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

A: I first started writing poetry for children. Then I tried writing fiction and found it to be my most favorite literary genre. It is like casting a net in the ocean and bringing back a silver fish with shining scales -- which is exciting! "Silver fish" symbolizes a desire for the unknown, while "shining scales" represent the necessity to explore the intangible. While the silver fish serves as our reason to pursue, it is the shining scales that are our prey!

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

A: Graham Greene's The End of the Affair, Peter Carey's Oscar and Lucinda, Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities, and Kenzaburo Oe's Shizuka na seikatsu [A Quiet Life]. These books have left considerable impressions on me. Somehow I feel there are similarities among them.

Q: You have published three Chinese ebooks so far -- Central Station and Tell Him a Secret are short stories, while Star of Bethleham is a stage play for children. What do you try to convey in these writings?

A: Stories are souvenirs from specific times and spaces. We collect them, tidy them up, and gradually rebuild the original scenes with words.

Q: In terms of short stories, what do you think a writer should be aware of when constructing plots, creating characters and managing the overall themes?

A: Short stories are the most diversifying form of writing. Characters, plots and themes -- each can serve as the major player in this game that is the story. If one chooses "characters", then the story becomes a portrayal of heroes. If one chooses "plots", then the story evolves to reveal various secrets. If one chooses "themes", then the story will shock and thrill.

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

A: Leave them alone and keep going! Come back to them when you have completely forgotten them!

Q: If someone asks you how to write a short story or compose a stage play for children, what will you say?

A: Any ordinary thing you see in your daily life -- if you establish a link to it, then it will have a new meaning. Keep expanding this link, then eventually it will grow into a tree of stories!

Q: Among all the publications out there in the market, which sorts of books do you think should be further developed and promoted? Do you think your view is shared by other readers as well?

A: Many of the current publications in the market are of a "brimming" style of writing, trying to stuff everything into their plots. Lacking a sense of security in their cores, these stories make it hard for readers to get a glimpse of the treasures buried deep inside. In comparison, books of a "non-greedy" writing style are often very enjoyable as their treasures slowly emerge in the process of reading.

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

A: Books in electronic format can be easily updated, expanded and/or re-formatted. This is their advantage. However, a writer should still concentrate on writing a good book.


Joel Lloyd welcomes writing-related questions from all readers. Please post your questions here, and we will publish all questions and answers below.


Q from Christine: You mentioned some books have left "considerable impressions" on you, and that you feel " there are similarities among them". Can you please elaborate?

A: The End of the Affair and Oscar and Lucinda -- both books explore whether one can maintain a friendly relationship with one's faith.

In The End of the Affair, a writer falls in love with his friend's wife. However, after a while, the woman suddenly cools off and stops responding to his love. The writer cannot let go and hires a private detective to find out why. It is eventually found that during one of their secret meetings, an enemy attacked their country and the woman thought her lover was seriously injured in the bombing. Helpless and hopeless, she bargained with God, asking for her lover's survival, in exchange of her giving up this true love and returning to God's original arrangement, i.e. returning to her marriage to be a good but unhappy wife. Then the miracle happened -- the writer awoke from his coma and sustained only minor injuries. He did not know the woman had sacrificed herself for their love!

The woman's secrets are revealed after they reunion, but she is now seriously ill. On her death bed, she asks the cynical writer to stop being angry with God and the world, because only love can conquer all the obstacles. The woman is at the core of all her surroundings that suffer a lack of love -- thanks to her, her husband, her lover and the little boy in the story have all learned to feel the existence of God's blessings.

The little boy, belonging to the private detective, was once caught while following the woman. Like an angel, she pitied him and gave him a kiss on the ugly birthmark on his face. Then that birthmark slowly disappeared from his face.

Have you reached an agreement with the God in your heart? No one can be completely isolated from the others!

In Oscar and Lucinda, a priest meets a rich girl on a sea journey. They share the same hobby -- gambling! How can a priest enjoy gambling? Both of them try to escape a series of human bondages. The priest eventually conquers his fear of water and crosses the ocean to reach the New World; while the rich girl invests all her money on a glass factory, keen to launch her own world and cease relying on the traditional society that is dominated by men. Are they being crazy or innovative? To build a cathedral with glass? To ship it across the ocean?

They admire and cherish each other, for what they share is more than gambling. From self-exploration to a series of grand adventures, then to their final devotion to God -- are these not just one after another throw of the dice?

In A Quiet Life, a girl looks after her intellectually challenged brother and often worries about him. While she notices various unusual patterns in his outing, various sexual assaults against schoolgirls near their house have caught her attention. Because her brother came home with dirty clothing on the day one of the assaults happened, and because the time and route he took on that day coincided with those of the assault, she cannot help but wonder whether he is the one who did it?

Her brother is only a big kid who loves music. He walks pass a house and hears some beautiful music playing inside. Eager for more, he breaks into the house's garden and hides in the bush to listen to the music. His sister, who is following him, sees with her own eyes that he is behaving suspiciously!

But the real culprit is someone else. Still, the world of the adults is too complicated. How can the brother, who is beautiful and naive, be mistaken as a criminal?

In this case, ordinary daily lives are used to portray how "individuals" can act as a "group" to resist the society. If we are not careful, we can easily become trapped within the collective consciousness and get ourselves or the others hurt. How can individual awareness impact like a group, in order to resist the ugliness generated by unreasonable collective consciousness?

In Invisible Cities, previously unseen literary beauty is unleashed. A great number of cultural symbols help generating different depths for the book, making it highly readable.


Q from Christine again: Can you provide some examples of the "non-greedy" writing style?

A: Kenzaburo Oe's A Quiet Life is very much a realistic portrayal of normal life. It is like reading the diary of a close friend -- nothing is thrilling or dramatic, but a powerful message is supported -- what individuals can do as a power in a society. Can we lift this up to the level of international relations? Can we exaggerate it as the differences between peoples and cultures? How can we care more for humanity?


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