marriages, weretigers, and fox spirits. I wasn’t really thinking about a broader audience (perhaps because I never really expected to be published!), but it’s been wonderful to hear from readers across SE Asia, from my fellow Malaysians, to Filipinos, Sri Lankans, Taiwanese and more, about how these themes and beliefs have resonated with them. Many readers tell me that they have similar folklore in their family histories, which has been really lovely. 


Describe GIS in 3 words…

The GIS I knew was first in a much older building, then moved to the new school, so my memories of it are probably different from those of many younger students, but I do remember seeing the old school, which seemed to me like a colonial building or house, for the first time and feeling the sunshine on my face. It seemed very tropical to me—my family had just moved back to Malaysia from Germany where we had been living, and the colours and the strong sunlight struck me as completely different from the muted German countryside. So for three words, maybe: sunlight, green, darkness (for how dark the building appeared inside compared to the outside).

GIS has a vibrant community, and many current students aspire to pursue creative careers. What advice would you offer to aspiring writers or individuals interested in the literary field, drawing from your own experiences and journey as an author?

I would encourage young writers to write what you think is truly interesting, not what you hope the market wants. I think readers can tell when a writer is fully engaged with their work, and it is that enthusiasm that carries across the page. Also, if you want to be a writer or an artist, such as a musician, sculptor, or painter, it is good to have a day job! Most of us do—I worked a corporate job for many years, while many of my author friends teach or have other jobs. This is very “auntie advice” from me, but I think it is practical, especially when you are young and starting out. 🙂 

Thank you so much for having me, it’s been a pleasure and an honour!


Special thanks to Yangsze Choo for sharing her remarkable journey, enriching us with the magic of her words, and inspiring the GIS community with her literary brilliance. If you’re eager to share your unique story, we’d love to hear from you! Reach out to us at because every narrative is significant! Alternatively, stay connected with us on social media through Facebook and LinkedIn, or explore more inspiring articles on our Global Alumni Website. If you haven’t registered as a member yet, we invite you to do so via this Link. Your story is an integral part of our shared legacy!