I wrote my first novel length manuscript in 1968. However, around 1955, I used to make my own historical/literature comic books--I researched the history by reading as many books about the time focused on as possible, drew elaborate pictures and added dialogue.
What made you start?
A love of reading came first and somewhere along the way, I started writing and never stopped. I credit Ray Bradbury for priming the pump. Back in the late 1960s, I heard him speak at the community college I was attending and that event motivated me to write my first novel.
When did you sell your first book?
My first book sold on January 7th from Amazon.com. It was a paperback copy of My Splendid Concubine. Since then, Concubine has been selling from local bookstores like Clayton Books, Bay Books, Orinda Bookstore, Barnes and Noble in Walnut Creek along with steady, almost daily sales at Barnes and Noble.com.
What type of writer are you? Do you plan ahead/plot or do you simply fly by the seat of your pants?
I start by doing a lot of research before I write up a plot outline and sort of fly by the seat of my pants after that as I continue to research and adapt the outline.
How do you choose your characters' names?
Since I have been writing primarily historical fiction, most of the names belong to real people that lived during the 19th century. However, I did change the names for a few of the minor characters to protect them from the way they are depicted in the novel.
What is your daily schedule like?
I write whenever I have the time to write. Chores and family dictate when that will be. Since Concubine came out in December of 2007, I have been spending more time promoting the novel than working on the sequel.
How do you handle life interruptions?
Most of life’s interruptions are chores and family in nature. I get them out of the way and when time permits, I sit down to write.
Do you write with music playing? If so, is the music likely to be songs with lyrics or only instrumentals?
I have always written without any distractions so no music, TV, or anything of that nature.
What food or snack keeps the words flowing?
I have my own trail mix and hit that now and then. I keep some other snacks in the study where I write so I don’t have to leave.
What one thing do you like most about writing?
I enjoy writing the first, rough draft the most. I don’t worry about grammar or spelling and the story pours out.
Tell us about your book, My Splendid Concubine.
Concubine is about Robert Hart’s early years in China. Hart kept journals for most of his life but he burned the journals for years two, three and four and left instructions to his family and friends to burn the rest and all of his letters after his death. They didn’t. It is obvious from the facts that survived that Robert attempted to erase those three years from his life. Historians have said that those years were crucial to the man Hart would become--the most powerful foreigner that ever lived in China. He has been called the godfather of China’s modernization. He was behind the building of China’s railroads, the organization of a post office, the reorganization of China’s schools. The list goes on and one. For most of the five plus decades that he lived in China, he worked for the Emperor as Inspector General of Imperial Chinese Customs. Concubine is a love story. Robert had a concubine and they had three children together. What happened to her is a mystery. Even the historians can only guess.
What is your next project?
I have a finished rough draft that is the sequel to Concubine. I’m working on the revisions and hope to have it ready in a few months.
What is your advice for other writers?
Never give up and always work at improving at the craft of writing. There are great writers but even they can always improve.
Thank you for the Interview.
Thanks. If anyone is interested, I've been posting poetry and other work on AuthorsDen.com. There are links to the AuthorsDen page on my Website at mysplendidconcubine.com. Look at the bottom of the opening page for the first link.
I've also been on a number of radio-talk shows and there are links on the opening page of my Website to podcasts of a few of those. The topic focuses on China.