How it got started.
In 1986, when my son was four years old, I had created a flimsy sketchbook, My Dear Old Bed for his birthday. I had no idea how much it had meant to him until November 1st, 2004, when the subject of the sketchbook came up again. Come to find out, he’d kept it in his safekeeping for the last eighteen years. And so on his 23rd birthday, I made a promise to my son. And that promise was to turn that flimsy sketchbook into a real book. I had plans to create a book for my daughter too. Then I thought it would make more sense to combine both books together. I would draw on my memories from all the nighttime stories that I had told them when they were toddlers to create the book. As you can see from the drawings below that the original story really began in their bedroom on a sleepless night when unexpectedly a mysterious butterfly appeared. They would follow the butterfly to many remarkable adventures. As a graphic designer / illustrator, a picture book was what I had intended. It would be a true picture book with no words. But fate is a funny thing; halfway through the project I realized—I wasn’t able to finish the book without words, so I started to write, the problem was, I struggled with writing. But my desire to tell the story eventually helped me overcame my fear.
I gave myself a week to complete the project. Little did I know, the journey would take me a lot longer than I had anticipated, on January 2014 Secrets of the White Lake (the first book) was finally completed.
Here is an old photo of Christopher and Mailee with their faithful companions, Doitch and Felix.
I went through various drawing styles in an attempt to tell the story. Here're some drawings from the first draft.
Here're some drawings from my second draft. I started with black and white, but I never finish the project. The story somehow took a different direction and I ended up writing the story instead.
Questions & Answers
Q: In Secrets of the White Lake synopsis, you described that your book challenges the reader with proverbial questions of faith, science and morals, can you explain?
A: Someone told me once that writing should come from your heart. These are the questions that haunt me every day. For me, faith and science is a constant struggle and I think the world we live in today has forgotten about morals. I know this is a fantasy book, but readers both young and old should be reminded of such questions and did I mentioned that the story is absolute wonderful.
Q: How did you come up with the title: Wind Shadow Chronicles?
A: Foong Ying was my mother's name, which means Wind Shadow in Cantonese dialect. My mother passed away a long time ago, but I still miss her every day so I wanted to honor her and keep her name alive.
Q: I assumed Secrets of the White Lake is the first chronicle?
Q: When is the next book coming out?
A: Battle of the Burnt Ground is planned for late next year.
Q: How many books are you planning to write?
A: Well, technically I have written three, but I'm planning five books.
Q: Why did the story begin after the seven-year-old promise?
A: It's the only way it could be told without giving away the ending.
Q: What happened in the Indian Refuge prior to the seven years?
A: Well, that is another story all together.
Q: That would be the prequel?
Q: Your book has a religious theme, were you influenced by Christianity?
A: Yes, I was once a devout Christian. I left England to go to a Bible Institute in Penns Creek, Pennsylvania, hoping to become a missionary. A lot of Saul's personality came from my own experiences, but I'm no longer a devout Christian, although I still believe in God. On any given day, I'm caught between both characters in the book, some days I felt like Saul and others, I felt like Yuanjia. And yes, both of the characters were strongly influenced by my own experiences.
Q: Saul and Yuanjia, are they the main characters in the book?
A: No, Miya and Crow are the main characters, but Saul and Yuanjia are a big part of the book.
Q: Can you talk about Miya and Crow?
A: Well, I am reluctant to talk too much about them, I don't want to give away the story, but I will tell you that a lot of their personalities were influenced by my children. Even their names: Mailee—Miya, Chris—Crow.
Q: What about Vil?
A: Well, Vil is a tough character to talk about. All I can tell you is that, he is the antagonist. His personality is very unpredictable and in that retrospect, it keeps the reader guessing. I think Vil represents all of us in some ways, especially when we are having a really bad day.
Q: The nighttime stories; are any of those stories in books?
A: Yes, that and much more.
Q: Why did you give up on the picture book?
A: I haven't given up on it yet, I hope to complete the picture book someday. But as of now, I have to invest my time and effort finishing my next book.
Q: What do you hope to achieve with your new book?
A: I hope everyone who purchase the book will enjoy reading it as much as I have labored over it. Writing this book has truly been a labor-of-love. Personally, it would have been so much easier just to do a picture book. I don't know why and I don't know how; but I always wake up alone on a solitary road, what does it mean?
Q: Are you a writer?
A: No, I never thought of myself being a writer or write for a living for that matter, I think I'm a storyteller and as such, I will use any medium to tell my stories.
Q: Do you think your book will be a success?
A: I don't know. I hope to develop a small fan base with my books. If I could make a decent living doing what I'm doing, I would be happy.
Q: You said that you struggled with writing, can you talk about that?
A: English is my second language, although I had taken English classes in high school, I never did well. As a matter of fact, I was a terrible student, I failed most of my classes except for art and music.
Q: So, how did you learn to write?
A: By reading books. By asking grammatic questions. By forcing myself to learn a new word a day. I did so by signing up with Word of the Day from Dictionary.com and every morning for the last seven years I've been learning a new word a day. However, I'm finding it harder and harder to remember all the words that I have learned, all I can say is, thank god for Google.
Q: It seemed like a monumental effort for you to write, how did you do it?
A: It took a while to work up the courage to write, I remembered writing my first sentence, I scrutinize the hell out of it. When I was finally happy with what I have written, I wrote another sentence. Slowly, a paragraph emerged, then a page. And another. I told my wife that writing for me is like building a castle all by myself. Lay a brick down, then another, don't worry about finishing the castle, just concentrate on a single room at a time.
If you have questions for the author you can post them on the blog page under the post: Questions for Author.
Self portrait of the author.
Thank you for reading my book and visiting my website. If you have a specific question, you can email me.
“Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it’s the answer to everything. … It’s the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it’s a cactus.”
“The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.”
“To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.”
—Allen Ginsberg, WD
“Write. Rewrite. When not writing or rewriting, read. I know of no shortcuts.”
—Larry L. King, WD
“Cheat your landlord if you can and must, but do not try to shortchange the Muse. It cannot be done. You can’t fake quality any more than you can fake a good meal.”
—William S. Burroughs
“All readers come to fiction as willing accomplices to your lies. Such is the basic goodwill contract made the moment we pick up a work of fiction.”
—Steve Almond, WD
“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”
“It ain’t whatcha write, it’s the way atcha write it.”
—Jack Kerouac, WD
“Not a wasted word. This has been a main point to my literary thinking all my life.”
—Hunter S. Thompson
“When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.”
“I don’t care if a reader hates one of my stories, just as long as he finishes the book.”
—Roald Dahl, WD
“Genius gives birth, talent delivers. What Rembrandt or Van Gogh saw in the night can never be seen again. Born writers of the future are amazed already at what they’re seeing now, what we’ll all see in time for the first time, and then see imitated many times by made writers.”
–Jack Kerouac, WD
“There are no laws for the novel. There never have been, nor can there ever be.”
“Style means the right word. The rest matters little.”
“Style is to forget all styles.”
“I do not over-intellectualize the production process. I try to keep it simple: Tell the damned story.”
—Tom Clancy, WD
“The writing of a novel is taking life as it already exists, not to report it, but to make an object, toward the end that the finished work might contain this life inside it and offer it to the reader. The essence will not be, of course, the same thing as the raw material; it is not even of the same family of things. The novel is something that never was before and will not be again.”
—Eudora Welty, WD
“One thing that helps is to give myself permission to write badly. I tell myself that I’m going to do my five or 10 pages no matter what, and that I can always tear them up the following morning if I want. I’ll have lost nothing—writing and tearing up five pages would leave me no further behind than if I took the day off.”
—Lawrence Block, WD