Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Interview with J.C. Kang, author of the Dragon Songs Saga

Today, the Speculative Fiction Showcase has the great pleasure to interview J.C. Kang, author of the Dragon Songs Saga. Symphony of Fates, the latest book in the series, is released on Friday, April 7.

Q: On your web-site, you describe yourself as a “Multi-cultural Epic Fantasy Author”. What does that mean, to you?

A: I grew up reading the Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Dragonlance, and other classic fantasies. One common thread was the medieval European cultures, oftentimes with darker-skinned peoples as evil. 

However, so many civilizations have their own myths and legends. As one of those evil darker-skinned folk,  I wanted to fuse several together, and include non-humans like elves and dwarves.  There is “good” and “evil” in all races. The Dragon Song Saga focuses on the East Asian characters, who can evoke magic from artistic expression. My current work-in-progress takes place in the equivalent of Renaissance Italy, and follows a Western Mediterranean Diviner, East African sorceress, East Indian mystical warrior, Middle Eastern warrior-priest, and half-elf ninja.  I know, it sounds like the beginning of a bar joke.  The half-elf is one of the main characters of the Dragon Songs Saga, and the others make cameos in that series.

Q: You recently released Dances of Deception, the third book in your Dragon Songs Saga. What made you decide to rebrand the series?

A:  While I loved my original covers and titles, I realized that they didn’t represent my intended genre, Epic Fantasy.  I was attracting YA Fantasy Romance readers, who wanted the heroine to fall in love with the dragon, not vanquish it.

Q: Speaking of dragons, they play a significant part in both Eastern and Western legend, and also in contemporary fantasy. Why do they remain so powerful?

A: My late uncle, Professor David Jones, taught anthropology at the University of Central Florida. One of his academic works, Instinct for Dragons, researched themes of dragons which crossed over dozens of cultures all over the world.  He theorized that dragons were a fusion of predators of primates and prehistoric humans:  Big cats (sharp claws and teeth), serpents (scaly reptiles), and raptors (flying). We have a deep-rooted instinct to believe in this super predator, which carries on to today.

Q: How do you draw upon your experience as a Chinese Medicine doctor, martial arts instructor in your writing?

A:  Besides being able to physically intimidate readers into buying my books, martial arts helps me to visualize fight scenes—I received a wonderful review from a reader who felt “the descriptions of physicality and movement will have you feeling like you’re running, fighting, playing alongside the characters.”  And since my first series takes place in an East Asian equivalent, I draw on Chinese Medicine concepts as a means of explaining the magic system.

Q: As a geek myself, I recently discovered the Chinese historical/fantasy series Nirvana in Fire, and am hooked. Are there any similar series that you would recommend?

A: MH Boroson’s Girl With the Ghost Eyes is a wonderfully-researched Historical Fantasy, which follows a Daoist Priestess in early 1900s San Francisco Chinatown. David Wingrove’s Chung Kuo series is sci-fi with an Imperial Chinese feel.

Q: Would you rather see your stories on the big screen or the little screen?

A:  I’d be ecstatic with either! If I had to choose, though, the little screen—there are so many stories to tell, that the episodic nature of television would work better for how I envision the series, and all the plot twists.

Q: What is your favourite Science Fiction (or Fantasy) film?

A: Wow, where to start with Sci-Fi? I’ve probably seen most of the major ones, and there are too many awesome ones to list.  As for fantasy, I’m sorely disappointed with majority of them, especially the recent ones which rely more on CGI effects than a good story.  I loved the Hobbit as a book, but couldn’t stand the movie trilogy (really, did they need to make 3?). I guess classic ones like Willow, The Dark Crystal, and Dragonslayer are my favorites.

Q: Are you--or have you ever been--a gamer?

A: I’m afraid I’ll show my age by answering, but yes. When I was younger, I’d walk half a mile and spend 25 cents to play Pong and Frogger.  I won competitions in Gauntlet and Street Fighter II.  Nowadays, however, I would waste too much time—I get addicted easily.  The only major fight I’ve had with my wife was over me playing too much Civilization II (and I confess, I currently spend way too much time playing a tablet version of Carcasonne).  My theory is that there is so little we can control in our daily lives that computer games give us a chance to “do over” until we “win.”

Q: Do you have your own office, study or writing space, or can you write in a cafe or the library?

A: I write best in cafes with free refills.  I don’t drink coffee, so that usually means tea.  The staff at my three regular haunts know me by name.

Q: Who do you consider are your major influences in writing?

A: Tolkien for his world building.  Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman for character chemistry.  Jacquelyn Carey for really exploring characters. Martin for all of the above, and also the long game plot twists.

Q: Plot Twists?

A: I love them when the hints have been there the whole time, like Martin’s L+R=J, or Rowling’s Severus Snapes.

Q: Can we assume your story has them?

A: YES! Every story has some kind of plot twist, which will reframe how readers interpret characters’ actions from before.  I hope I live long enough to reveal the Big Twist.

About J.C. Kang:

JC Kang's unhealthy obsession with Fantasy and Sci-Fi began at an early age when his brother introduced him to The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, Star Trek and Star Wars. As an adult, he combines his geek roots with his professional experiences as a Chinese Medicine doctor, martial arts instructor and technical writer to pen multicultural epic fantasy stories.


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