Wednesday, 31 March 2010


Urban Fantasy generally is chock full of Vamps, Demons and Fae. However there really isn't anything really from the Eastern Philosophies out there and what a rich and varied culture it is. That said, you probably already know where this is going. Kylie Chan's epic first series (Dark Heaven's) has undergone a cover revamp, changed from Harper Collins to Angry Robot and brought to a new reading audience as of tomorrow.

So with a Dark Master, a fiesty heroine and a demi-god child alongside a whole host of Chinese God's, demon's and martial arts its a wonder that she managed to stuff this trilogy with so much from this rich pantheon. Here we chat to Kylie about life, chocolate and how she copes with the day to day stresses of writing...

Falcata Times: Writing is said to be something that people are afflicted with rather than gifted and that it's something you have to do rather than want. What is your opinion of this statement and how true is it to you?

Kylie Chan: I just finished the second book of the ‘Journey to Wudang’ trilogy, which carries the story on from the first ‘Dark Heavens’ trilogy. I gave it in to the publisher, and instead of taking a well-earned break, I filled up three pages of my notebook with notes for the next novel. Affliction is a good word for this; when asked about my writing I often say that I’m insane. I feel insane when I jump up from the dinner table or in the middle of a conversation, run into my office, and scribble notes for the latest idea that’s come to me.

FT: When did you realise that you wanted to be a writer?

KC: I honestly thought for many years that I didn’t have it in me. I wondered where that mystical clique of professional writers gained their ideas – and then when I started writing, realized that the ideas were there all the time, I just needed a good way of capturing them. If any one moment could be identified, it’s when I was about half way through my first novel – and discovered that I was actually quite good at it, and had people clamouring for the next instalment of my work!

FT: It is often said that if you can write a short story you can write anything. How true do you think this is and what have you written that either proves or disproves this POV?

KC: I can’t write short stories! Well, okay, maybe one. I wrote one and had it published in an anthology (‘Child Support’ in ‘The Devil in Brisbane’ if anybody is interested) – but when I actually tried to write a short story for publication it grew into a novella. I had no control, the story was just bigger than the format. Some people can write short stories, and not novels. For people like me, it’s the other way around. Short stories are a great way of breaking into fiction, however, and a wonderful learning tool. Shame I can’t really get my head around them.

FT: If someone were to enter a bookshop, how would you persuade them to try your novel over someone else's and how would you define it?

KC: I had this conversation today! The lady I was talking to was intrigued by Darren’s spectacular cover art, and in a fit of loquaciousness I told her the book was ‘really good’. I won’t try to give my books the hard sell – what I did suggest to her is that she take the book up to the counter and ask the bookshop staff what they thought about it. I’m well aware that I have some fans behind the counters of many bookstores. Don’t believe me when I say it’s good, ask someone who’s read it!

FT: How would you "sell" your book in 20 words or less?

KC: I don’t suppose ‘it’s really good’ will be enough there. I tend to throw words around – ‘demons, present-day Hong Kong, a kick-ass woman who learns kung fu, romance, action, lots of violence – all that good stuff.’

FT: Who is a must have on your bookshelf and whose latest release will find you on the bookshops doorstep waiting for it to open?

KC: I’m terribly lucky because as an author, all I have to do is ask my publisher for their latest offerings and I’ll receive what I refer to as my ‘big box o books’. I’ll read anything you put in front of me, and provided it’s fast-paced, fun, and full of mayhem, I’ll be engrossed for hours.

FT: When you sit down and write do you know how the story will end or do you just let the pen take you? ie Do you develop character profiles and outlines for your novels before writing them or do you let your idea's develop as you write?

KC: I absolutely know where the story is heading, I’m very clear on the end. Apart from that, I don’t do any structuring, profiling, or outlining. No, I tell a lie, I wrote a six-line outline for ‘Hell to Heaven’ but I didn’t stick to it. Usually the end of the novel is written way before I’m ready to get there – usually when I’m about a third of the way through. The rest is a roller-coaster ride with the characters in control and me clinging on for dear life and complaining that the story ‘wasn’t supposed to go in that direction’. We get there in the end.

FT: What do you do to relax and what have you read recently?

KC: Work for me is being sedentary and writing on the computer, so relaxing usually involves something heavily physical! I get out on my horse, do some laps of the pool, or practise my martial arts or do a tai chi set. Anything to get myself moving and give my brain a rest. I’ve just finished Glenda Larke’s novel ‘The Last Stormlord’ and enjoyed that immensely.

FT: What is your guiltiest pleasure that few know about?

KC: White chocolate. I try not to let that out because people give it to me, and I eat it! Bad me!

FT: Lots of writers tend to have pets. What do you have and what are their key traits (and do they appear in your novel in certain character attributes?)

KC: I have a wonderful cat that came from the rescue shelter and has latched onto me. She lies on my desk and helps me write, and even sits next to the pool when I’m swimming in it. My horse came over from Hong Kong with me, and I think he sees me as his Mum – he always whinnies when I walk into his yard – but maybe that’s just the carrots he knows I’m carrying.

FT: Which character within your latest book was the most fun to write and why?

KC: It was terrific to have Leo back in ‘Hell to Heaven’, and have him pinging off Emma and learning his way around his new life. He’s always been great fun to write and he has a new set of challenges in front of him.

FT: How similar to your principle protagonist are you?

KC: Not at all. People seem to be surprised when they find I share very few characteristics with Emma. She’s a combination of my sister and my best friend back in Hong Kong and has very little of me about her.

FT: What hobbies do you have and how do they influence your work?

KC: Does periodically pulling the computers around the house apart and messing with their insides count as a hobby? It doesn’t really influence my work as such, but it can make things move slightly slower when I’ve disembowelled my PC and suddenly need to write something – and can’t find the hard disk.

FT: Where do you get your idea's from?

KC: I think this is the most loathed question that any writer can be asked. The obvious answer is ‘out of my brain’ but that generally comes off as being supercilious, and it’s such a common question – everybody wants to know where I get my ‘wonderful ideas’. Everybody daydreams, and that’s all writing is – constructing elaborate and fanciful daydreams, and then writing them down.

FT: Do you ever encounter writers block and if so how do you overcome it?

KC: I don’t see it as writer’s block, although I’m sure it’s what it’s called. It’s more like a drying up of my creative energy, usually caused by too much ‘real life’ seeping into the world around me and cancelling out my wonderful daydreams. I let myself chill for a while, leave it at the back of my head, and the little gnomes who build my fantasy world get to work and present me with something later. They never give me anything when I ask for it – which makes deadlines things of terror for me.

FT: Certain authors are renowned for writing at what many would call uncivilised times. When do you write and how do the others in your household feel about it?

KC: I work at the most civilized of times – I do a great deal of my writing between midnight and four am – the most civilized part of the day. Being tired and confident that I won’t be interrupted are great catalysts for creativity. The tiredness releases the creative part of my mind, and I’ve written some of my best stuff half asleep. I’ve even woken up the next morning completely unable to remember writing any of it. It’s only me and my daughter in my household, and she puts up with me with a sort of weary mature tolerance that fifteen-year-olds seem to be experts at.

FT: Sometimes pieces of music seem to influence certain scenes within novels, do you have a soundtrack for your tale or is it a case of writing in silence with perhaps the odd musical break in-between scenes?

KC: I put metal or techno on very loud when I’m writing action scenes. Otherwise I’ve found that if I’m writing, I’m so deeply in the zone that I’m not aware of any outside noises so a soundtrack is a waste of time.

FT: What misconceptions, if any, did you have about the writing and publishing field when you were first getting started?

KC: All of them, I think. Let me see if I can list them:

I thought that if I wrote a successful novel, it would make me a lot of money. (I’m making enough to get by but at the moment, that’s all.)

I thought that if I wrote something of quality, publishers would be seriously interested. (Publishers have a wider set of requirements than ‘it’s good’ when they’re considering a first-time author.)

I thought that people would be lined up for hours at my book signings (well, okay, that one’s happened, but it was the exception.)

I thought that I didn’t need an agent. (Props to my agent, I can’t live without her.)

I thought that I would be jetted around the world, being famous and stuff. (Nope.)

FT: If music be the food of love, what do you think writing is and please explain your answer?

KC: Literature is brain food. The words are a doorway for the reader to build the world in their own head, making them envisage what we’re trying to say. Quite a lot of what you see when you read a book is your own visualization of what the scene looks like – we only provide the rough setting, you as the reader have to fill in the blanks. And that’s excellent brain exercise!

FT: What can you tell us about the next novel?

KC: I’m currently working on ‘book six’. The books are numbered one to nine in my head, but in reality they’ve been divided into three trilogies – three sets of three. So the one I’m working on now – ‘Heaven to Wudang’ – is the last of the second trilogy. It has the big final showdown and ties up all the threads from the second trilogy. I’m seriously having fun with this one.

FT: What are the last five internet sites that you've visited?

KC: My own website to update my blog; wikipedia to do some background research on a particular (real life) site I want to use; facebook (yeah I know); tvtropes (the randomizer is fun!); and the lolcats site. That list is slightly less nerdy than it usually is; you picked a more productive time of the day.

FT: Did you ever take any writing classes or specific instructions to learn the craft? If so please let us know which ones.

KC: I went to the Queensland Writer’s Centre and did some workshops there. I was also pointed in the direction of some wonderful resources for authors by a dear friend of mine – ‘The First Five Pages’ by Noah Lukeman, and ‘Self Editing for Fiction Writers’ by Renni Browne and Dave King. I cannot recommend these two resources enough.

FT: How did you get past the initial barriers of criticism and rejection?

KC: I didn’t! I still go into my office and cry my little eyes out, then vow never to write anything ever again, the minute someone criticises my work.

FT: In your opinion, what are the best and worst aspects of writing for a living?

KC: Absolutely the best part is to be able to sit at home and do what I want when I want. The writing comes by itself and it’s not really work unless there’s a deadline looming. Also, I don’t have to deal with office politics any more, which is a huge relief. I absolutely flat-out suck at office politics and I’ve left a trail of hatred and bile wherever I’ve gone because I’m usually way too honest and outspoken. The worst aspect is the unpredictability of the income – it’s impossible to budget when you have no idea how much is going to be in the next royalty cheque.

1 comment:

Angela Addams said...

Great interview! The questions are unique so the answers are way more interesting than the average interview...thanks!