Please welcome Wesley Chu to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Lives of Tao was published in the US/Canada on April 30, 2013, in eBook everywhere on April 30, 2013, and in the UK on May 2, 2013. You may read Wesley's Guest Blog - Forebearers - here.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery.
Wesley: Awesome to be here. Let’s get the party started.
TQ: When and why did you start writing?
Wesley: I think every writer starts by being a reader. I was a big time book nerd in elementary school. You remember those book catalogues they hand out in grade school? Well, I nearly impoverished my parents buying everything on the list. Hell, I actually ran out of books to order and had to venture into Judy Blume and Ann Martin (The Baby-sitters Club) territory.
One day in second grade, I wrote a story about how the planets in the galaxy kept running into each other and getting into fights, which caused all the craters on their surfaces. The sun, the king, got annoyed and enforced gravity on them.
My father, the English professor, read it and in typical Asian parenting fashion, complimented me by saying “this doesn’t suck.”
And thus my career was born.
TQ: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Wesley: I love to tuckerize people and put them in my stories. From family to friends to Eva Da Terrordale (my puppy), there’s a character with your name on it. Sally, you’re totally in book 3 of The Lives of Tao series if you like.
Now, I can’t guarantee that you’ll like your character or that the she won’t get killed off (chances are slim she’ll survive), but if I know you, I want to put you in my books and put them through the ringer.
TQ: Fine with me! Just don't kill me with stinging insects.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Wesley: I’m a hybrid, a plantser. I like to build an environment first, and then put blanks slate characters into the sandbox and let them do their thing. Then I write the first few chapters out to get a feel for the setting, and see how these characters react. Once I know the direction I’m taking, I start all over and plot out the entire book.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Wesley: Writing is an all-consuming task. In order to get to where I am now, I had to narrow my focus to family, work, and writing. I used to train twenty plus hours a week in martial arts and was in a Warcraft raiding guild. Well, once I took writing seriously, I made it a priority and dropped all my many hobbies. Nothing else mattered.
Don’t get me wrong; I love writing, but authors make colossal sacrifices for their books. I missed out on a lot of reality because I was involved in my imaginary world. Hey, when’s Steve Jobs coming out with the iPhone 4?
TQ: Describe The Lives of Tao in 140 characters or less.
Wesley: A fat loser and an alien must play nice, lose weight, and learn a stiff jab in order to fight a war over control of humanity's evolution.
TQ: What inspired you to write The Lives of Tao?
Wesley: My favorite movie is Gattaca, and I love the overachieving underdog story. I wanted to write about a true down-on-his-luck guy who has to dig deep to become something more. I’m not a huge fan of prophecy and special people a la Harry Potter/Rand Al Thor.
I love to build characters up piece by piece and transform them from who they are to their fullest potential through sweat equity and personal achievement. Given, having an alien is kind of a super power as well, but I was careful to make Tao more of a guide than an actual power.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for The Lives of Tao?
Wesley: The Lives of Tao required a lot of research, from books to Wikipedia to the Field Museum in Chicago. The book delves into Earth’s history, starting when the dinosaurs got creamed by a mega asteroid to the rise of Temujin (Genghis Khan) to the Spanish Inquisition to last year’s Euro currency instabilities.
I had to spend hundreds of hours researching everything from what a yurt feels like to when certain historical figures died to the names of the moves for the 42 Old Frame Chen Tai Chi form.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Wow, I didn’t know there were an old and a new frame.”
Well, now you do.
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Wesley: The easiest character to write was my protagonist, Roen Tan. He’s definitely a warped self-deprecating view of how I viewed myself. It was actually very therapeutic. Looking back, it’s a very strange experience to put yourself down on paper and flaunt your flaws to the world.
The most difficult voice for me to nail down was Sean Diamont, the antagonist. I have a thing about intelligent villainy. I love my bad guys to be brilliant, because let’s face it, you have to be a lot smarter to be a successful bad guy than a good guy. I’m not a huge fan of slobbering meaningless villains with dumb goals (looking at you, Bane). I want my bad guys sophisticated and intelligent, calculating and suave. They should be better than the main character in every way.
TQ: Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in The Lives of Tao?
Wesley: My favorite scene in The Lives of Tao, which by the way is the one I do for readings, is based on a true story.
Roen is walking home from work late at night and someone tries to mug him. Being the foolish guy that he is, he runs into a dead-end alley (never turn into an alley, folks. No good ever comes from it). Roen is trapped and Tao is forced expose himself early in order to guide him out of the mess. Roen ends up trying to mug the mugger instead.
TQ: What's next?
Wesley: Due to the fantastic early reviews of The Lives of Tao, the Angry Robot overlords have pushed up the sequel, The Deaths of Tao, up to Oct 29th, 2013. Past that, well, it's up to the readers. Let's make it happen people!
TQ: That is wonderful news!
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Wesley: Thanks for having me. This was a fun time. Have me again soon. =)
About The Lives of Tao
The Lives of Tao
Angry Robot Books, April 30, 2013 (US/Can)
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 464 pages
When out-of-shape IT technician Roen woke up and started hearing voices in his head, he naturally assumed he was losing it.
He now has a passenger in his brain – an ancient alien life-form called Tao, whose race crash-landed on Earth before the first fish crawled out of the oceans. Now split into two opposing factions – the peace-loving, but under-represented Prophus, and the savage, powerful Genjix – the aliens have been in a state of civil war for centuries. Both sides are searching for a way off-planet, and the Genjix will sacrifice the entire human race, if that’s what it takes.
Meanwhile, Roen is having to train to be the ultimate secret agent. Like that’s going to end up well…
File Under: Science Fiction [ The Tug of War | I Was Genghis | Diary of a Slob | Spy vs Spy ]
Wesley is an avid gamer and a contributing writer for the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland. A former stunt man and a member of the SAG, he can also be seen in film and television playing roles such as “Banzai Chef” in Fred Claus and putting out Oscar worthy performances as a bank teller in Chicago Blackhawks commercials.
Besides working as an Associate Vice President at a bank, he spends his time writing and hanging out with his wife Paula Kim and their Airedale Terrier, Eva.
You can catch up with Wesley online at his blog: www.chuforthought.com, or on Twitter: @wes_chu.
What: Three commenters will each win a copy of The Lives of Tao from Angry Robot Books. US/CANADA ONLY
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Who and When: The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a US or Canadian mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59PM US Eastern Time on May 13, 2013. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.
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