Grab a drink and a chair, because the grilling is about to start.
Can you tell the readers where you’re from and how you got there?
I was born and raised in California and have spent most of my life there. My mother is actually British and grew up near Leeds. She met my father, who was a soldier at the time stationed in England, during the 1960s. They hit it off and he eventually asked her to marry him. Soon afterwards, he brought her over to the U.S. where they finally got married in a small chapel. Her older sister followed her and they both settled in San Jose, CA during the 70s. I was born during that time and grew up in San Jose for the first twenty six years of my life. But now I live in Sacramento, CA with my wife and two children.
Do you have a day-job other than being an author?
I do have a day-job during the school year as a part-time teacher. I generally work three days a week while my kids are busy in school. The schedule works out well for me and gives me time to transport my kids around to their afternoon activities like piano lessons, soccer and taekwondo. It also gives me time to help them with their homework in the evenings. It can be hard to find time write, but I usually do it at night when everyone’s asleep. That way I can work without being distracted. Sometimes Mr. Sandman finds me before I can start. Other times I work on reviews for products. Writing reviews on products that I like is another hobby of mine.
How did you become interested in Asian culture? And does that include food? I happen to love food, and recipes, can you share a favorite dish of yours?
My interest in Asian culture stems mainly from my wife, who happens to be a Vietnamese immigrant. After meeting her in college, I soon discovered that I didn’t have a lot of knowledge about Asian cultures in general, especially Vietnam. The only information readily available to me at the time was about the Vietnam War, a pretty heavy topic. But I wanted to learn more about her background, not just about the war.
Interestingly, it wasn’t a problem for her that I didn’t know a lot about Vietnam beforehand. She seemed to be focused more on learning about the U.S. at the time. But I thought I should know more about her country, since we were going out and all. So I took it upon myself to learn about Vietnam, which slowly expanded into learning about Chinese and Japanese backgrounds. Actually, finding information on China and Japan was a lot easier at the time, probably due to the fact that both countries had a larger footprint in the U.S. already
I also got a chance to eat at numerous Vietnamese restaurants around town that I’d never tried out before. That’s when I learned to use chop sticks. I also discovered my favorite Vietnamese dish,Bún thịt nướng. It’s a meal that’s usually severed with long, white rice noodles, grilled pork chop and fried spring rolls. Spring rolls are basically the same thing as egg rolls. The order always includes a selection of tasty pickled vegetables, salad and fish sauce. It’s topped off with peanuts. Once those ingredients are mixed together in a bowl, I usually don’t speak again until I’m finished eating. There’s no time to make conversation when you’re eating good food. Although that can run me into trouble sometimes with my wife, who tells me I need to breath more when I eat, not just inhale my food.
What is the title of the book you’d like to talk about?
The book I’d like to talk about today is, The Lin Wu Chronicles: Senior Year.
It’s my second book and is actually a set of nine short stories about the same character, an Asian American high school student interested in entering medical school. Her main quirk is that she has the regular misfortune of ending up in the wrong place at the wrong time. In many cases, her conflicts lean towards the spooky, where she gets entangled in horrors with ghosts, villains or other monsters. I’ve been told that Lin Wu bears a strong resemblance to Nancy Drew, only with more of an X-Files flare. I suppose that’s true to a degree, although I never read any Nancy Drew stories while growing up. But I knew who she was and what types of stories she was involved in.
How did you come up with that idea?
The character of Lin Wu actually comes from a variety of inspirations. The main one being my wife, who has always had a strong drive to study and work hard in school. That trait is apparent in Lin Wu. It’s the same drive I see in my wife, who also tries to instill the trait into our children. Doing well in school and working hard is definitely important to her. It’s a theme that many Asian families share, and comes in part from the ideas found in Confucianism. The idea that you should always better yourself throughout your life no matter what. Some people follow the idea more than others. But Lin would definitely be an individual who chose to follow that path. And the trait is partially instilled into her by her mother.
The second part of Lin Wu comes from my interest in Asian cinema, which includes Japanese, Chinese and Korean films. If you ever get a chance to read any Lin Wu stories and you’ve also seen some Asian cinema, you might find some similarities. That’s because Lin Wu is also based in part off the female heroine archetype in many Asian films. Back in the mid 2000s, Japanese Cinema was becoming popular in the US. Prior to that, the Jackie Chan craze had already hit the theaters. During those years, I must have seen every Jackie Chan film that was available. While they weren’t the best representation of Chinese culture overall, they were always entertaining. But I also noticed how the female characters in his films behaved. They were either tough and rugged just like Jackie, or they were the fleeting damsel in distress. The point being, they weren’t always stereotyped into one role except for the fact that they happened to be in a kung fu film.
Once the J-Horror (Japanese Horror) craze hit the states in the mid 2000s all sorts of Japanese films became available in the video rental market. In many cases they weren’t even dubbed into English. They were usually in Japanese only with English subtitles. After those films left their mark on audiences who enjoyed the genre, the K-Horror (Korean Horror) films soon followed. It was in those two genres where I saw the female heroine archetype that intrigued me. And eventually they became a part of Lin Wu
One of the traits I noticed right away was how the heroines tended to be school girls. They often had to be brave yet intelligent at the same time. They often wore spiffy school uniforms, which is a common practice in many Asian countries. And a lot can be said about the idea that less is more. Many of the films I saw relied more on the psychological element to help jump the viewer instead of big budget scares. Of course there were always exceptions to the rule, but I liked how some of the films dealt with scaring the audience without using over the top special effects. Many of the ghost films were simple, yet effective. You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones where the females have long black hair. They might be considered a bit cliché now, but they definitely had their own style and they helped set the formula I used for my Lin Wu stories.
I also found the mystery element a nice change of pace from the Hollywood style of filmmaking. Often the films would take their time to build up to the climax. That was definitely the case with the Japanese and Korean films I saw. What I took out of the Chinese films was more the style and energy in their action sequences. You can’t beat a good martial arts film.
There is really only one seriously good martial arts movie as far as I’m concerned. Who knows can reply and who disagrees too. 🙂
With those different styles running around inside my head, I sat down and began writing my first Lin Wu stories. The conflicts ranged from trouble with ghosts to slight confrontations using martial arts. But all the stories had one central theme in common, that was Lin Wu was a serious student working her way through school. The characters and villains she met along the way became her curse as well as her chronicles.
For example, in Hall of Echoes, Lin believes she’s seeing a ghost roaming around her school, while in Sook-Joo vs the Phantom Squad, she gets caught up in a conflict between two martial arts schools. The idea of a creepy tale and martial arts are combined in, The China Town Vampires, which has roots in the hopping vampire genre, popular in Hong Kong during the 1980s.
If you’d have to change the genre, what would it be?
If I had to make a change to Lin Wu now, I might convert the idea into a book series instead of a set of short stories. Lin Wu was actually conceived as an audio book project. At the time, that meant the stories had to be a certain length so they would fit into the 1-Hour audio format. That was the genre I was trying to break into. It was a good experience overall in the sense that it allowed me to focus on one story at a time getting all the details down. But it also meant that some readers wanted to know more about Lin Wu’s background and her relationship with her mother, which the format didn’t allow for. That’s why I’ve started a third book now which will focus more on those aspects of her life while still following the thriller, mystery format. My next book will have Lin in high school again where she’s challenged to deal with another paranormal threat. This time while she’s aiding a little girl who believes a ghost is haunting her school restroom. It’s a take on a story I remember my daughter telling me once. Several of the girls at her school would talk about how they could hear strange sounds while they were in the restroom. Some of them were freaked out by it.
What did you like most about writing this book, and what the least?
What I liked most about writing this book was the chance to get down the ideas that were penned up inside my head for such a long time. It might sound funny, but sometimes you have to give yourself permission to write. By that I mean, you have to avoid all the little voices inside your head telling you not to do it because it will take too long or that it might be a waste of time. Once you get passed those obstacles, you can begin the writing process. And for me, that was the biggest challenge to overcome. I had to tell myself that it was OK to spend time writing, that it wasn’t a waste of time, that my stories could be published.
What I liked least about writing Lin Wu was probably the long hours it took to get it edited. It’s always hard to sign that final proof form stating that you approve this book and now it’s ready for publication. There’s always a little voice in the back of your head saying, “What did I miss?” And you always miss something it seems, but you have to learn to let it go. Being a perfectionist can be just as big an obstacle as being a defeatist.
Is there anything about this book and how it got written you’d like to share with us? I do so love funny anecdotes. 🙂
I can share one funny story with you. It involves me taking my daughter to a comic book/anime convention when my daughter was five years old. I had it in my head that it would be a good experience for me, since I wanted to research what the events were like for use in a Lin Wu story. I told my wife what I had in mind. She just shrugged her shoulder at me and said that it sounded like a waste of time. I assured her though that it wouldn’t be and eagerly set off for the convention with my daughter in tow.
Once we got to the hotel where the convention was to take place, I realized how big of an event it really was. The parking lot was packed. I had to park my car a long way from the hotel entrance. Once I finally found a space, I took my daughter by the hand and made my way to the front lobby. As we walked, I looked around at everyone else and realized how out of place we were. All the other patrons seemed to be either teenagers or young adults. Many of them were dressed in costumes such as super heroes, warriors, cyborgs, or anime geeks. I also noticed how some of the girls were dressed. They looked like Japanese characters from popular anime shows as they roamed around the parking lot in their sleek costumes.
There was even a photographer there from an anime magazine, snapping pictures of a girl dressed like a female ninja. She had one arm crossed in front of her face and gripped a blade in her hand as if she were an assassin ready to pounce on an unsuspecting target.
Eventually we got inside the lobby and walked around for awhile, trying to figure out where we should start. But the place was so crowded and the lines were so long, I had no idea where to go. The comic book tables were in a showroom that was charging extra admission just to look around. As I looked at a flyer given to me by a convention volunteer, I noticed that there was going to be a stage show later where groups of anime geeks were going to perform skits. That, however, also cost more money, and the tickets were outrageously priced. After wandering around aimlessly for awhile, not knowing what to do and feeling like an old man amongst a group of young people who were dressed a lot cooler than me, I walked out of the convention. My daughter just held onto my hand and didn’t complain. I think she was feeling just as overwhelmed as I was. We literally had no idea what to do. We were like two lost souls with no agenda, no purpose and no reason for being there. It was mutual.
When I arrived home my wife asked us why we were back so early. I told her how crowded it was and how I felt so out of place there. I described the lobby to her and how everything seemed to cost more money. She just listened to me rambling on and finally said, “see, I told you it would be a waste of time.” Then she went back to what she was doing, feeling confident that she was right and that I was wrong.
She was only partially correct though, because that particular incident led to another Lin Wu story called, Maid Momo. In it, Lin’s at an anime convention scantily dressed as the anime heroine, Maid Momo Battle Maiden of the Akihabara District. While there she gets harassed by anime geek intent on taking candid photos of her. One thing leads to another and the two of them end up being chased by a couple of anime geeks dressed like ninjas. The whole story is very reminiscent of a Japanese anime plot, which was intentional. It was my salute to the anime genre and all the shows I had seen in the past with anime characters in them.
Although Maid Momo was one of my favorite stories to write, it doesn’t appear in The Lin Wu Chronicles: Senior Year. It appears in my first book called, The Lin Wu Chronicles. The main difference being that Lin is already a college student instead of a high school senior. But other than that, the formula for the stories remains the same.
Do you do any special things to market your work, and what do you think works best to get your name and book under the attention of future readers?
I haven’t spent a lot of time marketing my books. I have tried to make them available as much as possible by publishing them in print, e-book and audio book forms. I’ve also created several book and story trailers for them which can be found on my youtube page. But I don’t like the idea of pushing my books into someone else’s hands unless they have a genuine interest in reading them. The best marketing approach I’ve found is having more than one book available. If you have several books out there, a reader might come across one of them. If they like what they read, they might seek out your other books. It’s a good way to build an audience. I also think getting your book into a public library system helps to create awareness about your books. Particularly in print book form. E-books, while less expensive to create, don’t find their way into as many hands. Some people still like the idea of feeling an actual printed book in their hands where they can turn the pages.
Can you give us an excuse for not writing? Anything goes, get creative, but remember we have to believe it! 🙂
The first thought that came to my mind was not having any hands to type with. But even that can be overcome with voice recognition software, so I suppose I don’t have any good excuses, except for being lazy. But that will never fly. If you say you’re a writer, yet you never write, then that makes you a daydreamer. And daydreamers don’t write, they just imagine that they do. =)
Can you tell us something about yourself none has ever read before?
When I started getting into Japanese cinema, I thought about learning Japanese so I wouldn’t have to worry about reading subtitles anymore. I actually picked up a program that teaches you how to speak Japanese. But linguistics isn’t one of my strongest suits. I haven’t had a chance to learn Japanese yet, although I do understand some words now just from watching Japanese films. I still hope to learn the language someday. But I might have to learn Vietnamese first, since my wife is Vietnamese, not Japanese.
And finally what did you do, how did you celebrate when your book was published and the first one was purchased?
After my books were published and I sold a few copies, I celebrated by starting a third book. No really, that’s what I actually did. I still had more stories inside my head and they were just waiting to get out. So instead of letting them sit around for a while, where they would keep me up at night, I began working on plots for a new book. Use em or lose em I always say.
And that is great advice to end this interview with. Thanks P, for being here and I’d love to see you back when you have more news. I’ll just tell the readers where to find you online and hope they’ll let us know how they enjoyed getting to know you.