Please welcome Michael Shou-Yung Shum to The Qwillery as part of the of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Queen of Spades was published on October 10th by Forest Avenue Press.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?
Michael: I have been composing my own stories since I was a young child. I guess I've always felt compelled to write, although it is impossible to say why!
TQ: Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?
Michael: I definitely write by the seat of my pants. It comes from composing stories as a child, where you would begin a story and have no idea where it would lead.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Michael: Coming up with an attractive form that interests me.
TQ: What has influenced / influences your writing?
Michael: Great writing and ideas by other writers--especially living with a great writer like Jaclyn Watterson to bounce ideas off.
TQ: Describe Queen of Spades in 140 characters or less.
Michael: The story behind the Strangest Hand Ever Dealt.
TQ: Tell us something about Queen of Spades that is not found in the book description.
Michael: It was originally started as a long short story or novelette, and not a novel.
TQ: What inspired you to write Queen of Spades? What appealed to you about Pushkin's Queen of Spades?
Michael: Pushkin's "The Queen of Spades" is one of my favorite short stories--and one of the few stories that elevate gambling to a high art.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Queen of Spades?
Michael: Although I didn't know it was research at the time, I spent over two years working as a poker dealer in a small cardroom in Lake Stevens, Washington, learning the ins and outs of what goes on behind the scenes.
TQ: Please tell us about the cover for Queen of Spades?
Michael: The cover was designed by Forest Avenue's brilliant in-house designer, Gigi Little. She really hit it out of the park with this one!
TQ: In Queen of Spades who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Michael: The easiest was Barbara because she was the most fun to follow. The hardest was Chan because in many ways he began as a blank slate that I had to fill in along the way--even still, he remains something of a mystery to me.
TQ: Why have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in Queen of Spades?
Michael: I intentionally made all the traditional "power roles" filled by women. It might seem like a small thing, but it's a start to reconditioning (or deconditioning) our gender expectations.
TQ: Which question about Queen of Spades do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
Michael: How would you like readers to be transformed by reading the novel? First, I hope the novel offers readers some consolation in very challenging and difficult times. Second, I hope readers become better persons in some small but not insignificant way. Finally, I hope reading the novel makes readers want to take some risks as a means of improving their life.
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Queen of Spades.
Michael: Everything coheres with what comes before--and what comes after.
TQ: What's next?
Michael: I am working on a novel-in-stories tentatively entitled Portmanteau.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Queen of Spades
Forest Avenue Press, October 10, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 256 pages
Queen of Spades revamps the classic Pushkin fable of the same name, transplanted to a mysterious Seattle-area casino populated by a pit boss with six months to live, a dealer obsessing over the mysterious methods of an elderly customer known as the Countess, and a recovering gambler who finds herself trapped in a cultish twelve-step program. With a breathtaking climax that rivals the best Hong Kong gambling movies, Michael Shou-Yung Shum’s debut novel delivers the thrilling highs and lows that come when we cede control of our futures to the roll of the dice and the turn of a card.
Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Michael Shou-Yung Shum eventually found himself dealing poker in a dead-end casino in Lake Stevens, Washington. Two doctorates bookend this strange turn of events: the first in Psychology from Northwestern, and the second in English from University of Tennessee. Along the way, Michael spent a dozen years in Chicago, touring the country as a rave DJ. He currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia, with his spouse and three cats. Queen of Spades is his first novel.