From a TV newsreader in Sydney to a hotelier’s wife in the heart of China – this is a true story of reinvention, love, and finding your place in the world.
Nicole Webb and her husband, James, are always up for an adventure, so when James is offered a job in the ancient city of Xi’an in north-west China, they jump at the chance. Nicole, James and three-year-old Ava pack up their home in Hong Kong and fly into a world they know nothing about — a place where they know no one.
Touching down, culture shock hits Nicole head on. It feels as if all eyes are on her and Ava, the only blondes in the jam-packed arrivals hall, two foreigners, so far from home.
With honesty and humour, Nicole takes us on a journey of daily life in the Middle Kingdom at a time when the whole world is looking towards China.
We follow her search for friendship and acceptance where she discovers, no matter what your culture or background, we’re connected the world over by the common thread of humanity.
CHINA BLONDE gives us a very personal insight, told with a journalist’s eye view, into the lives of those who embraced Nicole with open arms. Her experience along the way will resonate with anyone who’s ever built a life in a new home – be it across the city or across the world.
Briefly describe your book’s core message:
China Blonde is all about taking risks to live a life less ordinary. It’s about losing our identity and having the courage to reinvent ourselves all over again and how we can all adapt to change if we choose. At the end of the day, no matter what country or culture we’re from, we all crave community connection and belonging, the world over.
China Blonde is being inside the Middle Kingdom and looking out with a story that’s not often heard about — the real China behind the headlines.
Let's talk about it
Tell us something about yourself that not many people know.
When I was a shy little girl, I wanted to be a librarian, so I could read all the books in peace…somewhere along the way the bookshelves were replaced with Hollywood. Of course, that didn’t happen, but I did become a television newsreader, until I gave it all away for that thing called Carpe Diem.
Why did you choose these themes in your book and were you aware of them from the outset?
I wanted to talk about identity because until you’re removed from everything you know you don’t often realise what your identity is and how much it binds you. I also wanted to touch on friendships, because these are the glue that hold life together. And being an expat in a foreign country you tend to meet people from all over the world, from all walks of life, many that you’d never normally strike up a relationship with, and it intrigued me to watch these friendships grow. Of course, I also wanted to touch on relationships, my relationship with my husband because without that being as solid as it was, I don’t think I would’ve had the guts to go and live overseas in my late thirties, pregnant with our first child, especially in a country like China. I wanted to look at how important it is to be on the same page. And I wanted to look at belonging. No matter who we are, we all want to belong in some way and that was evident for me more than ever when I couldn’t have been any more of an outsider in Xi’an if I tried.
How difficult was it for you to write this book? Did you face any obstacles?
My obstacles were mostly in learning the craft of memoir. While I am a journalist and blogger, writing a book is nothing like writing a one-minute news story or a 1000-word blog post. Once I left China and got back to Sydney, opportunities came up to do a lot of different courses in the field and I found an amazing mentor and coach who helped me go through the motions.
Do you always write in this genre or do you like to break out of the box?
This is my first book so no, I’ve never written in this genre.
What are your writing habits or idiosyncrasies?
Procrastination by coffee!
My only habit is to never give up….no matter how long it takes.
What would you do differently next time?
Probably so many things, but that’s only because I’ve learned so much from the ground up. I’m a bit more knowledgeable about how the industry as a whole works and who pulls what strings.
As far as writing goes, I would try to get a full draft down as quickly as possible.
With hindsight, what would you say to yourself as a fledgling writer?
Don’t give up! There will be times when it seems an insurmountable task to achieve… but if you do one thing at a time, you can get there. You just have to believe in yourself.
If you worked with a professional editor, what was the experience like?
Incredible. I hadn’t worked with a professional editor before and I was so scared to open the edited document when it came back, but what came was an absolute surprise. My editor had managed to cut things out without me even realising what bits they were and kept my voice authentic the entire way through. I was so impressed.
What’s next for your writing?
I have started (in the loosest sense of the word) a contemporary fiction novel set in Hong Kong about a group of women who come from all over the globe for one reason or another to live in Hong Kong. They are smart, sassy, fiercely loyal and wounded women but Hong Kong brings out the best in them…eventually.
Hailing from the land of the long white cloud, New Zealand, Nicole Webb moved to Australia as a teenager with her family. There she went on to pursue her dream of becoming a television journalist and newsreader.
After a decade at Sky News doing just that, Nicole (and baby bump) and her husband, James, who works in 5-Star hotels, decided to do something akin to carpe diem.
A few deep breaths later, Nicole and James found themselves in the city that never sleeps, Hong Kong, where the family, which now included blondie Ava, survived and thrived for four years before moving to Xi’an, China, where they lived for almost three years.
Nicole, James and Ava are now back in Sydney, for the time being, where Nicole works as a journalist, writer and speaker. China Blonde is Nicole’s first book.