John Shors kindly took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions, and there's a giveaway copy for my wonderful readers (US/Canada).
Please give the author a warm welcome.
Could you explain how it felt and challenging it was to switch from your previous work with historical fiction to a contemporary fiction novel, like Dragon House?
Actually, I think that writing historical fiction is more difficult than to bring life to contemporary fiction. For instance, I spent month after month doing research for my first novel, Beneath a Marble Sky, which is based on the story behind the creation of the Taj Mahal. With my recent novel, Dragon House, which is set in modern-day Vietnam, all I did was fly to Vietnam and spend several weeks getting a good feel for the country (which I had visited earlier as well). So, by switching to contemporary fiction, I removed a whole layer of work from the process of creating a novel.
It is noted on your Web site that a portion of the book sales will go to the Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation. What inspired you to make this donation and have you seen the effect of this charity on children in Vietnam?
Dragon House is the story of two Americans who travel to Vietnam to help street children. I've had hundreds of experiences with street children, and found such children to be remarkably resilient, hopeful, and bright. I wanted Dragon House to not only benefit me and my family, but these children as well. Partnering with Blue Dragon Children's Foundation was an easy decision. I'm donating some of the proceeds from Dragon House to this group, which supports street children in Vietnam. I've had quite a few readers finish Dragon House, and then email me, asking how they might help support children in need. To date, we've raised enough money to buy complete sets of school books for about 500 street children.
The protagonists in the story open a center to help street children, did this foundation serve as a starting point for your novel?
No, I had the idea to do Dragon House long before I encountered any such foundation. It just seemed obvious to me that there was a tremendous need for such foundations. Street children are very prominent in Vietnam, and other parts of Asia. They need support. I wanted to bring the remarkable stories of these children to life, and then to find a foundation to partner with.
If you were to pick 5 songs as an accompanying playlist to Dragon House, what songs would you choose and why?
That's a tough question for me, as Dragon House occurs in Vietnam, and any music that wasn't Vietnamese would strike me as being out-of-place. Oftentimes in the book, the characters are listening to Vietnamese pop music, so such songs would be a good fit.
Beside a Burning Sea, Beneath a Marble Sky, and Dragon House have distinct Asian elements. What about the Asian culture drew you in and how well do you believe you've captured it in your books?
I've been lucky enough to live in Asia for about four years, so I know the region well. I'm a big fan of the culture, people, natural beauty, food, climate, history, and affordability of that part of the world. I continue to go back, year after year. As far as the believability of my Asian settings, I think that one of my skills as a writer is the ability to really bring a setting to life on the page. I take that part of writing very seriously, which is why I only write about places that I have spent a lot of time in. I want the reader to feel like they have visited India or Vietnam after finishing one of my novels.
Do you have any particular writing habits, like listening to music while writing or having a precise page count to reach by the end of each day or week?
Sometimes, while I'm working on the rough draft, I do listen to music. It has the ability to inspire me, if I seem to be spinning my wheels. U2 is a personal favorite. I also give myself very concrete goals. For instance, I'll write five pages every day until my rough draft is done. Or I'll edit eighty pages a day if I'm on my twelfth draft.
Which books have you been reading lately, and are there any you would like to recommend?
I recently finished Skeletons at the Feast, which is a very unique and memorable book, and is written by a friend of mine, Chris Bohjalian. To be honest, though, I don't read that much when I'm on deadline. I don't like to be influenced by the voices of other writers, as I think I have my own style, and I really like to focus on it, to have it resonating in my head 24/7.
Please share some tidbits about your latest writing projects.
I'm working on my fourth novel, The Wishing Trees, which will come out next September. The Wishing Trees is a story about a father, a mother, and a ten-year-old daughter who are planning a trip around the world. A few months prior to their trip, the mother gets sick and dies. A year later, the father and daughter embark upon the trip, which takes them on an emotional, spiritual, and a physical journey. I'm really excited about this novel, which is quite poignant, I think, and is due to Penguin in February. Then it's on to book number five! I also continue to speak with several book clubs (via speakerphone) a day about my novels. And I'm helping to transform my first novel, Beneath a Marble Sky, into a major motion picture.
Giveaway for US/Canada Readers:
1. Leave a comment on this interview about what you learned.
2. Get a second entry for commenting on the 12/15 review of Dragon House.
Deadline is Dec. 21, 2009 at 11:59PM EST
FTC Disclosure: I want to thank John Shors for providing me with a free copy of Dragon House for review. Clicking on images or titles will bring you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase required.