Welcome, Benjamin. It’s good to talk to you today. What is your book about?
Eventual Revolutions is a mystic thriller novella. Michael Chang, professional magician, is hired to send a runaway girl home. But he must face demons, gangsters, and the ghosts of his past. This is the first book in the Michael Chang series.
What inspired you to write this particular story?
Lots of things. The hard-edged, gritty realism of thrillers. The thoughts of various philosophers. My own spiritual journey. The people I know. I’ve been thinking about the Michael Chang series for half a decade. This is the first time I managed to write a viable Michael Chang story.
How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?
I’ve been compared to Michael Chang. It’s true that I’ve poured a fair bit of my personality into his, and some of his experiences and history are based on mine. But honestly, I see bits and pieces of myself, who I was, am and can be, in every single character I write. I suppose, at some point and to varying degrees, a work of fiction is an autobiography in disguise. Especially if it’s written in first person, like the Michael Chang series.
How much of a story do you have in mind before you start writing it?
Before I start writing a story, I have an opening scene in mind, the themes of the story, the major characters, and a sense of how the story will flow. Sometimes, I have an idea of the climax, important plot points, and the ending – but I don’t wait for that before I start writing. I prefer my stories to grow organically from the beginning, informed by my characters’ abilities and motivations.
Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it? (searching Internet, magazines, other books, etc.)
Yes. Wherever possible, I walked the ground where Michael went, to get a feel of the location. I also studied violence at least as intensely as Michael did to prepare myself for the action scenes, scrounging from Internet resources and books on the subject matter, and talking to a few people I know who are much more knowledgeable than me in this subject.
How (or when) do you decide that you are finished writing a story?
When there are no more changes to make, no corrections to be done, and when the entire story flows seamlessly.
What is your goal for the book, ie: what do you want people to take with them after they finish reading the story?
For this book, I want people to recognise that they have free will, that they can choose to make their lives better. It’s not easy, it requires a lot of work, but it’s possible.
Is there a message in your writing you want readers to grasp?
The real world is complicated. Don’t seek simple answers. Seek instead complete answers. Don’t be satisfied with what people tell you. Always look for the full picture, and discard everything that does not meet the test of logic and reason. Always strive towards a greater understanding of the world, without settling for dogma or over-simplicity. Every action has a consequence. And always remember that you are free – and with this freedom comes the necessity, burden and power of choice.
What was the most difficult part about writing the book?
Without a doubt, the climax. I had to rewrite the entire sequence a couple of times, and make a hundred or so edits before I was fully satisfied. I had to make sure everybody stayed in character, that the escalation was realistic, the tactics employed feasible, the mindsets plausible, and the writing solid. At the same time, it’s probably the best segment I’ve written in a while.
How has your background influenced your writing?
I’m a blogger and a citizen journalist. I grew up in a working-class family that was hit hard by the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis. I had to save as much money as I could, because there wasn’t much left after we pay the bills. I study violence fairly intensely. Much of what I know I taught myself. This background became the basis for Michael Chang’s history, skills and mindset. My experiences as a self-taught journalist and blogger also influenced my style somewhat.
What are you working on right now?
Two things. I’m editing Watchman. It’s a short story that follows Michael’s exploits some time after Eventual Revolutions. In Watchman, Michael protects a pair of women (and himself) from a trio of hardcases in a club, and redefines his sense of right and wrong. I’m also writing Games of Magi, a novella that follows Watchman. In Games of Magi, Michael meets a fellow magician whom he doesn’t particularly like, and must decide whether to treat him as friend, foe, or something else.
Does writing come easy for you?
Words come easy enough. The real trouble lies in picking what words to use, and how to arrange them into a coherent and powerful narrative. That one is decidedly more difficult than just plunking words on the screen.
How many stories do you currently have swirling around in your head?
At any given moment, a half-dozen at least. Right now, I’ve got the outlines of 4 more Michael Chang stories, waiting to be written. I’ve got a military science fiction story idea that is fusion of Ghost in the Shell (manga, anime and movie), The Unit and Deus Ex. And I’ve also got an occult noir story idea, which is ‘traditional’ urban fantasy meets Arkham Horror (the tabletop game) and the detective thriller.
What do you like to read?
I like fiction that is intelligent, illuminates the human condition, provoke thought, realistic, and entertaining in a realistic fashion. My favourite writers include Barry Eisler, Marcus Sakey, Jim Butcher, Marcus Wynne, Cormac McCarthy and David Drake. As for non-fiction, I read all kinds of things, so long as it’s insightful, well-researched, and cogent.
What advice you would give to an aspiring author?
Write. Write until you are done. Keep going until you are done. Stay true to your vision, but change your vision if it harms the story and your overall writing style. Learn everything you can about writing and publishing and promotion, and use that knowledge well. If you keep improving yourself, dedicate yourself to being all you can be, at some point, you will be noticed. And then the cycle begins anew, and you need to do the same thing all over again – only at a deeper level.
Where can we learn more about your book?
Eventual Revolutions is available at the following:
Benjamin Cheah’s ebook store (preferred): http://benjamincheah.wordpress.com/ebook-store/
Connect with Benjamin Cheah here:
Click here for an interview with: Michael Chang, protagonist of “Eventual Revolutions” by Benjamin Cheah