Georges Ugeux is a global financier by trade and at heart. He is the former head of the international group at the New York Stock Exchange and the founder of Galileo Global Advisors. He is a frequent blogger for The Huffington Post and Le Monde in Paris, and he teaches financial regulation courses at Columbia Law School. He’s here today to talk about his mystery novel, The Flying Dragon.
No one can resist Victoria Leung. She’s beautiful, brilliant, and fearless. Since leaving the fraud department of the Hong Kong Police, she has enjoyed her new status as senior detective at Pegasus, an international security firm based in London. She climbed the ladder by taking down Sun Hung Kai Properties’ Kwok Brothers, a real estate empire, and earned the nickname “The Flying Dragon” in the process.
On an otherwise typical morning, Victoria receives a panicked message from her close friend Diana Yu asking for help: Diana’s ex-lover, Henry Chang, is in grave danger. Bertrand Wilmington, head of the derivative trading desk of a global bank, has fallen from a window of the twenty-second floor trading room, and Henry Chang is somehow involved. Perhaps with Victoria’s help they can clear his name and reveal the secret behind Wilmington’s death.
While Hong Kong and Mainland authorities attempt to crack the case with little success, Victoria puts her experience as a banking auditor to use. Her expertise is critical in discovering key clues, and she won’t back down until she gets answers. As she searches for the truth, the Flying Dragon quickly becomes enmeshed in a web of arrogance, power, money and sexuality. Will she expose the corruption and bring down a financial giant?
Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about your writing background?
I’ve been writing forever. My first non-fiction book, Floating Rate Notes, was published in 1981. There was a long gap and then I resumed writing books on finance after the financial crisis: I could not let the lies and absurdities continue to flood public opinion without a different and independent viewpoint. This novel is centered in the financial world, more specifically in the trading room boiler… It is not a coincidence.
Do you have another job besides writing?
Yes. My career is in financial services and I am an investment banker. It gave me many of the ingredients to create this book.
Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?
I loved mystery novels, especially Agatha Christie and Georges Simenon. I loved the character of Hercule Poirot, a fellow Belgian. I believe that Victoria Leung, a young Chinese woman and talented detective has the same potential. I am already preparing the second book in which she will be traveling to London.
What was your goal when writing this book?
First and foremost, writing a story that would interest readers: for that, it had to interest me. So I wrote initially for my own pleasure and enjoyment. Recreating the environment of trading rooms, Chinese people and locations, and attractive characters was really fascinating. Behind the story, I was also continuing to share some of my vision of the world of finance, with its good and dark sides.
There can be a truly dark side of finance in a world full of passion, money and egos. Addressing these dark sides require decent people to make courageous decisions and bold choices even if it costs them a lot. I also hope that it showcases many of the strengths that women possess. There are so many.
What type of writer are you—the one who experiences before writing, like Hemingway, or the one who mostly daydreams and fantasizes?
I am fundamentally a story teller, even on “serious” subjects. I love leading people and helping them to discover new realities. I have imagination and fantasies, but I also experience not before writing but during.
Agatha Christie got her best ideas while eating green apples in the bathtub. Steven Spielberg says he gets his best ideas while driving on the highway. When do you get your best ideas and why do you think this is?
I get my best ideas by meeting people. They move me. I love their mystery. My ideas also come when I have some free, open space: nature, travel and home. Often enough, I found myself returning home with a compelling need to write. I never did it as a duty.
What types of scenes give you the most trouble to write?
The most difficult ones are the scenes of aggression. I have a hard time finding the balance between the liveliness and my hesitation to write graphic descriptions. I do not enjoy brutality.
They say authors have immensely fragile egos… How would you handle negative criticism or a negative review?
I am a blogger and am gratified with comments. In “Le Monde.fr” the leading media in France, I have had more than 70,000 comments.
There are two types of negative comments, the most common being insults and derogatory comments about or directed at the author. I simply ignore them.
The second types of comments focus on the issues. I try to find time to explain better or understand where the commentator is coming from. What I write can sometimes offend others. When this happens I have to admit it and recognize that it can cause people to react strongly. I have my part in it.
When writing, what themes do you feel passionate about?
I am fascinated by people and their stories, even if I create them. They touch me and I feel something for them, both positive and negative. I feel passionate about candor and integrity. I also care for people who are real, with emotions, strengths and weaknesses – This was the best part of creating Victoria Leung and the other characters of the book.
What is your opinion about critique groups? What words of advice would you offer a novice writer who is joining one? Do you think the wrong critique group can ‘crush’ a fledgling writer?
I have no experience with critique groups. My blog in the most influential newspaper in Paris (Le Monde), tells me that criticism must be taken from a distance and with grain of salt. Having read 80,000 comments – it is important to distinguish between the insults and those who genuinely want to contribute.
How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?
Painful. If you are not a well-known writer or a celebrity, I recommend going the self-publishing route. Major publishing houses do not seem to have time for unknown/new authors.
Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?
Do you have another book on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?
I am currently finishing a non-fiction book on Central Banking. The book will be used as the student textbook in a new class I am co-teaching at Columbia Law School. Early next year, the second novel of the series will be ready! Victoria Leung will be made partner at Pegasus in London this time! Stay tuned!
As an author, what is your greatest reward?
Receiving feedback from readers that really enjoyed the story and the characters. I love being asked when the next book will be published and whether Victoria will return as the central character!