Wesley Chu Interview
Wesley Chu, author of the popular Tao series (The Lives of Tao, The Deaths of Tao, and The Rebirths of Tao), has just released his newest sci-fi offering: Time Salvager. On top of being highly anticipated, this time travel novel has already been optioned for a movie to be directed by Michael Bay!
Yesterday he spent some time on Scalzi’s The Big Idea talking a bit about his new book. Today, even given his extremely busy schedule, Mr. Chu was gracious enough to stop by and answer a few questions for us! So without further ado, on with the questions!
How will your new book Time Salvager appeal to readers of your other series?
Remember that one time Roen acquired all those demon-like powers and had to save that generation ship with his newly developed abilities that he only had a few seconds to figure out, yet still was able to do it because he managed to learn by osmosis with the shared collective mental energy of the drone masses. Fortunately, he was self-aware enough to hold off from expunging all of his essence at the same time, not because he’d blow up the city like Spawn would but because he knew humanity is all about limits and the feelings and fears of mortality?
Well, it’s nothing like that. And if you said yes, you didn’t read the book (but it’s ok. I still like you).
Ok, fine. If you enjoyed the Tao series, you will definitely enjoy Time Salvager. If you hated the Tao series, you will definitely enjoy Time Salvager.
What was it like writing in a new setting and with new characters after doing three books in the Tao series?
To be honest, it was nice. I love Roen and Tao to death but 400k words later, it was time for a break. I’ve been with these wily rascals nearly back to back to back. It’s kind of like being stuck in a cargo hold with your favorite person in the world on a six week journey across the Atlantic during the fourteenth century. After a while, one of us just might have to die. Or did die. Or something. Spoilers?
Do you intend to write all your novels as part of a series or do you think you will ever do standalone novels?
A problem I have is that my novels are promiscuous. I get the book done, think it’s a nice standalone, turn my back on it, and before you know it, the dang thing is pregnant and expecting twins.
The first completed five books in my career so far have been two series: the Tao trilogy and the first two Time Salvager books. I admit I have some series fatigue, especially starting this fall, I need to switch gears and work on The Rise of Io, the first book in the Io series.
To combat this, I took the summer off from writing contracted work and I’m working on two standalones: The Recovered and A Pet Named Charles. I’m having a great time right now working on these and hopefully readers will get the chance to read them in a year or two.
What did you find to be the hardest part of writing a novel like Time Salvager?
The Tao books were light and fun, very me. If you know and like Roen, you probably will know and like me. If you think he’s annoying and whiny, well, you get the picture.
Time Salvager is probably as un-Taoish as I can get. It has a lot of the action I’m known for, but it also explores drug abuse, PTSD, and the collective loss of hope within the human species.
What authors or books inspired you to become a writer?
First of all, you are not allowed to judge me on my answer. Can we all agree on that?
I cut my teeth as a kid first reading the entire L Frank Baum Oz series and then something like eighteen books of Piers Anthony’s Xanth series. I *believe* I stopped reading at The Color of Her Panties. Yes, that’s the actual name of the book.
Several other people inspired me as well. Richard Gere was a big influence, as was Richard Rich. Richard Pryor had a big hand during my formative years, and Richard III in college. Also Gandhi.
What does your writing process look like?
I wake up really early in the morning, usually between 11AM and lunchtime. I spent most of the morning having breakfast, answering emails, and managing my online network presence. Then I have lunch. Next, I read all my one and two star Goodreads reviews. Once I build up enough self-loathing, I take Eva, my Airedale terrier, out hunting for our next meal. We usually spend the day competing who is a bigger failure at catching squirrels.
Once I’ve converted enough of the self-loathing to failure, I’m ready to write. Then it’s dinner time. Dinner is a very important part of a writer’s daily routine. It is the engine that signals to our body that the day is almost over and again, you haven’t done anything worth this meal you’re ingesting.
Next, depending on the day, it’s time to watch the Bachelorette, because no television show tells more about the human condition and real drama like a woman being wooed by sixteen guys as they all take a break from their lives and go on group dates with the same woman to find love. I gotta say, Nick coming to New York to woo Kaitlayn is just so real and unexpected, and the fact that she brought him onto the show rules be damned which totally throws a wrench in all the guys’ plans to win her love is just the most real thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m so mad I just can’t stand it! Gawwd, that’s real life, folks. Real and raw love.
After that, after I am truly attuned to real life is, after having hunted wild animals with my trusty steed, and having seen what a person can do with his life if he just puts his mind to it and focuses his energy, I start to write, usually around 11PM.
Okay, guys, here’s my most important writing secret. Always go to bed early, and try to do it at the same time. I am almost without fail, after a hard day’s work crafting stories, in bed by midnight.
Do you have any strange writing habits?
It’s pretty common internet knowledge now but I have a thing with bathrobes, as in I wear them all the time. I went full time January 2014 and I swear there’s week long stretches where I don’t leave the house except when Eva and I hunt squirrel with our paw hands. Because I don’t leave the house (what month are we in anyway?), I just wear a 5 lb. terry cloth bathrobe all day. Every day. At all hours. In all weathers. Not gonna lie, I sometimes can’t be bothered with changing out of it when I do walk Eva.
Hmm, I’ve literally become that creepy bathrobe dude that walks around the neighborhood that people whispers about. And you know what? It’s frigging awesome.
What tips do you have for those of us aspiring to become novelists?
There are a finite number of books that can be published in any given year. That means the best way to get published is to find an author publishing in your genre, challenge them to a duel in the Thunderdome, and then be that guy that leaves, preferably with your limbs intact. That or you can suck their blood and assume their writing powers. However, I’d be careful about the latter. Sometimes, writers’ blood gives you awful bad breath, no matter how much mouth wash you use. We can’t help it. It’s our diet.
Or you cannot ever give up and work hard. Never give up. Never surrender.
How did you get your first book published?
See, people say getting published is all about luck. In reality, it’s all about timing. And finding the right blood type of virgin blood. Then, during a waxing moon (but not full—dear God never go full moon), you strip down to your boxer-briefs (nobody needs to see your boys flinging around) and dance around your charcoal grill while singing Paul Lekakis (any song will do—admit it, you only know of that one song) and drinking Writers Tears whiskey.
Okay, fine. The virgin blood isn’t required but the dancing naked in moonlight is a definite must. You can actually read about how I got published here.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’m rotating through a couple books at the moment. Just finished Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Blades (In a singsong–it’s awweeessome) and Naomi Novik’s Uprooted (my early nominee for a Hugo). Being serious for a moment, both of these books are really great. You’re doing yourself a disservice by not reading them right now, folks.
Right now, I’m just starting up Ernest Cline’s Armada and finally getting around to Andy Weir’s The Martian, because of that Matt Damon. So hot right now. Damon.
If you weren’t a writer, what do you think you would do for a career?
If I wasn’t a writer, I imagine I’d have a career much like Robert Downey Jr. playing Howard Stark. No, not like in the movies, but actually a combination of both men. Maybe throw a little Bruce Banner in there for the angst, insecurity, and awkwardness. Throw in a little bit of Thor because I like his hair.
By day, I’m a movie star ex-drug addict who spent a nice summer stint in jail. In my free time, I own a multi-billion dollar company that is part of the military complex but is actually ran by my secretary.
I also spend most of my days fighting crime and then redecorating my house during my free time. Usually with missiles.