The last few days have been absolutely perfect here in the northeast. Whether you call this time of year autumn or Indian summer, it does not get any better. Interviews don’t get any better either! Today, I welcome Hock G Tjoa, teacher, actor, and author of five novels including, Agamemnon Must Die, available November 1st.
IDI – Hi Hock. Thanks for joining me today. Let’s begin with a question some have said to be controversial. What are your thoughts on Amazon and the reviewing process they use. How much trust do you put into the reviews posted for any given book?
HGT – I like the idea of giving (potentially) the buyers of their products the opportunity to leave an opinion on their purchases. The reviews of coffee makers and tablets, etc., have influenced my purchases. But I am sure this process is “gamed” by those who have motives other than that particular product. That said, I think the reviews of books are a good thing (I do a fair bit myself on Goodreads and Amazon), but they should not to be taken too seriously (by authors).
IDI – What are you working on now? Can we get a peek, an excerpt maybe to tickle our taste buds?
HGT – I am working on the second volume of a trilogy of spy novels, set in modern China. These novels reflect my views that there are no super heroes and no super villains and that “black ops” are for movies while real spy work involves intelligence, analysis and luck. I think I may have painted myself into a corner but plan on using this November’s NaNoWriMo to “pace” my writing. (I tried this last year and it didn’t work, but as the saying goes, I shall try again and “fail better.”)
IDI – That’s a great outlook. Last year was the first year I actually finished NaNoWriMo, so don’t give up. What works for you? Give us a rundown of your ‘writing process’ from beginning to finished product.
HGT – Each of my books (five to date, not counting one from decades ago) has been the result of a different process. I wish I could get up and crank out four pages (or four thousand words) every morning, rain or shine. That is still the shadowy goal in my mind, but my real life has coffee breaks and cats making interruptions.
IDI – How important are your reading habits to your writing habits?
HGT – It is inconceivable (to me) that one would write if one does not read. I pity those who grow up talking only to people of their own age and background, ignoring those older or of a different color or from a different place. How does one learn about anything other than one’s own limited life and fantasies? How can that be interesting to anyone else?
IDI – Who is your target audience? What aspect of your writing do you feel targets that audience?
HGT – A great question, and one that I have never considered. I think that to date I have written only for myself, that is, about the things that have piqued my curiosity. One should, of course, consider what other people like to read. I hope there are readers out there interested in different cultures, times and circumstances. Chinese classics, Greek myths, the Silk Road before Marco Polo, the struggle to uphold honor when the fates change the social/political order, the courage to love when the gods decree death. Perhaps I should read John Grisham and Dan Brown and see how they do this.
IDI – How much time/effort do you give to social media as a means of self-promotion?
HGT – Not enough evidently, but I am learning. Facebook baffles me but I think I am getting the hang of Twitter and I have actually ventured out on Linked in. I even have a blog.
IDI – Online cafés or writers groups (aside from social networking). Do you belong to any and if so, help or harm?
HGT – Writing is a very solitary activity. It is best to have a circle of friends and the occasional company of other writers. I belong to a local writers’ club and participate on one or two websites.
IDI – What’s the best advice ever given to you, and by whom?
HGT – I consider myself very fortunate to have had a very demanding and dedicated high school English teacher who required us to write an essay every week which he graded and returned to us before the next one was due. Then I was lucky enough to land in a freshman English class with a similar teacher.
IDI – Who, in your opinion, was the best written character of all time, and why?
HGT – One of the first “great” book I read was Pride and Prejudice and I loved Mr. Bennett. Here was a man who recognized his limitations and loved his family while knowing how he and they failed to be ideal; a man of courtesy and good humor.
IDI – Are you always writing?
HGT – No, this is what Jane Fonda calls one’s “third act” for me. First I was a teacher, then I became a banker and now I write. I am also involved in community theater and am currently preparing for a role in “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.”
IDI – Hock, I can relate to so many of your answers. Thank you for taking the time to appear on Ink Drop Interviews. You’ll have to let me know how the play goes.
Hock’s work and a bit more about himself can be found at any of the following links. Check him out!