An adventure of my life time!

Posts tagged ‘hiking’

435. Interview by Bookglow

Describe Wings of a Flying Tiger in one sentence.
It is a heroic tale in which ordinary Chinese risked their lives to rescue and safeguard a downed American pilot in WWII in China.

What led you to write it?
Wings of a Flying Tiger is a work of fiction. But to me, a Chinese-American, it is also personal. I was born and raised in China. My mother and grandma had lived in Nanking and escaped from the city just days before the notorious Nanking Massacre when the Japanese soldiers slaughtered 300,000 innocent Chinese and raped 20,000 women in six weeks. Both my mother’s and father’s families fled to Chungking, where Japanese frequently bombed the wartime capital. My father told me about the repulsive smell of burning flesh, and as a young child, he had nightmares about the raids for several years. A good friend’s father drowned when Japanese attacked his boat; even unable to swim, he jumped into a river to avoid being blasted. A Japanese friend sincerely apologized for the atrocities her fellow countrymen had committed. She knew a former soldier who forced naked Chinese women to march with them to bring up their morale.
China was an isolated country while I was growing up. We were told that the Americans were “devils” and the American soldiers were crude and cowardly. I didn’t read or hear anything about the Flying Tigers until I came to the US as a graduate student. I was touched once I learned the truth. And the more I read, the more I was touched. I wanted to thank the Flying Tigers. What is a better way to show my gratitude than writing a book about them?
The story of the Flying Tigers, a group of American volunteer pilots who helped China fight Japan in WWII, has been a fascinating and enduring topic for over seventy years. Most of the books, though, were nonfiction written from the perspectives of the pilots. This novel is a rescue story from the points of view of both the airman and the Chinese who saved him.
As a Chinese, I’m thankful for the Flying Tigers’ bravery and sacrifice; without their help, the course of the Chinese history might have been changed, my family might not have survived, and I might not have existed.
As a U.S. citizen, I’m honored to write a book about the American heroes. It’s a privilege. A duty.

How long did it take to write?
It took me three months (fulltime) to finish the first draft, but it took me two more years to rewrite, again and again. I have no idea how many drafts. It was an ongoing process.
In those two years, I shared the book, chapter by chapter, with three writing groups. And a retired journalist volunteered to edit my manuscript. The final version is 25% longer than the first draft. But it was exciting to write “The End,” even if it was a rough draft.

Do you prefer writing in one genre over another?
I like fiction writing, especially historical fiction. It allows me to create characters in a historical setting. I enjoy the process—learning the history and producing likable or hateful characters. I get the chance to create the people I’d like to meet in real life or love stories I long to have. I feel powerful and, at the same time, a great sense of responsibility. It’s thrilling and rewarding when all the pieces fall into place.

What book most influenced your life?
Many books influenced me at different stages of my life in different ways. If I have to pick one, it is a Chinese author, Jin Yong.
His novels belong to a genre called wuxia—martial arts and chivalry. His books have a widespread following in many Chinese-speaking countries and have been translated into many languages.
Unlike typical martial arts novels, Jin Yong places emphasis on patriotism and heroism. Many of his books are set in history when China was occupied or under the threat of occupation by foreign forces. He often includes unforgettable love stories, along with references to traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture, martial arts, music, and philosophical thoughts. In his novels, historical figures intermingle with fictional characters.
I admired the heroes he created; I was deeply moved by the incredible love stories he created; I learned some Chinese history and culture from reading his books. I hope that my books will provide those wonderful feelings to my readers.

Where do you write?
I can write anywhere! I love to travel, so I learned to write wherever I go. A few times I wrote when I was waiting for my flight or on the plane. I wrote inside the smelly, cheap hostels or motels on rainy days. When ideas came during hikes, I sat down by the side of the trails and jotted down those precious thoughts on a small notebook or my cell phone. Although I’m not picky about the place, I won’t purposely go to coffee shops to write, as a lot of people like to do. Never understood the allure.

Is there any one thing that especially frustrates you about the writing process?
Born and raised in China, I learned English as a foreign language in school. The learning was limited and sometimes even wrong. I came to the U.S. in my early twenties as a graduate student for a career in science.
My first English “teacher” in the U.S. was TV. I didn’t even have the concept of the commercial. I thought accidentally I touched the remote control or there was something wrong with the TV when a program suddenly jumped to unrelated subjects. In China, at the time, there were two stations, broadcasting from 6pm to 10pm. There were no commercials. It took me a while to figure out what was going on.
I’ve always loved reading, but creative writing was a dangerous career in China. As famous writers, my grandmother and aunt were wrongfully accused as counter-revolutionary Rightists. I had to choose science—a safer path. Fiction writing was only a faraway dream; writing it in English was beyond my wildest dream.
I learned fiction writing by reading lots of books. When I wrote my novels, I’m sure I spent more time than most people. I had to constantly check two dictionaries—Chinese to English and English to Chinese. Even so, no matter how hard I tried, I still made grammatical mistakes. That frustrated me the most. There were plenty of times that I laughed and scolded myself for being so stubborn to embark on this journey that seemed almost impossible to succeed. Nowadays, so many people write; everyone has an advantage over me.
I wish I’d grown up speaking English. I wish I’d had proper education or training. Since I can’t change the past, I just have to work harder.

Any advice for novice writers?
You mean I’m not a novice writer anymore? J Even having two novels, I still have mixed feelings—shyness, unease, excitement, pride—when I call myself an author.
Writing is hard. If you don’t have a burning desire, don’t do it. But if you are passionate about it, don’t let anything or anyone stop you.
Start today. Keep writing! Don’t give up. Persistence. Perseverance. Patience.
I’ll share several useful Chinese proverbs with you:
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
“Every step leaves its print.”
“If you work hard enough, you can grind even an iron rod down to a needle.”
Looking back, I’m amazed that I finished a novel (actually three—two have been accepted for publication; one isn’t good enough to share with anyone), by writing down one word after another. If I can do it, anyone can.

What’s next?
I’m working on a story based on my grandmother. She was the first Chinese woman to receive a master’s degree in the UK. Returning to China, she became a professor and a famous writer/playwright. Her play was in production for years. However, in 1957, she was wrongfully accused as a counter-revolutionary Rightist. During Cultural Revolution, she was fired from her job and ordered to sweep streets. Later, she was kicked out of the house at the university. In 1973, she died alone in a small village. As the political atmosphere changed in China, she was once again a celebrated writer/scholar. She was called one of the most gifted female playwrights in Writing Women in Modern China: An Anthology of Women’s Literature from the Early Twentieth Century published by Columbia University Press in 1998. There is a park opened in her name in her hometown.
My grandma’s life was a mix of triumphs and tragedies. I’ll try my best to write it down.


431. My First Novel: Wings of a Flying Tiger

This is my other adventure–publishing a novel!

It’s been a long and hard journey, but I did it—my first novel will be published soon by Open Books. Wings of a Flying Tiger is a historical fiction about rescue of an American pilot in WWII in China. Its sequel, Will of a Tiger, will be published in November.
Here is the website about the book, the author, and pre-order:…/wings-of-a-flying-tiger/order.html

Please help me to spread the word, my friends!


430. SA Trip (the end): Huerquehue National Park

Huerquehue National Park is located in the foothills of the Andes, about an hour east of Pucon, Chile. The park has a number of lakes and surrounded by several volcanos. I spent a whole day hiking there. It is very quiet and peaceful. The view didn’t take my breath away, but the tranquility did.

Well, this is a great ending to an incredible trip.

(The monkey puzzle tree or monkey tail tree–Araucaria araucana)


428. SA Trip (28): Bariloche

Situated in the foothills of the Andes, Barliloche is a touristy city in Argentina. With a number of lakes nearby, it is pretty. However, we only got to see a small part of the area. The day we were there, there was an Ironman Race, which blocked part of the city.

We were able to take a cable car to the top of the Otto Hill. It was cloudy. I couldn’t see anything. I sat in a 360° rotating cafeteria, waiting for the weather to change. Luckily I didn’t have to wait for too long. The clouds parted and the surrounding mountains, lakes and the islands in the lakes appeared. I stepped outside and took some pictures. The wind was so strong and cold that my hands became numb in a short time. Well, at least I saw part of Bariloche. 

427. SA Trip (27): Futaleufu to Bariloche

A long day of driving from Futaleufu to Bariloche. Some of the pictures were taken from inside of the bus.

SA Trip (26): Local Experience in Futaleufu

I heard that there is a daily ferry from one end of Lake Espolon to the other near Futaleufu. Surrounded by mountains with glaciers, the lake is supposedly very beautiful. The ferry would leave in the late afternoon (5pm), sail about 1.5 hours, and come back. There is a bus to the ferry, but I decided to hike along a river. It’s only 10km.

Although it was cloudy, it was a pleasant day for walking. I was quite relaxed since I had plenty of time.

Relaxed until a dog followed me for more than half an hour (he was harmless) and another chased me and tried to bite me. I had to fight him with a stick. I’ve heard that in Chile and Argentina there are dogs everywhere, wandering freely. I was concerned about it before the trip. Growing up in China where dogs were used to guard properties and supposed to be mean, I’m not comfortable with them.

There are dogs everywhere, but until this day, none of them bothered me. They only fight with each other and rarely attack people. I was very grateful and became relaxed. Then I met this really mean dog. It scared me so much that I picked up the pace, hoping I could hide in a small restaurant before the ferry.

There is no restaurant or any commercial buildings, only a few private properties. And another dirty dog was so eager to play with me. He jumped up and down on me, which made me feel very uncomfortable. I tried to walk away, but he followed me.  

Great. It was only 3pm. I was stuck with a dog for two hours with nowhere to hide. The two hours felt longer than two days.

Finally, the boat was there. Dozens and dozens of local people got on. With them came all kinds of luggage, bags, boxes, and even furniture. I was on a boat full of people speaking only Spanish. A couple of them tried to talk to me, but I had no idea what they were saying.

Half an hour later a young lady came to me. She asked me whether I spoke in English. “Yes! Yes!” I was so eager and happy. She said they just wanted to know where to drop me off—there are stops along the lake to drop people off. “No! No! I don’t want to be dropped off.” She was surprised that I just wanted to take the ferry back and forth.

The scenery wasn’t too impressive because of the dark sky. Certainly, the ferry wasn’t the “sunset cruise” I imagined. But the experience was interesting.


423. SA Trip (23): Pleasant Surprise to visit Cave of Hands

I joined a tour group for the last two weeks of my trip. We were traveling from El Chalten to Perito Moreno, but the bus refused to start in the morning. The driver and the tour guide had to find another vehicle to jump start ours. It was almost three hours later when we took off. A big bus for 30 people carries only 8 of for the next two weeks—very comfortable.

It was a long drive with mostly flat and yellow/brown landscape. I was surprised in the late afternoon that we stopped to visit a place called Cueva de las Manos—Cave of Hands. It wasn’t listed on my itinerary, although other people received the info. I was pleasantly surprised.

Cueva de las Manos is a series of caves located about 100 miles south of Perito Moreno, Argentina. The paintings of hands date from 13,000 to 9,000 years ago. The site was last inhabited around 700 AD. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

(Six fingers)

Tag Cloud