Have you ever been thinking of someone, then hey presto they ring you? Or every time you look at a digital clock the time is exactly 11.11 or 1.11 or 2.22 or 3.33 or 4.44 or 5.55, and often all within one day? Is it mental telepathy, tapping into another dimension, gremlins playing with your mind, or are they simply coincidences?
As we go about our daily lives, we are too busy to notice these quiet, inexplicable happenings. But if you are still for a moment as an author often is, strange things do occur. This is one of them.
One day, when I was writing The Garden of Empress Cassia, I was sitting at my laptop thinking about my main character – a Chinese Australian girl called Mimi – when the phone rang. I picked it up and said hello. There was a pause on the other end of the line then a gruff male voice spoke to me in Chinese.
That was unusual enough, but it was what he said that sent chills up my spine: He asked in Chinese, ‘Is Mimi there?’ My stomach lurched. This guy wanted to speak with my main character! Hold on a minute, I thought. This is crazy! My character is made up, well sort of because she is loosely based on me, but she is definitely not a real person. Or is she? Could it be possible to write a character into a living, breathing, real life being? I wondered.
I was brought back to my senses when the man asked again, ‘Is Mimi there?’
I replied in Chinese, ‘You have the wrong number. What number did you want?’
It turned out that there was only one digit different. What are the chances of that happening? You live in Australia, you dial a wrong number but speak in Chinese and ask for someone called Mimi. The person on the other end of the line can also speak Chinese and is at that very moment, thinking about her fictional character of the same name?
It was too weird to be a coincidence.
After the man hung up, I was still shocked and amazed. Who was this Mimi he was trying to call? Mimi is not a common name and she was Chinese as well.
I decided to call her number. But as the phone rang I had second thoughts. What would I say to her? ‘Excuse me, but..um.. I’m writing a story about a girl called Mimi and I was wondering if um.. you were actually her. Nah, this is ridiculous!
I hung up before anyone could answer.