Category: Author Interviews

Interview With Amanda Hughes, Author of The House of Five Fortunes

Interview With Amanda Hughes, Author of The House of Five Fortunes

While Xiu peddled pipe dreams, a nightmare was waiting.
Sensual and exotic, San Francisco’s Chinatown in the 1870’s was filled with temptation and greed. Raised in this quagmire of vice, Xiu Jung caters to wealthy thrill-seekers with her elegant opium den, The House of Five Fortunes. With the help of Madison Hayes, the illustrious actor, she makes it the most fashionable salon on the West Coast. But a string of murders is sweeping the city, coming closer and closer to Xiu. Madison said he would protect her, but could this mysterious outsider be trusted?
From Chinatown to Deadwood, Amanda Hughes once again takes you on a page-turning adventure of a lifetime.

Available on Amazon



Interview with Author Amanda Hughes

  1. Tell me a little about yourself, both personally and as a writer.

    I have worn many hats in my lifetime from therapist to business owner to writer, but the role that has been the most rewarding and the most challenging has been the role of motherhood. I raised three children by myself (which makes me a “bold woman” too!) in the woods of Northern Minnesota. I spent many nights wondering where my next dime would come from but somehow we always made ends meet. Living in that remote location made me wonder how people survived the privation and violence of Colonial America so I was inspired to write my first book Beyond the Cliffs of Kerry. After many submissions, a publishing house in Canada bought the rights, and for several years Kerry was on the market. Unfortunately, the publisher closed their doors in 2004, and busy raising teenagers, I did not finish my second novel, The Pride of the King for almost ten years. The current Amazon platform was available by that time, so here I am eight novels later.

  2. The House of Five Fortunes is part of your Bold Women of the 19th Century Series. What is that series and how did it come about?

    Although I call it a series, my books are stand-alone novels. There are too many characters “waiting in the wings” for their tale to be told, so I could never dwell on one woman’s story. Thus, I don’t write sequels.

    It took me a long time to realize that this was a series. After the third book, I started to see a common theme. The novels were always about gutsy, female survivors who lived in different time periods, so I called it “The Bold Women Series” and started organizing the books into centuries.

  3. Tell me about The House of Five Fortunes specifically. How did you come up with the idea? What sort of research was involved?

    Thirty years ago, I traveled to San Francisco and toured Chinatown. Instantly, I fell in love with the magic and mystery of the district. Years later when I decided to tell Xiu Jung’s story, I was disappointed to see so little had been written about the role of Chinese Americans in the building of the Transcontinental Railroad and the racism they endured. In knew then this story needed to be told, so I decided to share it in one of my “Bold Women” novels. To gain a deeper insight into the culture, I traveled to China, interviewed Chinese Americans with ancestors from San Francisco, and devoured every book I could find.

  4. Many historical fiction authors focus on one place or era, but in your Bold Women series, you write about women from such diverse backgrounds. How do you manage that?

    It is a labor of love. I cannot imagine being a writer of historical fiction and not loving research. I like to take little known time periods in American history and shed light on them. Time and time again we see stories about wealthy, beautiful aristocrats living on plantations, estates or in penthouses during the same old time periods. I think people living on the fringes of society in little-known settings are far more interesting. They are so often overlooked and have so much more to offer, so that is what I write.

  5. What can readers expect from you in the future?

    My latest work is about an American Indian woman riding the rails during the Great Depression. The book follows her rise to fame as one of the great photojournalists of the early 20th Century rivaling the likes of Dorothea Lange and Margaret Bourke-White. Her adventures take her from coast to coast and into Germany during the rise of The Third Reich.

    Thanks a million for having me on your blog!

Interview With Alexa Kang, Author of Shanghai Story

Interview With Alexa Kang, Author of Shanghai Story

Alexa Kang is the author of the amazing new book Shanghai Story, and I am so thrilled that she agreed to answer a few questions for me. I hope you enjoy this interview and will check out her book. 

A WWII saga in the heart of the world’s most decadent city in 1936. Enter the Paris of the East, where one man and one woman strive to hold on to their dreams as the Communists rise and the shadow of Japan closes in.

His country stood on the verge of a new beginning and the gate of hell. The Kuomintang promises the dawn of democracy, but the Communists threaten civil war while Japan’s unbridled ambitions loom.

All Clark Yuan wants is to see his fellow countrymen’s lives improve. He joins the KMT, hoping to play his part to make China a better place. He vows to Eden, the beautiful Jewish girl he admires from afar, Shanghai would be her forever home.

But power and money are at stake. The line of good and evil shifts. To achieve his ends, he must bargain with the devils. How much of his soul would he sacrifice to reach the greater good?


Fleeing the rise of the Nazis, Eden Levine came with her family to Shanghai, hoping to build a new life.

The dazzling city made her swoon. From the pinnacle of luxury, big band jazz, to a safe haven for Jewish refugees, the country that turns no one away is the beacon of hope. But behind the glitz and glamour, the darkness of human nature lurks.

A heinous crime shocks the international community.

Would she defend an innocent Nazi soldier and risk the ire of her own people? With only her new friend Clark by her side, could she defy the clutch of racial strife to see justice prevail?





1) Tell me a little about yourself and your writing history. 

I’m Alexa Kang, WWII historical fiction writer. I started writing fiction three years ago as a hobby. Back then, I wrote fanfiction for an obscure, out-of-print Japanese manga called Candy Candy with a die-hard international following. My fanfic stories were very well-received. A fanfic novella I wrote was translated into French, Italian, and Spanish by fans from different countries who loved the story. After that, I decided to give serious novel writing a try.

I released my debut novel, Rose of Anzio (Book One), in 2016. It’s a WWII epic love story that begins in pre-war Chicago and continues onto the Battle of Anzio in Italy. My fanfic readers were my earliest supporters as I shared my novel with them chapter-by-chapter as I wrote. From their responses, I knew I had a special story to tell. After it was published, I received emails from new readers who had lived through the WWII era asking when my next book would come out. One even worked in Chicago in 1940, which was when Rose of Anzio Book One took place. Those readers are in their nineties!!! It was such a humbling experience to hear from them.

I’ve been an incredible journey ever since. The most satisfying reward for me is knowing that I’m able to give people a few hours of escape from their daily burdens through my stories.

2) How did the book Shanghai Story come about?

I’ve gotten to know many WWII fiction authors since I started publishing, and I keep up to date on new WWII novels being released. WWII is a popular genre, but rarely do I see any WWII book set in Asia. WWII fiction set in China is almost non-existent in English or Chinese. I did find a few English novels set in China during WWII, but they aren’t about WWII. I started thinking maybe I could write one.

Nonetheless, I’m not a writer who can pick a topic and plan a book. I can only write something when a character comes alive in my head. This finally happened when I saw a young Chinese man returning to Shanghai from studying abroad. I saw him disembarking a ship on the Bund with hopes of helping to modernize his country into something like America, where he’d gone to college. This young man was Clark Yuan, the main character in Shanghai Story, and this is his story.

3) What was it like researching this book? 

Researching is always one of the toughest parts of writing historical fiction. It’s very work intensive. For Rose of Anzio, I had a lot of great resources to go to because WWII was very well documented by the Allied countries. China is a different story. The Nationalist government back then was very backward in technology and lacking in funds. They didn’t keep very good historical records. Even if there were records, most were lost or destroyed when the Communist Party took over. The CCP has no interest in glorying a war won by the Nationalist Party, and they have their own biased spin on what happened anyway, so research was very challenging.

Fortunately, I can read Chinese, so I was able to research in both Chinese and English. For the macro history side, I tracked down the most objective secondary sources I could find. I also visited the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum to gather information on what life was like for the Jews and how people lived in Shanghai back then. My late grandmother lived through WWII China too, so I was able to draw on my own knowledge of the Chinese culture in the past to write this book.

4) Writing historical fiction can sometimes seem like a daunting task. Did you face any particular challenges while writing this book? 

Aside from the difficulties in research, my own biggest challenge was writing an Asian male main character. How do I make him attractive and relatable to a primarily non-Asian readership, and include him in an AMWW (Asian Man/White Woman) romance subplot? For all the recent talks about diverse writing and representations in media, Asian men generally do not get a lot of love in American media (John Cho and Daniel Day Kim notwithstanding). Pairing an Asian man in a romantic role with a white woman (Jewish in my case) is still a rare phenomenon. I wasn’t sure if readers would be interested in reading a book in which the hero is an Asian man.

On the other hand, I’m not a writer who use my books to force messages onto readers, nor do I want to write for the sake of “representation.” I really, really dislike doing that. As a historical fiction writer, my primary goal is to tell a good story and take my readers on an emotional journey. I do my best to present history objectively so readers can see and experience the world in that era for themselves. I want them to have the opportunity to judge history through their own eyes, and not what I tell them.

Anyway, I couldn’t have written a story to make a point even if I tried. My writing process is very organic and I don’t plot before I write. I write because characters invade my mind and won’t let me rest until their stories are told. Clark and Eden happen to be the ones occupying my head at the moment. I only hope that I’ve done their story justice. I hope Clark will come across to the readers as someone they can relate to, and they can feel all his joys and pains.

5) What is your favorite scene from the book? 

My favorite scene is when Clark and his sisters took Eden to the Paramount Dance Hall. So much of what the entire story is about was embodied in that scene. The Paramount was the epitome of 1930s Shanghai decadence. The performers that night were Buck Clayton and Zhou Xuan. Through Clayton, I was able to show readers the influence of Black American jazz on Chinese contemporary music, as well as the racial attitudes and segregation during that time. Through Zhou Xuan, I introduced to readers an icon of modern Chinese music. She performed “When Will You Come Again?” This song is very popular even today. What most people don’t know is that this song has a huge cultural, historical, and political significance. It was first banned by Chiang Kai-shek, then by the Japanese, and then by Mao’s Communist Party. I really like sprinkling into my books details like these ones.

In that scene, we saw a glimpse of the Communists’ views on commercialism through Liu Zi-Hong, the boyfriend of Clark’s sister Wen-Li. The Japanese captain Kenji Konoe made an appearance and we got an allusion to the looming Japanese threat. Most important of all, it was a major scene where we could see Clark and Eden’s deepening attraction to each other, and how the constraints of racial and cultural divide prevented them from pursuing a relationship.


I hope your readers will enjoy Shanghai Story. Thank you so much, Amanda, for giving me this chance to share my thoughts with your readers.

Interview with Xinran, the Author of Buy Me The Sky

Interview with Xinran, the Author of Buy Me The Sky

Author Xinran
Author Xinran

Most readers of this blog know that I am a huge fan of the author Xinran. I reviewed her book “The Good Women of China” here and wrote about her book “Letters From an Unknown Chinese Mother” here. Her latest book “Buy Me The Sky: The remarkable truth of China’s one-child generations” talks about the children who have grown up under China’s one-child policy, something else I have written about quite a bit. 

I am so honored that Xinran agreed to talk with me about her new book! 

1)      Tell me about yourself.
I am…
A Chinese daughter, but doesn’t know very much about her parents’ life because of China’s political past which her parents never wanted to talk about it between 1950’s to 1970’s.
A Chinese mother, but doesn’t know much about her only child, because he grows up between Chinese culture and western culture, in his bilingual languages and screened knowledge.
A British husband’s wife, but doesn’t know much about her husband’s culture and adopted western society because her limited English and world knowledge.
A Chinese woman, but doesn’t know much about her roots country because China has changed so fast in last 30 years, there is no so such a historical record/lesson to learn from it.
A Chinese writer, but is still struggling to understand why the history is so unfair to women, and is trying hard to get Chinese hidden voices out.
2)      How did you become a writer?
Driven by a childhood dream, grow up with a passion and everyday hard trying of listening, observation, and thinking.
3)      How did you come to write Buy Me the Sky?
buy me the skyDuring over thirty years research on today’s China, I have shocked by some facts which have happened to the most families under One Child Policy, therefore I want to find the answers to these questions and to send an invitation out for people could listen to their answers:
— ‘Is the mother keeping her child as a pet, or is the child keeping her parents as slaves, to be at her beck and call with every wave of her hand?!
— Is One Child Policy much more powerful than any kind of the beliefs rooted in culture, religion, education, and living environments?
— They all belong to the first generation of the One Child Policy, they have completely different views on China, the world, and the concept of a quality life because of their family backgrounds, living conditions, and their pursuit of different ideals. But is there any point they could agree with their family elders after their long march under One Child Policy?
4)      At the end of each story, you ask the young people you talked to about the Yao Jiaxin incident. Why did you feel it was important to get their views on that?
Yes, it could help readers to understand there is no such a Chinese and single China there, young Chinese have very different knowledge and views on Yao’s case because the difference of their living condition and family backgrounds, also between rich and poor, city and countryside, and even between 5 years age!
5)      Why do you think only-children in China are so different from only-children born in other countries?
A child lives in an adult society must be completely different from a child lives in a society with many other children…
Or we say, English lives in Beijing, in a Chinese Hotong, must feel very different from she/he lives in a building which is full of English speakers…
Childhood society/family culture is the first education/brainwash in our life!
6)      What do you think of China’s new two-child policy? Do you think it will effect much change in the short or long term?
One Child Policy, as anything, likes a coin with two sides, (in fact it should be three sides):
In the last three decades, under the One Child Policy, China has prevented 400 million people from coming into this world, buying FOUR years for the world population to reach 6 billion. In this point, One Child Policy is a gift to the earth by its birth control, saving energy, giving more space to all of life being. AND China had got a chance to recover from nearly one hundred years civil war, from a very poor country to today’s big rich country.
But, China has paid high price for it.  This policy has led Chinese families jumped a history queue, BEFORE Chinese could have had a time to build up a ‘ready knowledge and support system’ for the one child society, as I have mentioned in my article sent to you:    
According to China’s sixth census in Oct 2014, by 2020 there will be 30 million more males than females among the age group of 20 to 45 year olds in China. More than 150,000 Western families have adopted Chinese orphans, mainly girls, since 1991. And also, the most important part of Chinese tradition is our family value which has rooted and shaped Chinese culture and society, but it has been damaged by single children society. Chinese become confused by its social disorders, its rule-less family structure, and polluted by some western celebrity culture, and even drugged sexual behaviours without enough education and any learning process.
I hope ‘two children policy’ is not too late.
I wish more and more hard working young parents could realise that their beloved only child won’t have a real sharing and quality life by lives by her/his own, because money can’t buy a happy family and peaceful sleep!
It might take more two generations for Chinese to realise how much Chinese tradition and society have been damaged by this policy.
7)      What are you working on next?
I am working on my new book ‘Talking Love’ a family dating history through its four generations.
8)      Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?
Great thanks for this question with your cares!
2063-07_09_07-image_2_lg2I set up a charity called The Mothers’ Bridge of Love (MBL) (UK registration number 1105543) with a group of volunteers in 2004.  MBL’s aim is to provide Chinese cultural support to children in all corners of the world, by creating a bridge of understanding between China and the West, and between birth and adoptive cultures, and helping education in rural China. 
After ten years MBL’s achievements of assistance, advice and educational activities to adoptive families around the world, supporting a number of disaster relief and built 15 libraries for some migrant workers’ children, and children living in rural countryside in China, now MBL invites my readers and families from all over the world to support MBL for giving more children with reading possibility in rural China.
You can read all of my author interviews here. 
Don’t forget to enter our monthly giveaway! You can learn more about this month’s prize here. 
  beijing monkey 2

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Interview With Lisa See, Author of The Red Princess Mysteries

Interview With Lisa See, Author of The Red Princess Mysteries

Lisa See is best known for her historical novels, especially Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, which I reviewed here. But she also wrote a fabulous mystery series back in 1997. I recently read all three of the Red Princess mystery books and really enjoyed them. Lisa was kind enough to answer a few questions I had about the series. Check out my interview and enter for a chance to win all three Red Princess mystery books at the end!

Author Lisa See
Author Lisa See

1) Tell me a little about yourself.

I was born in Paris but grew up in Los Angeles. I’m part Chinese. My great-great-grandfather came here to work on the building of the transcontinental railroad. My great-grandfather was the godfather/patriarch of Los Angeles Chinatown. I don’t look at all Chinese, but I grew up in a very large Chinese-American family. I have hundreds of relatives in Los Angeles, of which there are only about a dozen who look like me.

I go for walks and play tennis. I love movies, and I used to see about 100 a year. But frankly, I don’t have much free time these days. I’m a L.A. City Commissioner. I also curate the occasional museum exhibition and do tons of speaking events each year. I’m also a freak when it comes to letter writing. I write lots of letters, and I think I’m pretty good at answering my e-mail in a timely way. My days are extraordinarily full with all sorts of things. These days, I have to say no more than I’d like so I can write.

2) Tell me a little about your writing history.

In one way, I was extremely fortunate with my first book. In another way, I’d already worked a very long time as a writer. To backtrack… I had worked as a journalist for many years and had been the West Coast correspondent for Publishers Weekly for about eight years when I started On Gold Mountain. Like I said, I’d already been working a long time as a professional writer, so people in publishing knew me and my work. (They may not have known me personally, but they read me almost every week and knew, among other things, that I could meet a deadline.) I also benefited from the success of Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club. Publishers were actively looking for more Chinese-American stories. Amy’s agent was Sandy Dijkstra. Sandy has a great American art collection, and she helped me with some of the art sources for On Gold Mountain. After two years of work—doing interviews, traveling back to the home village in China, searching out what I could find in archives, and then writing the proposal—I thought that Sandy would be the perfect person to sell the idea. There was an auction—a miracle as far as I was concerned. So, hard work, timing, and good luck.

3) You published the first Red Princess mystery, The Flower Net, in 1997. Can you tell me how the series came about and what publishing it was like?

red princessMy husband is an attorney and he represented the country of China back when most commercial ventures were owned by the government. He had a case that resulted in our spending an evening in a very swanky karaoke bar in Beijing in the middle of winter. This was back in something like 1994, so China was very, very different than it is today. Anyway, we were with all these agents from the Ministry of Public Security—China’s version of the FBI. Now there’s one thing you can say about people in law enforcement: they basically all look alike, no matter where you go in the world. They have a particular build, they carry weapons, they wear black leather jackets, they have their tough-guy attitudes. But these guys also had something else. They were covered in gold: big gold Rolexes, big gold rings, big gold necklaces and bracelets, because they were corrupt but they were up front about it. They were getting up to sing sappy love songs in these gorgeous tenor voices, with the tears streaming down their faces. If you’re a writer and you get to experience something like that, there’s only one thing you can think: This is the best material and I’ve got it!

4) Did you always plan for Red Princess to be a series or was that decided later?

I always thought of it as a trilogy. While I didn’t know what the next two “mysteries” would be when I first started writing the series, I knew what I wanted as an emotional arc for David and Hulan.

5) You once described Flower Net as a snapshot of China in the late 1990s, but I was surprised by how contemporary the books still feel. For example, the descriptions of the factories in The Interior still seem to apply today. Do you think China has changed much since the last book was published in 2003?

Yes and no. You’re absolutely right about the factories. I feel like I was way out front on that subject – long before revelations about Nike or Apple, long before the publication of Factory Girls, which is a fabulous non-fiction book on the subject. I’m very proud of the fact that The Interior helped to lay the groundwork for some of the journalism that followed.

But in other ways China is completely different. When I was first going to China, there were still very few cars. The last time I was in Beijing, it felt like it was all cars and very few bicycles. And just the physical changes that occurred in the lead up to the Olympics and all the way to today! When I first went to China, they had Pizza Hut, which did very poorly back then, because no one liked all the cheese, and no McDonald’s or Starbucks.

The societal and economic changes are also tremendous, especially in the big cities. The money—the sheer number of millionaires and billionaires—well, they just didn’t exist in the early 90’s. Even more striking, at least to me anyway, is the younger generation. If you’re 25 or younger, you personally don’t have memories of the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, or the events at Tiananmen Square. You may have heard stories of hardship, but that’s not your day-to-day reality nor does it affect your outlook about whether your future is tenuous or secure.

Lastly, I’d say media—television in particular—has really changed how people look at the outside world, their aspirations, and their sense of what they might be entitled to. While small, isolated, and poor villages may not have Starbucks or experience the economic benefits of being the second largest economy on the world, they do now have electricity and televisions. Even if they only have access to state-run channels, they still see how people dress in the cities, get glimpses of the rest of the world,
and, rather dismayingly, see commercials that are Western in style or content.

But going back to my comment about the mysteries feeling like snapshots… Each one is very specifically tied to that particular year. For example, the day the manuscript for Flower Net went to press, I had lunch with some writers here in Los Angeles. It was quite celebratory, because everything was done—all the writing, editing, and copy-editing. I said, “The only thing that could cause a problem now is if Deng Xian-ping dies.” When I got home, the phone was ringing. It was someone from the lunch, who said, “You’d better turn on the TV. Deng Xiao-ping just died.” We had to pull the book from the printer. And as you know, I added a scene that includes Deng’s funeral.

6) How did you learn so much about the inner workings of the Chinese Ministry of Public Security and other official agencies?

As I mentioned above, my husband is an attorney and he had one particular case in which he worked with the MPS. It was the first time—and to this day the only time—that the FBI and Ministry of Public Security worked together. (The FBI has worked with other Chinese ministries since then, and I’m sure that the MPS has worked with other U.S. agencies since then too.) I met many of the people who worked for the MPS. I asked lots of questions. For example: If you were going to dispose of a dead body in Beijing, how would you do it? (I’ve always found that people in law enforcement – all around the world, including here in the U.S. — think a lot about how they would commit a crime so as not to be caught. That’s part of how they catch the criminals! My husband was also having meetings inside the MPS and a prison. He could tell me details about the lack of heat, the type of flooring, and what people wore.

7) After Dragon Bones, you switched to historical novels. Why the change? What are the differences between writing a contemporary mystery or a historical novel?

snow-flower-and-the-secret-fanI first heard about nu shu—the women’s secret writing—in 1999 when I reviewed a book for the Los Angeles Times on the history of footbinding. It was just a short three or four page mention, but I thought, how could this exist and I didn’t know about it? I looked nu shu up on the Internet. At the time there wasn’t much about nu shu out there. (Now there’s quite a bit.) It took me a long time before I realized I would write a novel based on nu shu. I read all this academic stuff written by scholars and I went to southwestern Hunan province to learn what I could. What I discovered was that the scholars—as brilliant as they are—always seemed to leave out the emotions inherent in the secret language. It was something used by real women who had real emotions. I thought a novel would be the best way to explore that.

To answer your second question, writing straight fiction is much easier than writing mysteries or thrillers. Writing the mysteries helped me tremendously with Snow Flower. With mysteries, you have to keep focused on the plot. You can’t overlook a single detail. It’s a very tight form and pacing is extremely important. Today, straight fiction, especially women’s fiction, has very little plot. It’s just a slice of life with an emotional change. I personally prefer novels that have enough plot that I’m anxious to turn the pages. For Snow Flower, the plotline was why does Lily feel such regret, and what happened between her and Snow Flower to create their rift? You see, it’s still a mystery. I had to place clues about Snow Flower’s upbringing, about the hardships of her life, and what the secret message on the fan actually meant throughout the novel for it to work. Writing the mysteries has helped me with the pacing, characters, and emotional arcs of all the novels that have come since. Really, if you look at all my novels, you’ll find secrets that need to be revealed.

8) Do you think you will ever return to mystery writing?

Right now I don’t have any plans to continue with them, but that doesn’t mean I won’t one of these days. Poor David and Hulan have been through so much. I like to think that they’re on vacation somewhere, sitting by the ocean, under a palm tree, sipping drinks with those little umbrellas in them. Those two deserve a break! But one day they’ll be called back to work.

9) What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on a new novel called The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, which has three main elements: the mother/daughter relationship, the history of tea (with an emphasis on Pu’er), and the Akha ethnic minority of Yunnan. For the mother/daughter story, I want to write about a woman who gives up her baby for adoption in China, the woman in California who adopts her, and the girl herself.

Lisa See, thank you so much for chatting with me!

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Interview With Annie K. Wong, Author of Children of Lightning

Interview With Annie K. Wong, Author of Children of Lightning

Annie K. Wong is the author of fantasy adventure Children of Lightning! The Chinese-Canadian writer agreed to stop by and tell us more about her book. Be sure to check out the giveaway at the bottom of the page!

About Children of Lightning

Annie Wong_Children of Lightning_Final art_front cover resizeSecrets beget secrets. The curse that befell the Hollows clan has left them incapable of producing male offspring. To extend their bloodline, they have formed a covenant with the serpentine Ophidians, who give them children. In return, the Hollows must keep these monstrous creatures well fed, though the details of the procurement are so abominable that the truth is never revealed to the other clans. In their homeland of Matikki, they live like outcasts.

Through a series of chance discoveries, the secrets of the ancient curse unfold before a warrior named Writhren Hollow. Is her purely female clan the result of a lapse of divine providence, or are the Hollows themselves victims of an enslavement scheme?

If Writhren frees her clan from the covenant, she risks the wrath of the Ophidians and the future of her bloodline. If she keeps the truth of the curse to herself, she is a traitor to her own kind. Either way, she will suffer for what she must do.

This is not a story of redemption, but regret. This is Writhren’s story.



Interview with Author Annie K. Wong

1) Tell me a little about yourself.

I grew up in Hong Kong and was almost twenty when I left for university in the U.S.  Although I don’t get along easily with my mother, she has been instrumental in shaping my life and allowing me to become a writer.  If not for her, I wouldn’t have received my college education and years later, immigrated to Canada where I met my current partner, Scott.  It was during college that I discovered my ability as a storyteller, and in Vancouver that I had the opportunity to study film, an experience which has changed and enhanced my storytelling skills.

Currently, I work in the transportation industry by day and pursue a writing career in my spare time.

2) Tell me a little about your writing history. 

I discovered my talent in storytelling in college, but I did not pursue writing as a career then because I was lazy and afraid.  Writing is not for the faint of heart.  The writing process can be grueling, the rate of failure very high.  I was not ready for the challenge as an undergrad.

awwebcropUnbeknownst to me, this urge to write had remained dormant in me for more than a decade after I left college and reared its (ugly) head in my mid-thirties when I was older, more mature and perhaps more capable of tackling the difficulties of a writing life.  Being the fighter that I am, I battled against this inner voice that beckoned me to be a writer.  I did that for a year and lost.

I was reluctant at first, but once I put my fingers to the keyboard, I discovered a new me, an explorer of brand new worlds and dangerous, complex situations.  I became hooked onto the adrenaline of every story twist and turn unfolding before my eyes.  Yes, writing continues to be difficult, but the difficulty is what makes it so, very rewarding.

3) Your first book is called Children of Lightning. Tell me a little about it.

Children of Lightning is the prequel to a book series I have been working on since 2010.  It is about Writhren Hollow, a snake-haired warrior, who while trying to save her clan from extinction ends up becoming the villain in the story.

4) How did this story come about?

Before I wrote Children of Lightning, I spent a couple years drafting the first book in a fantasy series about a young hero rising against an ancient and powerful monster who vows to destroy her family and the world.  After I finished the manuscript, however, I became curious about this monster, where she came from and how she became so full of vengeance.  Even though she is the villain, I found it unjust to the character to simply bring her out to be defeated.  She needed her own story.

People often overlook the importance of the villain in a story, especially in the fantasy genre.  Without the villain initiating the attack, there will be no reason for defense, for heroic deeds.  For this reason, the villain gives birth to the hero, and a well-rounded villain is more interesting, more challenging.   The more we know about a monster, the less monstrous she becomes, and yet, because of who she is, she continues to be threatening.  The hero’s battle against this evil force will be more complex and in the end, more rewarding.  That is why I decide to write an origin story for the villain in my book series, Writhen Hollow, the result of which is Children of Lightning.

5) Since this is a fantasy novel, you basically built a whole new world with new races and a new mythology. What was building this world like? 

Complicated.  🙂 It happened in stages, beginning with the characters and their physical appearances.  These “children of lightning” or lucerians as they are called, are not human, and the way they were first created necessitates a homeland filled with volcanoes.  Additional geographical details were then added to advance the plot, and a name was given to this mythical land: Matikki.

When the basic landscape was set, I imagined the kind of architecture they would have in Matikki.  Would it make sense to have houses made of wood in a volcanic land?  Could I make these houses look exotic and plausible at the same time?

Finally, since Matikki is a volcanic land where magic thrives and Writhren and her peers are not human, their culture and beliefs should be very different from ours.  What colours do they associate with life and death?  How do they organize themselves, govern themselves?  Do they have a monarch or a warlord as a ruler?  What do they use as a currency of trade?  Dollar bills or magic spells?  These details took a long time to take shape, the result of which has been a combination of imagination and logic.

6) Are there any themes or subplots you hope readers will pick up on?

There is a Chinese saying that states, “Succeed and become a king; fail and become a traitor” (成王敗寇).  The saying refers to the ancient times when people rebelled against a ruthless, suppressive regime, which often involved assassinating the king.  The rebel leader who succeeded in killing the king would be the next monarch.  He who failed would be killed for treason.  Two people having the same intention and making the same attempt for greatness could be defined very differently depending on the result of their efforts.  The line between a hero and a villain can be very thin.

My book is an origin story of a villain.  To say that Writhren Hollow is a victim of circumstances would be an over-simplification.  Yes, fate might not have been kind to her, but she, like any normal person, never set out to be evil.  At what point did she choose the path of darkness?  How much is she responsible for her subsequent role in the story?  Hopefully, readers will give Children of Lightning a try and find out.

7) What writers in the sci-fi/fantasy genre inspired you?

I have mentioned in other posts my love for Garth Nix’s The Old Kingdom series and the works of China Mieville.  I also admire the world building work in epic fantasies such as A Song of Ice and Fire series.

One of the books I am currently reading is The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz.  His choice for the narrator and point of view for the story are interesting.  Karen Russell is another writer I have recently discovered and love.  The works of these two writers are considered as more “magical realism” than strictly fantasy, but I find their stories just as imaginative, not to mention very well written.

8) What are you working on now?

I am thinking of writing a story about a contemporary of Writhren Hollow and continue the mythology from a different angle.

Author Bio

Annie K. Wong was born in Hong Kong and lives in Canada, in the west coast city of Vancouver, BC. She has a BA in Business Administration and Creative Writing from Houghton College as well as a Diploma in Film Studies from the University of British Columbia. Although she explored careers in advertising, television and office administration, the desire to write overtook her at the turn of the new millennium. In 2003 she earned a Post-Graduate Certificate in Creative Writing from Humber College and has been crafting stories ever since.

Her current project is a fantasy series, the prequel of which is Children of Lightning.

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