Kevin Kwan talks about the joys of L.A. and the pain of COVID during Festival of Books

Kevin Kwan talks about the joys of L.A. and the pain of COVID during Festival of Books

Kevin Kwan was bicoastal long before he moved to Los Angeles from New York two years ago, but he’s still been delightfully bewildered by the sprawling city.

“So much about L.A. has surprised me in the most wonderful ways,” said the “Crazy Rich Asians” author, whose latest novel, “Sex and Vanity,” was released in June. “I had no idea you guys were hiding such great food out here in L.A., so that was really a welcome surprise, being a complete foodie.”

And as a self-described “huge history buff,” he was also awed by the city’s rich past. “You know, the old Hollywood history; the Pasadena, old-money world; the Spanish land grant families. All these layers of history that I’m delving into and kind of still getting to know. I love unpeeling the city like a little onion.”

During the virtual Los Angeles Festival of Books on Wednesday, Kwan joined “The Royal We” coauthors Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan for a discussion about their latest works with writer Jade Chang moderating. Before the panel, Kwan stopped by for a one-on-one video chat with The Times, touching on life in L.A., the writing process during a pandemic and what’s next for him.

“There really was this East Coast snobbery about New York being the cultural capital of the world, and it was just amazing for me to come out to L.A. and discover the art scene, for example,” said Kwan.

But some preconceptions have held true. “People do talk about traffic and how to get places in that SNL-skit kind of way,” he said, laughing. “I find it endlessly amusing.”

He’s also found the Asian American population in L.A. to be among the most diverse in the world.

“I was based for 20 years in the West Village, which is primarily very white, and then to move out to L.A. and to go everywhere and see so many chuppies — you know, like Chinese yuppies — and blended families, and Asian American families, it’s been kind of delightful to see this wide variety here in full force.”

Still, it’s too recent a move to feature L.A. in any upcoming projects: “Right now I think I’m just collecting and nothing is making sense, but it’s all fantastic.”

One thing that’s slowed down that creative process is the COVID-19 pandemic. “I’m operating at 60% capacity,” he said, noting a much-needed break from writing. But there’s much to look forward to, including the “Crazy Rich Asian” sequels, the film adaptation of “Sex and Vanity” and a drama series in development.

Watch the entire panel below featuring Kwan, Cocks, Morgan and Chang, who discuss writing about love and identity, the first love story they fell in love with, and more.

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