eBook Dynasty June 2013 Resident Writer Q & A: Sunflower

ResidentWriterEN

Q: Can you please describe how you started writing? Why do you think you have to write?

A: I have been writing since I was in primary school. However, it is only in my adult years that I realized writing can be a form of art, and even a source of power for life. I think writers write because they want to have a conversation with their readers. Writing without such conversation is only to create a diary, while writers without readers are only mumbling to themselves.

Q: Among the world’s writers, who do you think have most influenced you?

A: In terms of Chinese-language writers, Taiwanese author San Mao (Echo) once had a huge influence on me. It is more of a feeling shared by many other readers back then, something like a youthful dream, a passionate desire to go wild and free, to travel to the end of the world, to go beyond all limits. Once we grew up, however, such a dream began to fade. As we do our best to live a life, we no longer dare to dream. But those beautiful, brilliant and innocent glimpses of that youthful dream are still warm to touch.

Among all the English-language writers, American author Stephen King has the biggest impact on me. King has well explored and depicted humanity, and his horror stories do not always have to contain blood and gore. I love his portrayal of ordinary people having to survive under all kinds of extraordinary circumstances. As people desperately try to stay alive (and sane), all kinds of miracles can happen. King has written about many such “ordinary miracles”, with horror being simply a background against which they are set.

Q: You have published three Chinese ebooks, The Secret of Time, Blog Therapy and The Itchy Translator. What do you try to convey in these books?

A: I started blogging in 2010, just to record my feelings about some works of literature and art. As a result, in The Secret of Time, there are plenty of crazy and creative thoughts, lots of nonsense, etc, although the writing process itself was always full of fun and joy. Lots of energy was instilled in that book. Later, I realized that writing could be a powerful thing, particularly in my attempt to explore and analyze my own way of thinking. So I started writing more like a trained scholar and/or journalist in Blog Therapy. As this sort of “professional” personality evolved, perhaps The Itchy Translator is the most scholarly among the three books, which is full of essays to some length. I did not mean to turn into a scholarly (and boring?) writer, but such change seemed unstoppable at the time. I do not regret it, though.

Q: In terms of works of literary criticism, what do you think a writer should be aware of when writing them?

A: In recent years there are very few brilliant works of literary criticism in the Chinese world. Those truly excellent books in this genre, both classic and contemporary, have lost their favors among today’s readers. The majority of the works of the so-called “literary criticism” in today’s market are simply exhibitions of individual reading habits and writing styles. They are not scholarly exploration and analysis of literary works.

It is obvious that critics do not have to be serious and scholarly. Neither do they have to completely remove themselves from their writings of literary criticism. However, I do feel that in terms of true literary criticism, a critic only exists to guide the readers in the latter’s attempt to understand the nature and significance of a literary work. It is not a critic’s job to promote themselves. I very much dislike those self-proclaimed “literary critics” who deliberately promote a prominent personal style. You cannot see the literary work being discussed in the writings of these “critics”. You only see these “critics” whose writings are full of the words “I”, “me”, “my” and “mine”.

Q: Have you ever encountered problems while writing? How do you conquer them?

A: Oh, I often have lots of problems, and I find it pretty hard to conquer them. When problems do occur, I normally just get away from my computer desk. I would read a good book or do some house chores. It is when I am not thinking about these problems that various solutions to them are formed in my head.

Q: In your view, what is the most difficult thing about writing works of literary criticism?

A: As aforementioned, it is not a critic’s job to promote themselves. Instead, their job is to analyze and critique literary works. But all writers need to start from their own lives, so it is impossible for critics to completely remove themselves from their writings.

I think the most difficult aspect about writing works of literary criticism is to maintain an objective and balanced voice. The way to do so is to read as much as you can, and to think as much as you can. You should learn from other people’s experiences and views, whether these are familiar or completely strange to you. You should look out, instead of always focusing on yourself. The more different people’s views appear to be from yours, the more you need to understand them. In this process, you get to appreciate yourself better. You do not have to agree with other people’s views, but you will need to have pretty good reasons to overrule them, together with plenty of solid evidence to support your own views. You should also remain calm and reasonable. Perhaps this very last bit is the most difficult in the whole process.

Q: If someone asks you how to become a literary critic, what will you say?

A: As aforementioned, you should read, read, read, and then think, think, think. You should understand and learn from the others, instead of always assuming your views are the best. We can only take in more if we know we do not have enough. And once we have learned to be humble, we can slowly cultivate something that is completely of our own. Something independent. This is perhaps the most important lesson I have learned from my readers.

Q: Among all the works of literary criticism out there in the market, which aspects do you think should be further developed and promoted?

A: It is important to have an independent voice. Many people simply summarize the books they have read, quote from other people’s views on the same books, and write down whatever they think and feel after reading these books. These are not literary criticism. They are only “summaries” and “reviews (of a seriously personal nature)”. Meanwhile, the ability to compose a beautiful piece of writing is also important. Works of literary criticism should themselves be valuable as a literary work.

Q: As a writer, in your view, what are the advantages and disadvantages of publishing your writings as ebooks?

A: This question does not seem to relate to the other ones above?… Anyhow, my own view in this regard is that ebooks can never replace paper-based books. Those who are worried about the future of paper-based books can stop worrying, because ebooks are only an alternative choice to both authors and readers. It is like some people like apples, while others like oranges. Both fruit are delicious, and there is no need to worry that production of oranges will cause all apples to disappear.

Indeed, ebooks provide an extra channel through which authors can get published. However, the most important task faced by authors is to write good books, and to continue writing good books, so that they can attract the readers and win their trust and support. As long as it is a good book, readers will accept it no matter it is published digitally or on paper.

Sunflower welcomes questions relating to writing and creativity from all readers. Thank you!

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