The Next Big Thing
A couple weeks ago, my friend May-Lan Tan
, a wonderful writer, asked me if I wanted to participate in a project called the Next Big Thing. May-Lan's also a very talented artist, so my interview page is going to look pitiful by comparison. Here goes.
What is the working title of the book?
The Fortress of Light is a novel whose plot explores
the power of the movies as a storytelling device. The story alternates between a current day digital special effects studio and Mongol China, though it’s a Mongol China that already has the movie
Early movie film
stock was celluloid which was flexible but also perishable, because it was highly
flammable. In order to show movies
safely in a crowded public space, they had to develop projection booths with
fireproof, usually concrete, walls. In the novel, the title refers to both
the projection booth and the human imagination.
Where did the idea for the book come from?
About three years ago my wife
and I went to a Silk Road exhibit at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. Being Chinese-American
and old enough to remember a time when multi-culturalism wasn’t a word used by
ordinary people, I was fascinated to see how much mixing of cultures took place
under Kublai Khan centuries before public service announcements. It’s no accident
that Marco Polo might be the most famous individual from the 13th century. I not only share a name with him
(more or less), I made him a character in my book.
which genre does your book fall?
I call it ‘Silk Road Punk’. Steam Punk is a science fiction/alternate history genre where modern
devices are re-imagined as creations of the Victorian era, so flying machines
might be powered by steam engines and computers might be mechanical instead of
electronic.The Chinese already
knew about the camera obscura and the zoetrope. The Persians had Greek fire.
It also has bits of romance, ghost story, and what they used
to call the ‘novel of ideas’. There’s a
lot of stuff in it about the nature of storytelling that threatens to push the
book towards the “L” word, though not the L from the TV series.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a
It’s a ghost story in part, so I guess it’s fair to use
actors who are dead. I’d love to
have Sessue Hayakawa, who played Hollywood romantic leads in the silent era and
Anna May Wong, the Chinese-American actress who couldn’t get the lead in the
Good Earth over a Caucasian actress. I’d
also want John Cho (Harold and Kumar), Gong Li (Raise the Red Lantern), and
Julianne Hough (Dancing with the Stars).
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Two teenagers make romantic comedy movies in Mongol
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the
main character is a ghost with an eight-hundred-year-old case of writer’s
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My father loved to read.
I’d give him books for birthdays and Christmas. We’d both read them and
talk about them. He died when
I was twenty-two. I’ve often thought about how stories and storytelling connect us to people who are no longer with us.
Six writers I'm tagging
L. McKenna Donovan