Cover Artist: Tiferet Design
Sales Links: DSP Publications https://tinyurl.com/y7kffs4a
Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Alan Chin here today on tour for his latest novel, Surviving Immortality. Welcome, Alan. Thanks for sitting in our author’s interview chair today.
Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interview with Alan Chin
- How much of yourself goes into a character?
All my characters come from aspects of my multifaceted personality. I pick and choose different characteristics based on the needs of the plot, but they all come from somewhere inside that gray area I call me. It’s one of the things I love about writing; I’m forced to explore different facets of myself.
- Do you feel there’s a tight line between Mary Sue or should I say Gary Stu and using your own experiences to create a character?
Not entirely sure what you’re asking here. I feel that the only way to create a multidimensional, realistic character is to use my own life experiences to define the parameter of feelings and emotions and actions a character will encounter. My own life defines the only guidelines I have to create. Fortunately, I’ve had countless experiences over the last sixty-plus years to draw from and my memory is still sharp enough to recall them.
- Does research play a role into choosing which genre you write? Do you enjoy research or prefer making up your worlds and cultures?
An old friend of mine, Victor Banis, once said he believed that I didn’t choose my stories, my stories choose me. I believe that is true of genre as well. Generally, story ideas knock about my head for years before I finally put pen to paper to scratch out some notes. During that phase I don’t give any thought to which genre to use.
For example, Surviving Immortality started with a question of which is more destructive, man’s greed or his lust for violence, and what happens when you pit those two traits against each other? That premise rattled around my brain for three years before I was ready to get serious about it. It grew in scope and intensity until I had a breakthrough moment of inspiration of how to present it. At first, I had no idea there would be a love interest for the protagonist, let alone where he would end up. I was too engrossed in staging the theme.
I seldom research ideas until I’m ready to start outlining. Once I’m into a story, I enjoy the hell out of digging deep to find the most interesting tidbits for the telling of the story. And I like to keep my stories as factual as possible, even in a fictional world. Once I’m absorbed in a story, information flies at me from all directions and from totally surprising places. It’s part of the fun of writing.
- Has your choice of childhood or teenage reading genres carried into your own choices for writing?
No. As a child and young adult, I hated reading. I didn’t take up reading until I was in my twenties, and I didn’t start writing until my fortieth year. I was a late start, but reading and writing grew into a love affair between me and books of all genres. Early on, I read general fiction almost exclusively. I started with the old masters. Lately, I’ve been reading mostly non-fiction and biographies. For the last few months I’ve been immersed in the French Revolution and Napoléon Bonaparte. A fascinating time and man.
- Have you ever had to put an ‘in progress’ story aside because of the emotional ties with it? You were hurting with the characters or didn’t know how to proceed?
Once I get hooked on the story and feel connections with the characters, nothing short of nuclear annihilation can keep me from working on it. Even when I’m not at my keyboard or writing notes, I’m always thinking about the story, examining, refining. I can’t wait to climb out of bed in the mornings to get started, usually before sunup. I’m afraid it’s become an overly obsessive passion.
With Surviving Immortality, it took me over a year to write the first longwinded draft. It took another year to edit it down into something I’m exceedingly proud of. In those two years, there were only a handful of days that I didn’t work on it in one way or another.
I do suffer emotional ties with my characters and sometimes that feels painful. But I also experience their joys and their confusion and a whole range of emotions I don’t experience in my non-writing life. And isn’t that why we read? To experience that wide range of feelings and ideas?
- Do you like HFN or HEA? And why?
I like whatever the plot dictates. What’s important, for me at least, is for the reader to experience emotional satisfaction. There is nothing more gratifying than coming to the end of a story and knowing why it ended the way it did, but also knowing that the ending fit, that it was, emotionally and intellectually, the most suitable outcome.
- Do you read romances, as a teenager and as an adult?
As an adult, oh yes. Romance adds spice to any story. And for me, when it comes to spices, the hotter the better. Romance can make fools or heroes out of the most stable men and women. It adds pressure to any situation and gives us a truer idea of the character’s makeup. Nothing exposes a character’s internal being better than how he/she treats their love interest.
- Who do you think is your major influence as a writer? Now and growing up?
There are so many. Colm Toibin and Marguerite Duras for their beautiful prose. Truman Capote for his vivid characters. Christopher Isherwood, Michael Cunningham and Evelyn Waugh for everything. I’m also a fan of Michael Crichton for his solidly entertaining storytelling. And of course, Annie Proulx for her brilliant short stories.
We are so lucky to live in a time where we have so many masters to choose from.
- How do you feel about the ebook format and where do you see it going?
You’d have to shoot me to pry my Kindle from my grip. I love it, especially when I travel. I generally travel three months at a time, and up to six months each year. Before ebooks, I loaded my luggage down with a dozen or more books. It was always a fight with my husband, who likes to travel as lightly as possible. Now I take hundreds of books, all on my Kindle. I love it and so does Herman.
Also, I’m getting older (I signed up for Medicare last month), and the larger print really helps. As much as I love hardbacks, ebooks are here to stay and I’m good with that.
- How do you choose your covers? (curious on my part)
My publisher, Dreamspinner Publications, has a brilliant staff of artists. We exchange several emails delving into the stories characters, plot, themes, and they present me with several options. I’ve always been blown away by their talent to express ideas in images.
With Surviving Immortality, we agreed it was important to show a protagonist with the weight of the world on his shoulders, for indeed, the future of mankind pivots on his decisions. The first time I saw this cover, I knew they had nailed it. The whole universe is pressing down on him. I love it.
- Do you have a favorite among your own stories? And why?
My favorite is always the book I’m currently writing. In fact, I get so engrossed in my current work, that I have a hard time remembering the details of my previous stories.
Over the years my stories and characters have become more complex, and hence, more interesting, at least to me. I also feel that with each passing year, I become a better writer. It’s not what you write, it’s how you write it, and I feel I keep improving with each book.
If you write contemporary romance, is there such a thing as making a main character too “real”? Do you think you can bring too many faults into a character that eventually it becomes too flawed to become a love interest?
I think there is a danger in making a character so complex that the reader will have problems relating to him or her. It’s great to give characters faults, but not just for the hell of it. A faulty trait is there for a good reason. It needs to be a vehicle that relates to the plot, and something the character can overcome or take advantage of in order to complete his or her arc.
- What traits do you find the most interesting in someone? Do you write them into your characters?
Loyalty. E.M. Forster once said: “If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country.” This, I believe goes to the heart of the protagonists I try to create, and it’s a trait my antagonists seldom display. I’ve always regarded loyalty to friends and loved ones as going beyond admirable to heroic. It represents the best qualities of mankind.
I’m drawn to people who, like me, are outsiders—people who don’t really fit in. These characters are varied: some don’t fit in because of sheer defiance, some because they are terrified of society, some are simply scandalous. There are some, like the protagonist in Surviving Immortality, who have such a high degree of integrity that they don’t fit in anywhere in a world tainted by corruption. Because outsiders are on the fringe of society looking in, they tend to have a much different viewpoint from the norm. They often see things more clearly. All my protagonists are outsiders, hence abnormal, sometimes painfully so. Fish out of water. For me, it’s what makes them interesting.
- Have you ever put a story away, thinking it just didn’t work? Then years/months/whatever later inspiration struck and you loved it? Is there a title we would recognize if that happened?
No. As I said earlier, stories knock about my head for years. I don’t begin to write them until I’m so excited about them that I absolutely must write them. By then, there is no stopping until it’s complete.
- Have you ever had an issue in RL and worked it through by writing it out in a story? Maybe how you thought you’d feel in a situation?
I’m constantly dealing with my real-life issues in my work. I’ve always assumed that all writers do that.
- What’s the wildest scene you’ve imagined and did it make it into a story?
I won’t describe the scene because it is the crisis/conclusion of Surviving Immortality, and I don’t want to spoil the ending for anyone who chooses to read it. But trust me, it is one of the most chilling and exciting and heartbreaking and uplifting scene’s I’ve ever written. It’s a scene that may very well haunt a reader for a good long while. It did me.
- Ever drunk written a chapter and then read it the next day and still been happy with it? Trust me there’s a whole world of us drunk writers dying to know.
Writing is hard work for me. So I tend to write early in the morning when I’m fresh and alert. I generally start writing at sunup and often work until lunchtime. That’s a little early for me to be drinking. <smile> However, many times I’ve had to work while suffering a horrific hangover, which is no fun at all. These days, I still like my glass or two of wine around dinnertime, but I’ve given up on the hard stuff. When you reach your mid-sixties, you’ll know doubt understand why.
- If you could imagine the best possible place for you to write, where would that be and why?
I’ve travel to over sixty countries over the last twenty-five years, and I write most days when I travel. In all those places I’ve not once found a writing environment more suitable than my own office at home. Here in my workspace, I’m surrounded by the books I love and the quiet I need to concentrate. And even more important, my next cup of coffee is just down the hallway.
When it comes to a work environment, for me, less is better. I need quiet and internet access. And coffee, gallons of it, but that goes without saying.
- With so much going on in the world today, do you write to explain? To get away? To move past? To widen our knowledge? Why do you write?
I write to first help me understand the world I live in, both my internal gray matter and the external world, and then to present my reaction to those two worlds. And yes, there is a lot going on. Surviving Immortality tackles, among other topics, the epidemic of gun violence in America, the buildup of weapons of mass destruction, and the issues that lead our politicians into corruption. It’s a very topical love story.
I don’t think there has ever been a better time to write. We have such a rich tapestry of culture to draw from.
- What’s next for you as a writer?
For the next several months I’ll be promoting my new release, Surviving Immortality.
About a month ago I completed the first draft of my next novel. I’m currently in editing mode on that project, and I suspect that will continue for the rest of the year. Not sure what 2019 will bring, but this year will be busy with those two projects.
I’m very pleased to announce that my latest novel, Surviving Immortality, is now available in paperback and any eBook format, at
Dreamspinner Press Publications https://tinyurl.com/y7kffs4a
This story is purely fictional and not based on real people or true events.
About Surviving Immortality…
This is the story of the fountain of youth.
When Kenji Hiroshige discovers a formula that will keep people youthful and healthy for several thousand years, he tells the world he will not divulge his secret until every gun, tank, battleship, and bomb hasbeen destroyed. When the world is free of weapons, everyone can live forever. And then he goes into hiding.
Before he disappears, his son Matt Reece is exposed to the formula. Kenji takes Matt Reece on the run with him, but as they struggle to elude both government agencies and corporations who will do anything to profit from Kenji’s discovery, Matt Reece learns that world peace might not be his father’s only goal. But what can a young man who’s barely stepped foot off his isolated ranch do in the face of something so sinister?
This is the story of human greed and the lust for violence. It’s the story of a world on the brink of destruction, but it’s also a tale of one young man who finds in himself the will, courage, and compassion to stand against the darkness—both outside and within himself.
This is a story of hope.
About the Author
Alan Chin’s books explore spiritual growth through finding the right relationships. While his stories often contain elements of suspense, romance, Eastern religion, and the paranormal, his underlying focus is the power of love.
Alan is the author of nine novels, an anthology of short stories, and three screenplays.
Alan’s first novel, Island Song, won the 2008 QBliss Excellence in Literature award. His novels, The Lonely War and Match Maker won a total of five Rainbow Literature Awards. His book, The Plain of Bitter Honey is a 2014 ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year finalist in the Science Fiction category.
Alan lives and writes half of each year at his home in Southern California, and spends the other half of each year traveling the globe with his husband, Herman Chin.