Kylie Chan married a Hong Kong national in a traditional Chinese wedding ceremony in Eastern China, lived in Australia for ten years, then moved to Hong Kong for ten years and during that time learnt a great deal about Chinese culture and came to appreciate the customs and way of life.
In 2003 she closed down her successful IT consultancy company in Hong Kong and moved back to Australia. She used her knowledge of Chinese mythology, culture, and martial arts to weave a story that would appeal to a wide audience.
Since returning to Australia, Kylie has studied Kung Fu (Wing Chun and Southern Chow Clan styles) as well as Tai Chi and is now a senior belt in both forms. She has also made an intensive study of Buddhist and Taoist philosophy and has brought all of these together into her storytelling. She is a guest lecturer at the University of Queensland on Research for Writing. Kylie is a mother of two who lives in Brisbane, and her website is at www.kyliechan.com.
1. Your Journey to Wudang trilogy (follow up to the Dark Heavens trilogy) has been released over the last couple of years, and is shortly to appear in the US and UK. What were some of the challenges that came with this trilogy, compared to your first? What are you most proud of about it?
When I wrote the first trilogy, I had all the time in the world to rewrite, edit and polish. It wasn’t until I’d finished the first three that Harper-Collins offered me the contract. The first trilogy did very well – and with the success, my (wonderful) publishers were eager to have more books. This meant that they were impatiently waiting for the second series and I had a (oh no!) deadline. This was a new experience, for the first time I had people waiting for my books and I absolutely had to have the words on the page.
Personally I went into a bad place about the time I was writing the first book of the second trilogy – Earth to Hell. I was effectively a single mum working two jobs and finding time to be creatively excellent – or even just good enough – was very difficult. The book took nearly two years for me to produce, with the publishers continually asking (extremely nicely) when it would be done. At the same time, the first trilogy had picked up more and more readers, fans started emailing me wanting the next book, and I had more pressure.
I sorted out my private life and focussed on producing the second trilogy, picked myself up and worked hard to get it done. I threw away the first third of the book and then things really started to move. Starting ‘Earth to Hell’ without two of the main characters was something of a challenge but I’m proud that I haven’t run out of story to tell and that it’s still thundering along well into the seventh, ‘Glass Citadel’, which is nearly finished and (hopefully) just as good as the other six.
2. I was really excited to hear about your collaboration with Queenie Chan on a graphic novel, ‘Small Shen,’ to be released later this year. What can we expect from this book, and how does it tie into your other work?
This is really exciting for me too! I’ve seen the artwork and Queenie is a genius. She’s captured the ‘feel’ of Ming/Qing China so meticulously and her lavish and detailed illustrations are breathtaking.
The book will be a hybrid text/graphic novel, and sits firmly in the timeline as a prequel to ‘White Tiger’, finishing just before the beginning of the main story arc. We take one of the minor characters, a small Shen called Gold, and start his story in 1720, showing his history and how he (and his colleague Jade) came to be in their situation in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Although it’s a prequel the story will completely stand alone, so anyone who hasn’t read any of the other books will still be able to experience the full depth of the story.
Words really cannot do justice to just how beautiful this book will be. Queenie’s taken my story and added a visual dimension that is awe-inspiring. We’re looking at having Small Shen out on the shelves just before Christmas this year and I seriously cannot wait.
Snapshot note: since completing this interview, Kylie sent me this sneak peek of what Queenie’s beautiful art will look like in the book.
3. And a third trilogy on the way too! You’re writing this one right now, but what can you tell us about it?
Ask any member of my family and they’ll tell you I talk too much, particularly when I have a captive audience. And the third trilogy is more of this – me talking, telling this massive story that’s really more of a single series than a collection of trilogies. I don’t think of them as trilogies myself, I talk about working on ‘Book Seven’ which is what the current one is for me.
I’m well aware of the fact that I’ve been driving my readers completely nuts with hints and suggestions of mysteries all through the first six books that I’ve been slowly explaining and clarifying as the stories have moved along. In book seven – oh, sorry, that’s ‘Glass Citadel’, book one of the third trilogy, the ‘Celestial Battle’ trilogy – I delve very deeply into the history behind my main character’s strange and complex nature.
Many things about her past and what happened in the West are explored, my main character finds some uncomfortable truths about herself, and the menace ramps up as the assault on Heaven takes a new and disturbing direction.
I hope my readers like it.
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?
I freely admit that I have the attention span of a mayfly – I grew up in the eighties on a saturated diet of junk television, so I’ve seen just about every plot so many times that I annoy my family by loudly voicing predictable scripts even before the actors mouth the words. To this day detective stories bore me silly, because that’s what was on the TV every single night – that and soap operas. (Dallas, anyone?)
I don’t have the patience to sit through a long book of carefully plotted plodding characters going from point A to point B with the occasional bit of pointless conflict along the way to give it ‘conflict’, then reach point B and (of course) inevitably defeat the Bad Guy. I think that’s what makes Game of Thrones so riveting for everybody – GRRM broke all the ‘point A to B’ rules with that one.
A book really has to be something completely special to impress me, There are two really fine speculative fiction series that I’ve read lately that I’ve just been glued to. It’s probably a valid point that neither of these series has the standard current fare of vampires/werewolves/zombies that are so popular right now, and I can’t help but find more than a little boring.
The first is Tansy Rayner Roberts’ Creature Court trilogy – full of blood, sex, and violence in the nicest sort of way. The characters are strong and realistic and the story is gripping. The other is Trent Jamieson’s Death Works trilogy. Set in Brisbane (yay!) it’s a wonderful free-wheeling joyride that runs the full range from witty humour to dark horror without skipping a beat in between. The main character is delightfully average and the locations are wonderful.
5. Two years on from Aussiecon 4, (and the last Snapshot) what do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian Spec Fic scene, or publishing as a whole?
The rise of the e-book, definitely, and with it the tidal wave of online self-publishing. This has allowed everybody with a story to tell to share it with the world, and produced some wonderful success stories. The limits of traditional bookstores have been broken down, and a reader can scan to purchase fiction or choose to read something provided for free by a self-published author wanting to gain an audience. If this author is very good, they will gain an audience, and attention, and this can only be a good thing.
This interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot. In the lead up to Continuum 8 in Melbourne, we will be blogging interviews for Snapshot 2012 conducted by Alisa Krasnostein, Kathryn Linge, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Ian Mond, Jason Nahrung, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Tehani Wessely and Sean Wright. To read the interviews hot off the press, check these blogs daily from June 1 to June 7, 2012.