Catherine MacBeth is my other name and it will become apparent why I chose to write under this name. I was born in 1951, and named Kong Chiew Hwa, in the town of Batu Pahat on the west coast of Malaysia. I attended the local school Tengku Mariam School and then Temenggong Ibrahim Girls’ School. My time in school was the happiest and it was crowned by my sixth form years in High School, consolidating old friendships and making new ones all of which have remained solid to this day.
After teaching Biology for two years at a secondary school I came to England to train as a nurse. Realising that I desperately wanted to do research I studied for a Bachelor of Science in Physiology at North East London Polytechnic (now University of East London). On completion I was immediately appointed research assistant on a project on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome at the Cardiothoracic Unit at London’s Brompton Hospital for two years. Thereafter I moved to St Phillip’s Hospital where I did my PhD (University of London). I was particularly fascinated by the heart and circulation, hence my research focused on the impact kidney failure has on the cardiovascular system. During this time, I co-founded the Clinical Research Nurses Association. After St Phillip’s Hospital I took up the post of Clinical Scientist at the Renal Unit, Lister Hospital, Stevenage until I retired in 2009.
Alongside my passion for the workings of the circulatory system was my desire to write fiction. In school, composition and essay-writing was one of my favourite subjects; it was my escape to invented worlds. Retirement freed me to indulge in writing stories beginning with my semi-autobiographical novel Songs In the Night. I like to explore different issues that interest me in my stories. The ramifications of adoption are hopefully captured in my second novel – The Golden Anklet. The third, The Spirit of Silk, is my tribute to the zishunu – the ‘self-combed women’ from southern China. It deals with the institution of marriage.
In order not to mix my scientific publications with my works of fiction it was obvious I should write under a different name. One was ready for me – my baptismal name of Catherine and my married name.
In between writing I lose myself in golf and have started painting again.
“There are no strangers, only friends waiting to meet”