I was really excited to chat with Jamie Ford and learn a little bit about the man behind the gorgeous book that is Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet [link to my review and giveaway].
WordLily: Which character was the hardest for you to write?
Jamie Ford: Probably Henry’s father. I have a hard time with antagonists. I guess deep down, I want everyone to get along.WordLily: The story of your last name (Ford) and heritage (Chinese) was fascinating to me. Quoting from the book:
Jamie Ford is the great-grandson of Nevada mining pioneer Min Chung, who emigrated in 1865 from Kaiping, China, to San Francisco, where he adopted the western name “Ford,” thus confusing countless generations.
And from Jamie Ford’s FAQ page:
[That man’s] son, George William Ford, was an actor in Hollywood and had to switch back to make his ethnicity more demonstrative. He appeared as a bit actor and extra in numerous films as George Chung. He also taught martial arts and was a consultant on the 70s series, Kung-Fu.
Have you ever thought of changing your name back, like your grandfather did?
Jamie Ford: Interesting question. When the novel was being looked at by various publishers, that topic did come up — as though a story about a Chinese American might be more credible from an author with a Chinese surname. But I am who I am. Plus the name “Ford” now makes for a more interesting story these days …
WordLily: Ha! So true, it’s good to have an interesting story like that at the ready. How did you know your short story, “The Button” — or for that matter, “I Am Chinese” — was worth turning into a novel?
Jamie Ford: A short fiction editor read it and said, “You should quit your job and write this as a novel.” Seriously. He actually didn’t like it as a short, but loved it as a novel. I didn’t quit my job at the time, but I did tear off and write like a madman. That kind of validation is incredibly motivating.
WordLily: Wow, I bet! Having such a successful first outing, how have you dealt with the pressure (that must be) placed on your next novel?
Jamie Ford: I wallow in it. It’s good and bad. The good thing is that I’m growing as a writer. The bad is that I haven’t escaped my writerly insecurities, so the pressure is definitely there. But sitting down and losing myself in the story seems to cure a lot of ills.
WordLily: I see that your next book, Whispers of a Thunder God, is due out in early 2011. Can you give us a sneak peak? I’d also love to hear more about this YA project you’ve mentioned several times.
Jamie Ford: WHISPERS is about a Japanese student who is conscripted into the Imperial Air Army and forced to become a kamikaze pilot. He fails to complete his mission and returns to find that his wife has died. It’s about his experiences as a young man, and as an old man still in search of noble death, one that will allow his spirit to be reunited with that of his late wife. It’s another love story.
The YA project involves a forgotten property (a character) that has been orphaned. The original writer sold the rights to a Hollywood studio that later went bankrupt. So I’m keeping it mum until I figure out the rights. Stay tuned …
WordLily: Will do. [If you haven’t subscribed to Jamie Ford’s blog yet, why not?] What did you do before you were a writer? At what point did you begin to think of yourself as a writer?
Jamie Ford: I worked in advertising, first as an art director and later as a copywriter. But I didn’t consider myself a real writer until some of my short fiction began gaining traction in contests or small literary venues. In many ways I still consider myself a storyteller, rather than a writer of prose.
WordLily: A few general questions now. Why do you write?
Jamie Ford: Because it beats working.
WordLily: Ha! How/when did you start writing?
Jamie Ford: About fifteen years ago, though I became more serious about it maybe five years ago. That’s when I started spending all of my vacations attending writers’ conferences. And I began writing about Asian American characters shortly after my dad died. My dad was an only child. Once he passed I felt cut off from my Chinese heritage and began to explore those themes in my writing.
WordLily: What question have you always expected (or been dying to hear) but never actually been asked? And what’s your answer to that question?
Jamie Ford: I’ve expected someone to ask about the Michelle Malkin book, which was this pro-internment screed that came out shortly after 9/11 — but alas, no one has ever brought it up. My answer is that I haven’t read it, and probably no one else has either …
WordLily: Thank you so much for your time! Anything else you want to say?
Jamie Ford: Thanks for having me!
A few other interviews with Jamie Ford that I really enjoyed:
The publisher graciously offered a copy of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet to one of my readers! Instructions are on my review post.