What inspired you to start writing novels for your chosen genre?
I wrote my first novel because when I read The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, considered one of four great Chinese classic novels, I found it very boring. A couple of years later I found myself studying Mandarin (it’s a long story) and wondered if I had read a bad translation. Then I got into it and turned the 120-chapter classic into a twenty-three chapter novel I called The Battle of Chibi. Somehow it flatters me whenever I am told how close to the original readers find it.
Agamemnon Must Die grew out of decades of wondering why at University I was told I had to read Aeschylus’ Oresteia because it was essential to the foundation of Western culture and politics.
Are you working on anything new right now and can you tell us more?
I am sketching out a sequel to The Chinese Spymaster, which I had written because I found James Bond and Jason Bourne entertaining but not at all believable. So I decided to write about an intelligence agency in China whose main concern is intelligence, and the finding and analysis thereof.
Can you offer any advice to the fledgling authors, just starting out?
Be very sure this is what you want to do. The muse, some say, is a bitch-goddess and the pay is terrible. Some call what it takes, “passion.” I have settled for “curiosity.” Also, be sure to ask yourself why anyone would want to read what you write.
What is/are your all-time favourite novel/s?
I honestly can’t say although I have read The Lord of the Ring three or four times (also The Alexandria Quartet) and all of the Harry Potter stories at least twice (also Remembrance of Time Past). I also wish I could write something like The Life of Pi.
What are you reading at the moment & would you recommend it to us?
The Wine-dark Sea, a book about an English captain and his crew. It is quite knowledgeable and witty.
Do you have a favourite quote, if so what is it?
Life is uncertain; eat dessert first.
How do you come up with the Titles for your novels?
There does not seem to be any magic to it and three of the five things I have written have a straightforward title. The fourth, Heaven is High and the Emperor Far Away is a well known saying in Chinese culture among those who don’t have country homes or perhaps any homes. The original was a three act play about a tea house in Beijing. It had over seventy characters, etc. I adapted it into two acts and twenty characters, but I wanted to keep the feel of a world similar to that which Dickens might have written about. It was also about struggling to survive during with war and civil war. Agamemnon Must Die came to me early in my writing of the novel.
Do you have a day job, other than writing – if so can you share?
I used to teach history, then I was a banker, but I am now retired.
What is your preferred method of writing:- The plot pre-planned from day one, or just go with the flow and see what happens next?
Both actually. One has to adapt.
If you don’t like a character you’re writing about, what do you do?
a. Kill them off instantly
b. Get over it and learn to like them
c. Give them a whole new personality
d. or something else – do tell?! Please!
You are the author and can do anything you want with the characters. But they do grow roots, so to speak. In any case, it should be easier than breaking up. If it isn’t, you need more help from a different department.
Do you have any input in the Cover design of your novel?
One tries. Cover designers should have a mind of their own though.
Who would be your dream cast if your novel was made into a movie?
Angelina Jolie as Clytemnestra (like a majestic Lara Croft) and Brad Pitt as her lover.
Tell us one thing that no-one else knows about you – your darkest secret if you dare!
I am an old Chinese male who wishes he had had the opportunity to play the role of Lady Macbeth.
The War, the Trojan War, is over. In Mycenae, it’s back to reality. Except the gods have something unfinished on their agenda. Wouldn’t you want to know what it is?
Finally, what 7 words best sum up your novel?