Wesley Chu is a dangerous deviant and should be apprehended immedia — *checks notes* — nope, that’s the wrong page, sorry. Wesley Chu is a fellow Angry Robot author whose first book, The Lives of Tao, kicked all kinds of ass up and down the charts, and now he’s back with the second in the series:
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF: WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?
Hello, my name is Wesley Chu and I’m on Terribleminds Ten Questions for the second time this year which completely blows my mind. For those of you who are like “Wesley who?” (Which I’m pretty sure is most of you), I’m the author of The Lives of Tao and the upcoming The Deaths of Tao, both published by the almighty and magnificent automatons at Angry Robot Books.
On top of that, I’m a member of the Screen Actors Guild, I work at the Death Star, and I practice a form of Kung Fu where I walk in circles for hours. I also have an Airedale Terrier named Eva who talks to me in a Marge Simpson voice, and I used to be able to touch my toes to my chin without bending my knees. I’ll give you a sec to think that over.
GIVE US THE 140-CHARACTER STORY PITCH FOR THE DEATHS OF TAO:
After LoT, all Hell has broken loose and shit just got real. Genjix busting out the super soldiers. Roen can’t keep it together #stinkytofu
WHERE DOES THIS STORY COME FROM?
My brain wants to take credit for it, but I’m going to have to say this story came from my gut and my butt-clenching fear of not making my second book deadline.
Business writerly stuff aside, I spent the entire The Lives of Tao building Roen Tan up into a somewhat competent agent. In The Deaths of Tao, I wanted to take him for a spin and see what mettle he’s made of. Basically, I let loose the dogs of war on his ass, throwing everything at him, including gangsters, eugenic super-soldiers, and a really pissed off wife.
HOW IS THIS A STORY ONLY YOU COULD’VE WRITTEN?
In The Lives of Tao, Roen was an unhappy out-of-shape loser who found his inner beast mode by the end of the book. I was an unhappy corporate drone who worked a soul-sucking career. In a way, Roen and I grew up together with the debut. The story continues after the epilogue though. Roen had new challenges to face in The Deaths of Tao, and I had the same in writing it.
In The Deaths of Tao, after Roen had achieved his goals of being a confident agent, he became deeper embroiled in the Quasing war. For me, after the whole “look ma, I wrote a book!” and shiny bits of being published wore off, I had to start writing The Deaths of Tao right away and learn the business of being a contracted author and treating it like a job as opposed to a hobby. Once a writer makes that transition, it’s a whole different ball game then. I’d like to think that Roen and I grew into our new roles together.
WHAT WAS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT WRITING THE DEATHS OF TAO?
Sequels are tough. I like to compare it to a band’s second album. The first album is great. After all, it’s what got you signed with a record label. Your band probably spent years polishing it up and putting the best tracks in it
“Now,” the record producer says after the first album’s out, “make another album. Now!”
Suddenly, your band is contractually obligated to be creative on demand. It’s a whole different beast and a lot more stress. That transition from being a first time author to a professional was tough. Thank God for my writing support group, and scotch. Actually, it was mostly just scotch.
WHAT DID YOU LEARN WRITING THE DEATHS OF TAO?
A book is a snapshot, and things you’ve already published earlier in the series are set in stone, laminated, basically part of the Ten Commandments of your series. It’s too late to change anything, so the little tidbits you didn’t think carefully through in the first book? Well, they’re front and center now. Suck it up.
For example, remember those characters you absolutely loved and killed in Lives, Wes? Don’t you wish you could have some of them back right now to play with? Well, they’re still dead, and you’re not operating in the Marvel universe, so deal with it!
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT THE DEATHS OF TAO?
I love that in The Lives of Tao, I leveled Roen up. In The Deaths of Tao, I took him raiding. Yeah, I just used a World of Warcraft reference. High-five!
But really, that’s how I view his transition from the first book to the second. Roen used the skills he learned in Lives and applied them to his missions in Deaths. Seeing his growth over the course of the series makes me feel like a proud parent. My boy’s all grown up! Let me shed a tear while I throw him off the side of a tower and see if he survives.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY NEXT TIME?
I would get to know my characters a lot better before putting them down on paper. I introduced a new main character, Enzo, in The Deaths of Tao and he continued to shock me again and again. So much so at that at one point, I had to pull back and think, “ok, you little crazy psychopath. I gotta rein you in.” There’s nothing wrong with giving your fictional creations a little decision making leeway, but just like kids and the Internet, give them a mile and they’ll hang you with it.
GIVE US YOUR FAVORITE PARAGRAPH FROM THE STORY:
Hutch, standing next to Roen, coughed and fidgeted with his jacket. Thirty-six gangsters, dressed to the nines, surrounded the small table, drawn guns half pointing at them and half at each other. Roen poked Hutch and gave him the don’t-get-us-shot glare. The gangsters were already on edge. The last thing they needed was to see an anxious foreigner making sudden moves.
Sixteen behind you. Ten on both sides. All armed and probably awful shots. Four bosses in front. Oh, and you have Hutch, the narcoleptic guard. You got a plan to get out of this?
Roen swiveled his head to his left and counted the number of armed thugs wielding bats, machetes, and guns, and then he counted the ones to his right.
He shrugged. “I got nothing.”
I find it ironic that you had a plan to fight your way out of Prophus Command, but not out of a triad warehouse. I am starting to doubt your loyalties.
Or will to live.
“Or delusions of invincibility.”
Okay. You win this one.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU AS A STORYTELLER?
I recently signed a deal with Tor Books and hope to have my current work-in-progress, Time Salvager, out on book shelves by 2015. The book follows a time traveler named James who scavenges technologies and resources from a more prosperous past.
Time traveling is strictly regulated. Salvagers can only scavenge from dead end timelines—events preceding an immediate disaster, explosion, or accident—where the resources salvaged will not affect the present. The problem with this job is that the salvager experiences the last few tragic moments of the victims before the disaster. That tends to mess with a person’s head.
Also, assuming the robot overlords give the green light, I’ll start on the third and (maybe, maybe not) final book of the Tao trilogy, tentatively called The Rebirth of Tao. The synopsis has been planned out and any silly distractions such as friends and family have been put to the side. Let’s roll!