Thursday, October 15, 2015
I have no idea whether the Welsh can grow fluffy dwarven beards or not. Anyone care to opine?
Thursday, October 1, 2015
Today's interviewee is Alex Wu, who recently released his debut novel, Morocco, Maybe: A Love Story.
Thank you for journeying all the way to Elflandia! Why don't you tell us a bit about your book?
Happy to be here! It's not every day I get to be in a magical realm like Elflandia. Let's see, my book … A woman backpacks through Morocco and falls in love with an archaeologist, only to discover that her job requires her to destroy the priceless historical treasure he's desperate to save.
What inspired you to write this story?
Years ago I traveled through Morocco. I thought it'd be a fantastic setting for a love story because the country is so atmospheric.
How did you learn so much about Morocco?
Most of the descriptions about Morocco came from my memory, aided by my photos. I also did some research online. Many of the things in the book, like the tomato thief and the train creep, actually happened to me.
What was your favorite part of Morocco?
The Sahara. I'd been to deserts before, but nothing on the scale and beauty of the Sahara. You can read all about it and look at all the pictures, but being there is completely different. Immersion is much more powerful, almost overwhelming. It's striking how vast, quiet, and lonely the Sahara is. Really made me feel minuscule.
What was the hardest part about writing this book?
The proofreading. I read the manuscript so many times, and every time I found at least one error.
The best part?
Finishing it, and getting it into a form that I was reasonably happy with. I had never written a novel before, so I wasn't sure I could do it. The most creative writing I'd done was a crappy short story I wrote in my high school English class. In the end, I realized that simply cranking a novel-length draft isn't that hard, since I write pretty fast. The harder part is the endless rewriting to improve it.
Who was your favorite character to write?
Kai. I gave him a lot of qualities I like in a human.
What motivates your characters?
Sara Meadows, the protagonist, is pragmatic. She grew up poor and in a broken family, so all she wants is security, even if it means doing things she finds distasteful. But as she realizes, that goal has a cost deeper than she anticipated.
For Kai Rissdale, the archaeologist Sara falls in love with, he is more of a free spirit and idealistic. But of course, his ethos has a cost too. There are no cost-free actions in life.
Do you sympathize with people who've had to give up their dreams?
Absolutely. I traded my dreams for a more pragmatic career. Most people do. I get that. After all, for most folks, feeding yourself is a bit more important than ideals. On the other hand, a totally pragmatic life is pretty boring. It seems like a waste of what is already a very short life. It's about finding the right balance, and the right balance is different for everybody. The hard part, of course, is finding that balance.
Do you ever kill characters? (You don't have to answer that!)
As a general matter, yes. I'm prone to killing characters. Perhaps I'm just a murderous person. There are few things that are as dramatic or sad as death, so it's tempting to use it in a story.
Tell us a little about yourself. What are you reading these days?
I'm reading Justin Cronin's The Passage. While writing Morocco, I read a bunch of women's fiction because I wanted to understand the genre the book is most likely to be shelved as. But generally I try to read widely, as that is the best way to learn about writing. Also I get bored reading the same genre over and over again.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Taiwan. Moved to the US when I was nine. Since then, I've been living in Los Angeles except for a couple of years in Virginia.
What are you working on now? Do you have a sequel planned, or something new?
No sequel. Sara's story is done.
Now I'm working on a scifi novel. I'm not sure what genre I'm good at (if any), so my hope is to write in different genres until I find it. Also, since I get bored easily, it's more fun to write different things.
It's my observation that books seem to reflect their writers. What aspect of you is reflected in your book?
I'm an introspective kind of person, and I definitely overthink things. And I worry a lot. So I guess Sara is kinda like me, whereas Kai is more like who I want to be.
Would you like to leave us with a quote from your book/query?
A Yiddish proverb says: “Man plans, and God laughs.” Perhaps the trick is not to plan for the life you want, but to deal with the life you never expect.
Me: Good luck and thanks for everything!