Books are categorized into “genres” for purposes of identifying the type of story or subject matter for readers. Well, that and so librarians and book sellers know what shelf to put the book on. And there lies the difficulty with author Alan Chin.
Alan is one of a rare breed who instills literary artistry into everything he writes. Whether a historical, romance, or a story told just for the fun of it, Alan paints vivid images that float our imaginations into every scene. We hear the ocean’s waves, feel the breeze on our faces, smell the airborne brine. And when, as in the stirring novel “Simple Treasures,” a Shoshone Indian attempts to free a diseased man’s embittered soul, we share the pain and beauty of the moment. “Simple Treasures” exemplifies how a book may be classified as a ‘romance,’ but transcends the obvious and leads the reader on a journey of life’s magnificence and devastation amidst the characters’ self-discovery.
Former Navy jet mechanic Alan worked for twenty years in the field of software engineering. He also obtained a degree in economics and a Masters in Creative Writing. After retiring, Alan decided to enjoy his hobbies of tennis, traveling, and writing. But for many authors, writing refuses to remain a hobby for long, and such was the case for Alan. He’s now poised to see his sixth novel “Daddy’s Money” published, with the seventh to follow in June 2013.
“Daddy’s Money” is a complex contemporary tale of love threatened by family secrets. It is the story of sexual confusion, one man’s need to possess those around him regardless of the cost, and how what is right must sometimes be fought for against those we never viewed as our enemy.
I need to mention “The Lonely War.” In this novel Alan takes on the military’s former stance of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” as well as enlisted/officer relationships, the horrors of a WWII Japanese POW camp, and the torturous extremes a person will submit to in order to protect those he loves, even at the risk of being branded a traitor to his country. This is a seriously good book.
In all fairness, I’ll admit that not everyone may find Alan’s subject matter to their liking. However, anyone who enjoys literary eloquence, masterful storytelling, and tightly woven plots should definitely give an Alan Chin book a try.
Q) I have to ask, what inspired you to place “The Lonely War” in a POW camp and subject the lead character to such personal extremes?
A) In TLW, my aim was to make a very personal statement about love relationships between men, affairs both plutonic and physical. To do that, I chose to juxtapose plutonic love (Andrew’s relationship with his commanding officer) with a passionate, physical love (Andrew’s affair with the commandant.)
I chose a POW camp because that is one place where the military rules of behavior are turned on its head. Like “Brokeback Mountain,” the camp, Changi, was the one place where Andrew and Mitchell could express and explore their love for one another. It was also an environment so brutal that it would also test the extreme depths of their bond. Andrew swings from one lover to the other—like a pendulum—days with Mitchel and nights with Tattori. It is by this comparison, that I state my views on male love, which is to say, a rather heroic adoration. This is a story of love, idealistic, passionate, and also of brotherly love for comrades caught in a horrific situation.
Q) With writing demanding so much of your time, how’s the tennis game?
A) A few years ago I stopped playing amateur tournaments. It wasn’t a matter of time, so much as my old body slowing down. I simply can’t compete with these twenty-somethings anymore. These days, I get together with friends a few times a week for sociable games of doubles. I still enjoy the game as much as ever, perhaps more so that I’m no longer so competitive.
I must admit, however, writing is a time-suck. No matter how much time and energy I devote to it, it always demands more. The better writer I become, the more difficult it is to write, and the more effort it takes to be satisfied with my work. I believe that is a curse for any artist’s life, no matter what the media.
Q) At some point you made the decision to have your stories published. What was that deciding factor?
A) Great question. I had three driving reasons for wanting to be published. The first was because I wanted to be taken seriously as a writer, and nobody I know grants unpublished writers any credibility. These days, even published writers have difficulty commanding respect from a reading public, let alone friends and family.
The second reason had to do with a determination for excellence. You see, if I have no plans for publishing a manuscript, then I have no need to spend an extra six months of time and effort refining that story. Preparing a work for publication forces me that extra mile (it seems more like a million miles) to not only improve the manuscript, but also to develop my writing skills and grow as an artist. At the time, I needed that motivation to push myself and my work. I still need it.
My last reason to be published was to share my work with a reading public. I am aware my stories are not for everyone, and that’s fine. But judging from the fan mail I have received, my stories have touched peoples’ lives and they seem to enjoy my work. There are few things more gratifying to a writer than knowing you have brought joy into a person’s life, that you have inflamed peoples’ imaginations.
Q) In your work you tackle deep subjects such as moving on after loss, dual sexuality, the dangers of thwarting societal expectations, and many more. Though your stories explore love, you inspire the reader to examine the world with a fresh eye. In other words, you make us think. Why is this so important to you?
A) Those are very kind words, and I’m grateful. For me, that is the point in writing. If it’s not important, if the characters are not struggling with deep issues that the readers can identify with, then why write it? That is what art does, it makes us evaluate our life, our reality, and our dignity as human beings, and hopefully it shines a light on our values and goals and moral behavior. It is through art that we learn to live meaningful lives.
And you hit on exactly why fiction can do this. It puts the reader (and the writer) in an alien situation so that they can experience these life concerns from a different perspective, new eyes. That is the power and beauty of storytelling.
Q) When the time comes to lay down your pen, how do you hope your work will be remembered?
A) I’ll be happy if it is remembered. ;) But seriously, my goal is to tell unforgettable stories featuring unforgettable characters. If I can do that, then I will bring pleasure to readers. That is how I would like my work to be remembered, as a collection of stories that are a pleasure to read. If they also inspire readers to question their reality, that’s the icing.
Q) Any parting thoughts for fans and potential new readers?
A) Yes. If you read a book that you really enjoy, please take the time and effort to email the author and let them know what you thought of their work. Nothing encourages writers as much as hearing from an appreciative reader. We spend many months, sometimes years, creating work for you to enjoy. So please take a few minutes to lookup the author’s website and leave a message. It really means the world to us.
Also, if anyone should care to read more about me or my work, I have a website http://alanchin.net/ and a writer’s blog http://alanchinwriter.blogspot.com/ Please look me up.
DA Kentner is the author of the award-winning novel Whistle Pass. http://whistlepass.blogspot.com/