This is part of a networked blog interview called “The Next Big Thing” and Kristine Ong Muslim tagged me. If you’ve ever been curious about my debut collection, Watering Heaven, here’s all the info you’ll need. Thanks Kristine! Make sure to check out her blog site and her answers here (as well as info about her amazing books)!
Now, onto the interview!
1) What is the title of your latest book?
It’s called Watering Heaven, inspired by a line from the William Blake Poem, “Tyger.” The line specifically refers to the angels cast out of Heaven and watering it with their tears, symbolic of the themes of transition and change.
2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
Many of the stories in this collection were inspired during my travels throughout Asia, particularly in Beijing, China. Of course, about half of the stories take place in Los Angeles as well. Nothing like being in a foreign country to inspire reflection in your own country.
3) What genre does your book fall under?
It’s a literary short story collection that has a little bit of everything; the surreal, love stories, tales about corporate life, and travelogues.
4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
As a short story collection, each of the stories is so different, it’d be hard to lock down one set of people. Having said that, I always enjoy Indie movies with unknowns. A cast of unknown Asians playing the roles would be great.
5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Peter Tieryas Liu’s Watering Heaven is a travelogue of and requiem for the American dream in all its bizarre manifestations and a surreal, fantastic journey through the streets, alleys, and airports of China.
6) Who published your book?
Signal 8 Press, based out of Hong Kong, and one of my favorite publishers of Asian-influenced lit. I love their catalogue and they have some amazing books on the horizon.
7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
The earliest story, 58 Random Deaths and Unrequited Love, was written around 2005. The latest, Resistance, was written in 2011. The rest came somewhere between those. After the collection was accepted, we edited and edited for several months after that.
8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Ha ha, I’d be hesitant to try to name my favorite short story collections but I can think of two as collections I aspired to when I wrote the collection, although there are so many more. I loved Marquez’s Leaf Storm and other Stories. I’m also a huge fan of Leza Lowitz’s Green Tea and Stories To Go, which is just beautiful.
9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
If there’s one person who influenced this collection more than anyone else, it was my wife, to whom the book is dedicated. Another big factor is that almost everything I read and heard about China was so unlike what I actually experienced there. People here in the States were warning me about the strangest things, and when I first arrived in Beijing and Shanghai, it was like I was in a futuristic city full of energy, not the third-world country people had been warning me about. It was a pleasant shock to say the least.
10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
A lot of people have commented on the ‘fantastic’ nature of the stories which has taken me by surprise. It shouldn’t have as there are stories like a woman giving birth to eggs, a man who can fly, and a woman who loses her reflections. To me, the stories have always been more about themes like identity, alienation, and of course, love. The surreal elements are just symbols of the issues I wanted to explore, and hopefully, that gets somewhat conveyed within the pages.
And the two writers I tag for next week are first, the very talented David Atkinson:
And equally talented Michael Seidlinger whose Sky Conducting I just recently read and loved: