I recently had the opportunity to read and review Wesley Chu’s amazingly inventive and hysterically funny debut, The Lives of Tao, published on April 30th by Angry Robot (you can read my review here). I was very happy when Wesley agreed to answer a few questions about his book and give us a peek into his life as a writer. Keep reading to the end, because after the interview I’m giving away my ARC of The Lives of Tao to one U.S. winner!
Books, Bones & Buffy: First of all Wesley, welcome to Books, Bones & Buffy! I know you are a super-busy human right now, and I appreciate you finding the time to do another interview. I thought the concept of The Lives of Tao was amazing—an ancient and very intelligent alien life form, stranded on Earth with no way to get home, is mostly responsible for many of the great and terrifying actions and ideas that have shaped our history. How did this idea evolve?
Wesley Chu: The setup for The Lives of Tao started with aliens in the head manipulating mankind. I’m a history buff and wanted not so much to rewrite it, but explain the motives behind why things went down the way they did.
However, as I was world building, I changed one of the mechanics of the alien physiology that made the entire story come to life. I decided that the Quasing couldn’t control their hosts; they could only speak with them. Once that dynamic was created, the relationship between the host and the Quasing changed dramatically. The original plot took a back seat to a much more interesting and organic story about a fat loser and his alien, and how they had to learn to get along and avoid getting killed.
One of the things I loved about your book was how multi-layered it was. One of those layers is the amount of world history that you wove into the plot. Now, normally history lessons tend to make my brain turn to Jello, but for some reason, I didn’t have that problem with The Lives of Tao. Being a history buff already, how much research was actually involved?
I did have to do a lot of research, and it was a challenge to get all the storylines and dates lined up in order for all of Tao’s past lives to make sense. For me, history is the best storytelling out there.
Think about it. The stuff that happened in our history books, someone actually did it! I mean, I can read Harry Potter and think to myself, “that Tom Riddle is such a little bastard,” but I know it’s fiction. I mean, Hannibal crossed the Alps with thirty-seven elephants to invade Italy. Do you know how crazy that is? I can’t even watch the Tour De France without getting tired.
Here’s another one. The Mayans were probably one of the strangest cultures to have ever lived on Earth. Besides the human sacrifices that everyone knows about, they were the first ballers, as in they were one of the first to build arenas for ball games. And their medicine, I might add, at 3000BC was as advanced, if not more than, the mud wallowing bumpkins of the Dark Ages four thousand years later. They also were big fans of shrooming.
Imagine for a moment that you have just become a host for a Quasing. What kind of scenario would you hope to find yourself in? (Or not find yourself in!)
First of all, I’d prefer to be a vessel, as in I’d rather work for the baddies. There’s a level of sacrifice required for a host that I just don’t think I have.
Here’s what we know about the Prophus. They’re losing a war against a stronger enemy. They’re outgunned, out-funded, and out-maneuvered politically as well as militarily. The chances of death are extraordinarily high, and you’ll spend the rest of your life looking over your shoulder. On top of that, their pay sucks. Let’s face it, the guys the Prophus recruits have to be saints or idiots. Oh yeah, I also have a pretty damn low tolerance to death and pain.
But say I had to join the Prophus, I hope I’d get an administrative rainmaking Quasing who just wanted me to make money for the organization. In a perfect world, this Quasing’s old hosts would be Victor Hugo or JD Salinger or Neil Gaiman (damn, can’t be Neil; he’s still alive) or any other great literary mind. Then he’d just help me write all day and make lots of money to fund the war. After all, as a writer, I already have the best job in the world.
I’d love to read more of Tao’s amazing stories. Would you ever consider writing a novella or short story about some of those adventures before he met Roen?
In the original draft of the novel, the historical pieces at the beginning of most chapters were a completely separate storyline which amounted to about 22k words, or approximately 60-80 pages. I’d love to release them at a later date on my website or as a novella. For now though, I’m focused on prepping The Deaths of Tao (Book Two) and mapping out the third book, tentatively titled The Rebirth of Tao.
There are a lot of directions this universe can go. All of history is my playground. At one point, I’d love to open the sandbox up and let others play in it. For now, it’s a planned trilogy. In the future, I could envision Tao becoming a series or possibly an extended series of trilogies.
So what’s next for Roen/Tao and Jill/Baji? Book Two, The Deaths of Tao comes out later this year, and I’m dying to see what happens!
I can’t give too much away. Deaths takes place a few years after Lives, and the readers are in for a treat. Jill takes equal billing with Roen and really comes into her own. Let’s just say fighting a losing war puts a strain on their relationship.
There’s also a new baddie named Enzo who’s much less civil and more dangerous than Sean Diamont. He’s a product of the Genjix eugenics program called the Hatchery. He’s better than you in every way and he’ll make sure you know it. His demeanor is also a little different than Sean… as in he might be a little unstable.
I’m a huge fan of Angry Robot and Strange Chemistry. What’s it like to be one of their authors?
As a debut author, I couldn’t be happier with where I began my career. AR/SC has the perfect mix of cutting-edge books and internet savvy that a smaller publisher needs to make a splash in the industry.
Not only that, we all like and support each other. Um… at least I think they like me. I’ve met many of their authors and consider all of them friends. It’s such a close group of good people. I feel very blessed to have joined the Robot family. And no, the chip in my head from the overlords did not force me to say these things.
Ha ha:) What is a day in the life of Wesley Chu like? What kind of writing schedule do you keep, and how do you reward yourself for putting in a hard day’s work?
My day consists of waking up, doing the day job, hanging with the family, walking the dog, and writing. Rinse and repeat. I don’t have a set schedule but I do my best writing late at night when it’s okay to drink a nice scotch without feeling like an alcoholic. I think that’s why writing early in the morning doesn’t work for me. If I drank scotch that early, I’d definitely feel like an alcoholic.
It’s funny. I took some time off from writing recently after a tough couple days of editing. The only thing I wanted to do while on “break” was to get my ass back to my story. I’m an OCD kind of guy; once I get my mind set on something, it’s all I can think about.
List three things about Wesley Chu that can’t be found on your website.
- Hm… I love thermal underwear. Like LOVE thermals. Does that make me an old man?
- I’m scuba certified but can’t swim. I can’t even tread water.
- I wasn’t kidding when I said I had a low pain threshold. When I was young and got kicked in the head, I’d say “wow, that’s a good hit!” Once I hit a certain age, I’m more like “wow, that’s a concussion!”
I know what you mean about thermal underwear…but it’s not something you really need living in Southern California, unfortunately:) Thanks so much for stopping by today, Wesley! Congrats on your book, and I can’t wait to read the next one!
About the Author:
Wesley is an avid gamer and a contributing writer for the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland. A former stunt man and a member of the Screen Actors Guild, he can also be seen in film and television playing roles such as “Banzai Chef” in Fred Claus and putting out Oscar worthy performances as a bank teller in Chicago Blackhawks commercials.
Besides working as an Associate Vice President at a bank, he spends his time writing and hanging out with his wife Paula Kim and their Airedale Terrier, Eva.
This giveaway is now over. Congratulations to Tammy George for winning an ARC of The Lives of Tao!
Have you read The Lives of Tao yet? Want a chance to win a copy? One ARC is up for grabs, as long as you have a U.S. shipping address. And entering is super easy: simply leave a comment on this post! You can also get extra entries if you tweet this post or share it on Facebook. Just let me know in the comments what you’ve done. One random commenter will be chosen on Saturday July 6th.