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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Interview with Wesley Chu (Interviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website
Order The Lives Of Tao HERE

After reading Wesley Chu's debut The Lives of Tao from Angry Robot books, I knew I had found a winner. Combining classic Sci-Fi tropes with the nascent charm of urban fantasy books, Wesley has written a comic debut that is sure to find lots of fans and IMHO marks him out as a talented author as well. I'll be reviewing The Lives Of Tao closer to its release and I can say it was a blast to read and will be figuring high on my year end lists. So read the interview to get to know more about Wesley, his writing style, the Tao books and his weird run in with Spike Lee...

Q] Welcome to Fantasy Book Critic and thanks for accepting my invite for this interview.

WC: Thanks for having me. Let’s rock this party.

Q] Please elaborate how the genesis of the Lives of Tao occurred. How long have you been working on it? Has it evolved from its original idea (if any)? 

WC: I worked on The Lives of Tao on and off since roughly 2007ish. I took a few years off to… um… raid the Outlands in World of Warcraft. Say what you will, being an officer in a raiding guild teaches leadership, administrative skills, and builds a high tolerance for douchebaggery. These are all very important skills to possess in life.

I’m extraordinarily pleased with the final product. It is my vision and then some. My original concept was really nothing more than a coming-of-age between a fat loser and his alien, and the final product delves into many deeper issues about morality, philosophy, and drinking scotch like a man who knows how to drink scotch. It’s got layers like a good Lagavulin, or a fruit cake.

Q] For someone who hasn't read any of your novels, how would you describe the type of stories that you write? What would be your elevator pitch for the Lives Of Tao Series? 

WC: I’m a character driven storyteller who likes to use humor without smacking someone over the head with it. It’s humor that’s unaware of itself. With an acting background, I also love dialogue, banter, and relationship building. And guns. And girls. And Kung Fu. I’m basically the Starz version of a writer, except I don’t like to swear when I write, or show nudity for that matter. Hmm… maybe I should reassess that comparison.

Man, I suck at elevator pitches, but here goes: The Lives of Tao is a modern day sci-fi about a fat loser who has been inhabited by an alien and is drafted, screaming and kicking, into a civil war over control of humanity’s evolution.

Q] Your debut novel is the first volume in a series. Could you give us a progress report on the next book, offer any details about the sequel and outline your plans for the series as a whole? 

WC: The sequel, The Deaths of Tao, was delivered to the Angry Robot overlords at the end of March, and just had its publication date moved up to Oct 29th, 2013. Huzzah! My vision for The Lives of Tao universe is a series divided into trilogies.

Each trilogy will be self-contained but the extended series will follow the Quasings as they strive to play nice with each other and with the humans. This series has the potential to go in so many different directions with different trilogies and spin-offs, so who knows? If I’m lucky enough, maybe we’ll see Tao in a space ship one day.

Q] “The Lives Of Tao” is written in the third-person, which is not so common for urban fantasy/SF thrillers. Why did you choose to go in this direction and what do you feel are the differences between first-person and third-person narratives? 

WC: I wouldn’t say that third person narrative is uncommon in SF thrillers. I think certain authors, genres, and categories do tend to lean toward one narrative or another. Writing between first and third is a personal choice and each method brings something different to the table. Readers perceive the actions and thoughts of characters in different ways when the narrative changes.

I’m definitely a natural third person narrative author. Personally, I had always imagined the story as such and never considered another narrative to use.

Q] In your debut, you have a singular POV protagonist (besides Tao). Will you be expanding the number of POV characters in the sequels and if so can you give us a hint as to who they might be? 

WC: The Lives of Tao only had room for a singular POV protagonist. Let’s face it, Roen was a big fixer-upper and needed a lot of TLC physically and mentally, and he had a lot on his plate to work on. I wanted to tear him down and piece him together as realistically as possible. Well, as realistic as one can with an alien yammering in your head.

The sequel will feature two POV protagonists, and gives equal billing to a POV Antagonist. I’m not going to give away too much since it’ll be minor spoilers for readers of the first book. However, I can say that Enzo, the new antagonist, is an Adonis Vessel and a badass psychotic bastard. He’s better than you and he’ll make sure you know it.

Q] In your book, Tao has met with many famous (and infamous) human beings throughout his long life. How did you go about selecting whom Tao has previously bonded with? 

WC: One thing that I loved about writing this novel was that all of history was my sandbox. I wanted to not only use famous historical figures but ones that weren’t as well-known as well as those shrouded in legends. In Chinese lore, San Feng, according to legend, invented Tai Chi after watching a snake and a magpie duke it out. Temujin, the boy who grew up to be the greatest warlord in history (take that Alexander!), had a frigging interesting and brutal childhood before he built the largest empire in the world.

It required a lot of research on some of the less famous but equally significant figures in history. Not only did I have to create a host migration path for the Quasing, I had to give them relevance toward the Quasings’ goals. I tried to keep the facts as historically accurate as possible, but I took liberties with the methods to their madness.

Q] On a similar note, with such a vast cast of humanity to choose from. How did you decide which ones would be allied with the Prophus and Genjix causes (coin toss, roll of the die, etc)? 

WC: I wanted to mix and match them. I didn’t want the Prophus to only inhabit people that modern society perceives as good and give the Genjix only the bad guys. History is complicated and the events that occurred are rarely black and white.

In this world, both factions had members in the Nazi party. Both had been presidents, kings, and saints. The Quasing civil war went beyond our perception of good versus evil. We’re just all pieces in a massive game of Chess on steroids. Of course, we perceive the Prophus as more good because they’re more sympathetic toward humanity, but I can easily root for the Genjix as well.

Q] In your forthcoming post about antagonist and villainy, you talk a lot about what makes a good villain and the troubles they face. Which famous villains in books and TV/Movies do you feel haven’t got their due? 

WC: I think this question is best answered in the blog post about villainy. =) Keep a look out for it April 17th!

Q] A curious thing I noticed about the Prophus-Genjix conflict was their differences in philosophy in relation to acquisition of power/knowledge and its usage. In this regards, these philosophies are a tad similar to those of the Jedi-Sith schools. What are your thoughts about this semblance? 

WC: Wow, I never thought of it in a Stars Wars framework, and to be honest, I don’t know too much about the Sith outside of the movies and Knights of the Old Republic video games. I get that the Sith want power, and that they’re pretty evil and want to rule the world, but that’s not what the Genjix are about.

They want to rule the world, but to be honest; they don’t really give a shit about it. Ruling the world is nothing more than a means to an end. They have bigger goals than be gods of this mud ball planet. They have proper reasons for wanting this power. Not like Anakin’s I want power to protect those I love kind of cheesy deals. For them, power and influence just makes it easier for them to do their real job.

Q] Please tell us about the books and authors who have captured your imagination and inspired you to become a wordsmith in your own right. 

WC: I was a big reader as a kid. I don’t know if you remember back in the 1980s when they use to hand out those book catalogues in grade school. I trolled those catalogues like nobody’s business.

At one point, I ran out of books in my English Professor father’s libraries and set myself onto all his hundreds (literally) of cliff notes. That’s how much reading I did. It’s safe to say that’s probably why I sucked at any sport that required the use of round objects.

I’m going to dig deep and pull up the first authors that I followed religiously. That’s L. Frank Baum, Lawrence Watt Evans, Piers Anthony, Robert Aspirin, Tim Powers, Terry Pratchett…etc… Man, the list goes on. But I think it was at those times early in my life when I was young and dumb that inspired me to be a writer.

Then when I hit puberty, I promptly decided I’d rather make money for a living. It wasn’t until my late twenties after I got over all the hobbies that twenty year olds do that I realized that the itch to write was still there.

Q] You have previously worked as a stuntman as well as an actor. Please tell us about your experiences and could you share any bizarre/funny stories? 

WC: I once booked a Spike Lee commercial. They booked me straight off of my headshots which aren’t uncommon but not usual. It was a strange shoot from the get-go since no one bothered to call me until the day of the shoot where they asked me where the f**k I was at.

Once I explained that no one called me, they told me to get my ass down to the United Center right away. I rushed to the shoot where Spike Lee was supposed to read this magic book about Michael Jordan in front of the MJ statue to a whole bunch of little kids 7-16 year olds. Here’s the kicker; I was booked as one of the kids! Now, I was 29 at the time, and while being Asian, I might have looked young, but no amount of Miracle Max could pass me off as a teenager.

They must have thought I was one based on my headshots and booked me as such. Spike Lee literally did a double take, pointed at me, and spoke to his crew, “WTF is that?!” Not gonna lie, it was pretty humiliating. They were cool enough to not kick me off the set, but the next day, I went to take new headshots.

Q] In closing, are there any final thoughts or comments that you'd like to share with your readers? What can we look forward to you in the future? 

WC: Thanks for reading through my thoughts and dribble. The Lives of Tao comes out April 30th, 2013, and I have a book release party May 4th in Chicago. You don’t have to buy the book, but if you’re in the area, at least come party and have a glass of scotch with me. The sequel The Deaths of Tao is dropping Oct 29th, 2013 so keep an eye out for it.

It’s funny; I feel like one of those MMA guys after a fight saying this. I like to thank my sponsors Angry Robot Books, FBC, Red Bull, Fredericks of Hollywood, and Shake-Weights.

Disclaimer: None of them are actually my sponsors, but if they’d like to be, feel free to contact me. I am easily bought. =)

NOTE: Author picture courtesy of the author himself.   Jedi Vs Sith picture courtesy of Phil Hoffer [Rotane].


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