A Chat with Wesley Chu, Author of THE LIVES OF TAO and THE DEATHS OF TAO
Wesley Chu was born in Taiwan and immigrated to Chicago, Illinois when he was just a pup. It was there he became a Kung Fu master and gymnast. Wesley is an avid gamer and a contributing writer for the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland. A former stunt man and a member of the Screen Actors Guild, he can also be seen in film and television playing roles such as “Banzai Chef” in Fred Claus and putting out Oscar worthy performances as a bank teller in Chicago Blackhawks commercials.
Besides working as an Associate Vice President at a bank, he spends his time writing and hanging out with his wife Paula Kim and their Airedale Terrier, Eva.
I chatted with Wes about his upcoming book, THE DEATHS OF TAO, what he loves about writing, a brand new book deal, and more!
Wesley Chu: The Deaths of Tao picks up a few years after where Lives left off. Things have been a little rough for Roen and his Prophus friends. He’s no longer the whiny, fun lovable loser we grew to love in Lives. He’s now a hardened veteran carrying the physical and emotional scars of war. The conflict with the Genjix has also affected his personal life as well. In Deaths, Roen has a wife and child but is separated from them as he fights the Genjix on losing fronts.
Jill is back as a political operative in the US government fighting to keep the Genjix from taking over the US government. She takes a front row seat to the war and actually outranks Roen. Their relationship isn’t as rosy as when we last left them.
There’s also a new baddie in town by the name of Enzo. He’s an Adonis Vessel, bred and raised through the Genjix eugenics program called the Hatchery. He’s skilled, brilliant, good looking, and thinks the statue of David was modeled after him. His potential is only matched by his moon-sized ego and his psychopathic tendencies. Otherwise, he’s a nice dude.
KC: The release of two books in one year is pretty awesome! Have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us a bit more about yourself and your background?
WC: I’ve been a big reader ever since I was a little kid. Does anyone else remember grade school in the 80s when the teachers would hand out these paper catalogs and the students could order books from them? Well, I impoverished my parents and cleaned those suckers out. It got to the point I had to already read everything on those catalogs and had to start reading stuff like Animal Inn, Flubber, and Sweet Valley High stuff. Yes, I went there.
Then one day, I wrote a short story about how all the planets in the solar system used to run into each other and get into fist fights, thus how they got all the pock marks on their surfaces. Then the King Sun got pissed off having to mediate fights and decided to enforced gravity on them. My English professor father read it and was like “this doesn’t suck”, which in Asian parenting speak, was pretty damn high praise. That planted the writing seed in my head.
KC: What do you love most about writing your heroes, Roen and Tao? Why do you think readers will connect with them?
WC: In The Lives of Tao, Roen is the everyman, someone that the readers can identify with. Together, he and Tao are the classic odd couple, and their relationship is very real and very sincere. These two guys in my head really have their own mind. A lot of the times as I’m laying out the scenes, their reactions surprise me and I let them take me wherever the story goes.
Their dynamic had changed in The Deaths of Tao, but I’d like to think that it’s not any less real, just different. Instead of dealing with self-esteem and weight issues in the first book, Roen has to deal with his wife and child, and struggling with doing what he thinks is the greater good versus what his heart wants him to do.
WC: Both The Lives of Tao and The Deaths of Tao have a lot of history involved. I like to use as much real history as possible when I play in humanity’s sandbox. My angle is to not mess with retelling history, but to mess with the explanation of why history happened.
Not gonna lie; Google and Wikipedia are my friends.
KC: What is your writing process like?
WC: Being a writer isn’t sexy time though I do get to work in my bathrobe all day. For those of you who have never worked your job in your bathrobe, it rocks. One big downside of working out of the house is that there’d be days where I just completely forget to leave the house. It’s like the world is passing me by and I have no idea what the hell is going on. One day, I woke up and the Cubs won the World Series. Oh wait, that was just a peyote enhanced dream. We all know that will never happen.
Overall, writing is an all-day affair for me. In the morning, it’s all blogging, twitter, Facebook and all that jazz. Then in the afternoon, I write or edit as much as I can for the rest of the day. I’m usually a night person so there are days when I work until two to three in the morning. Then it’s rinse and repeat the next day. Being an author basically means you have homework for the rest of your life. I try to write seven days a week though that inevitably fails. Bottom line, there’s always stuff to do.
KC: What’s been one of the most interesting (or fun) things about being a published author?
WC: The coolest part about being a published author is hanging out with the SFF community. I am dead hooked on literary conventions. In 2013, I went to 8. I will probably go to just as many in 2014, and they’re what I most look forward to on my calendar. And not just the cons, but hanging with folks on twitter, Facebook, and all that good stuff. It’s a very gratifying experience and I feel like I’m part of this giant family of geeks.
Writing is a pretty solitary experience. Before I was published, I was one of those creepy transients migrating from café to café pissing off the waitresses by jacking their bottomless cup-of-coffee policies for hours on end. Now, I interact with dozens of people in the community every day. I actually have more friends than I’ve ever had. It also helps that it seems most writers like to drink. A lot. I think it’s one of the job requirements.
KC: How do you like to spend your free time, when not busy at work on your next project?
WC: Writing used to be a hobby; now it’s a job. This is probably unhealthy but it’s pretty all-consuming. I used to practice Kung Fu and do Crossfit and other physical activities, but now my only exercise is running Eva the Airedale Terrier once in a while. She’s the reason my pasty white ass ever sees the sun.
Other than that…hmm… holy crap. Damn, I’m a boring dude. I go through OCD kicks. Like recently, I’ve been obsessed with mid-century modernism, so I’ve been going to auction houses trying to buy furniture. Or before that, someone convinced me to try to play rugby. Uh…yeah…that did not work out at all. Listen kids, don’t play rugby if you’re older than 35. Just trust me on this. You’re not as tuned as you used to be.
KC: What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
WC: I’m going to offer a piece of advice that might not be too popular. I get asked this question often and I’d like to change up my answers.
This time, I’m going to advise aspiring writers to have something to fall back on. I have never in my life met a writer who wrote for the money. That’s not why we’re in this field. I like to say that writers can’t help but write.
That’s great. We’re in it for the love and the unicorns.
However, reality can be kind of a dick, and getting that first book deal well probably still keep you under the poverty line. It’s a tough business and you have to be in it for the long haul to become a career writer. Full time writing is not so much writing a hit book, but building a library of many books that earn you royalty. Think of each book as a tiny revenue stream. It’s a long journey and going all-in before or even after your first book isn’t the wisest choice, because well, eating is good.
KC: What’s next for you?
WC: I have a few projects coming down the pipe. First up is the third book in the Tao series, tentatively called The Rebirth of Tao. The ill-tempered automaton overlords have not green lit the book yet but I’m cautiously optimistic it will happen.
I also signed a deal with Tor Books, and hope to have my current work in progress, Time Salvager, out on book shelves by 2015. The book is about a time traveler named James who scavenges for resources and technologies from a more prosperous past. However, time traveling has very strict rules. He can only scavenge from dead-end time lines—events and places right before an accident or disaster—where his actions in the past don’t affect the present. The problem with his job is that he experiences the victim’s last terrible moments. That tends to mess with a guy’s head after a while.
Filed under: Interviews
Like this post? Subscribe to my RSS feed and get loads more!