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Writer Q & A (Archived) > Q and A with Jonathan Chamberlain

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message 1: by A.F. (last edited May 11, 2012 05:27AM) (new)

A.F. (scribe77) | 1824 comments Mod
Please welcome Jonathan Chamberlain to our Q and A discussions. He is a writer who has been hijacked by life. When his daughter, Stevie, exploded into his life with all the problems she had to cope with, he ended up founding two charities for children with developmental disabilities (and wrote a memoir of this time in his book: Wordjazz for Stevie). Then when his wife was diagnosed with cancer he had a new battle on his hands - and this led to a series of cancer books starting with Fighting Cancer: A Survival Guide (1996) to the latest book The Cancer Survivor's Bible (2012) - see his website: www.fightingcancer.com and cancer blog: www.cancerfighter.wordpress.com
He is now seeking to get back to his writing career and in recent years has published the rather controversial novel, The Alphabet of Vietnam, and his comic take on the London 2012 Olympics (Dreams of Gold) - He has also started a blog In Praise of Older Books: www.2ndhandbooklover.wordpress.com

Jonathan's Goodreads Profile: Jonathan Chamberlain

Some of Jonathan's books:
Dreams of Gold by Jonathan Chamberlain The Alphabet of Vietnam by Jonathan Chamberlain King Hui The Man Who Owned All the Opium in Hong Kong by Jonathan Chamberlain Wordjazz for Stevie How a Profoundly Handicapped Girl Gave Her Father the Gifts of Pain and Love by Jonathan Chamberlain Chinese Gods An Introduction to Chinese Folk Religion by Jonathan Chamberlain Fighting Cancer A Survival Guide by Jonathan Chamberlain

message 2: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Chamberlain | 28 comments Hi
Just to let you know I'm online. I was going to do an intro but thanks to A.F. all the salient facts are up there. I am happy to talk about any of my books, writing or indeed anything else that seems relevant. I live in the UK so there may be time issues - so looking forward to the chat.

message 3: by Marianne (new)

Marianne Wheelaghan (httpwwwgoodreadscomMarianneW) | 88 comments Hi Jonathan, the great thing about this Goodreads site is that you come across new authors, like yourself. I am fascinated to see how diverse your writing is - and so highly recommended by so many people. I'm not sure I'm in the mood for anything too serious as just finished a very depressing book about abuse so may start with the Dreams of Gold. Okay, my question, can I ask what is controversial about the Alphabet of Vietnam? Cheers:)

message 4: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Chamberlain | 28 comments Hi Marianne. Thanks for kicking this off.

As you can see from the reviews on this site it's had everything from one star to five stars. Some say it's badly written, others extremely well written. Basically the issue is violence. I have described a number of extremely brutal rape-murders - not at length but not pulling any punches and since these are described from the POV of one of the perpetrators, the tone is aggressive. Perhaps two of these go over (probably well over) the line of comfortable reading (they certainly made for very uncomfortable writing) - and I should say here that violence is not a hallmark of my writing - in fact these scenes are the only scenes of violence I will ever write. But although I was - and remain - uncomfortable with them I decided in the end that they served an important purpose. First off, they are both depictions of something that really happened. Susan Brownmiller (in Against our Will) described the incident that was the model for one of these episodes and I think a news report of the mass murderers Charles Ng and Leonard Lake gave me the other.

In part, I think I was aiming this at male readers. I wanted to disturb. I wanted male readers to feel complicit. The book is in part about the violence that was perpetrated by US soldiers in Vietnam - which I don't feel has been fully taken on board in America. Time has moved on and it is very difficult for Americans to believe that they could be doing evil - but it is not just about Americans, it's about war in general (the philosophy of which is identical in its logic to de Sade's philosophy of sadism).

The book is very multi-layered and it does not provide answers but in a world where the word 'Vietnam' conjures up a war rather than a country with a culture, I think it has something important to say.

message 5: by Marianne (new)

Marianne Wheelaghan (httpwwwgoodreadscomMarianneW) | 88 comments Hi Jonathan, thanks for this very full and frank answer. I can see what that has caused controversy. If I understand it, you wanted to make people, men in particular, to sit up and think and be disturbed. Hm?? I suppose it's gamble. But what's writing about if you don't take risks? Interesting. Am now even more intrigued but not sure if I'll be able to read it at the moment - there's only so much abuse one can take in a book without having a break.
What are you working on now? And finally, Dreams of God sounds so different from The Alphabet, where did that idea come from?
ps - have to leave computer now but will be back later :)

message 6: by Mari (new)

Mari Mann (MariMann) | 46 comments Hi Jonathan~

So here we are! Still enjoying reading your In Praise of Older Books blog. I'm having a hard time choosing which book of yours to read first; do you have a suggestion for a first read?

message 7: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Chamberlain | 28 comments So many qs! How long have you got?

OK. Yes The Alphabet does take risks - it is also a book that was started some 20 years ago and then returned to from time to time over the years - and it sprawled wildly like a voracious weed. And this as it turned out was necessary because one of the characters is feral and youngish while the other main male character is older, recovering from a breakdown. I couldn't adequately write the younger man's part now - but could not have written the older man's part then.

Anyway, one morning a couple of years ago I woke up and a voice said to me: Cut everything in half. As it turned out this was exactly what the book needed. I hacked and slashed for a couple of weeks and the book emerged in its present form - but a lot of the bits that I discarded were necessary to the process of strengthening the various contexts.

Now? I am currently bogged down in marketing my new book The Cancer Survivor's Bible which I have self-published but do have two novel ideas simmering - and I quite like the simmering process. I am also trying to get agent/publisher involvement in a kids book on cancer - based on the story of a kid who was sent home six years ago to die and who is, today, alive and very much better (though not entirely cured). I think this will be an interesting book to put together over the next few months.

Dreams of Gold? 4 years ago a friend said he was putting together projects relating to the First World War as it would be easy to pitch them to publishers as the 100th anniversary approached. I wasn't interested in that subject but it occurred to me that the Olympics was also coming up and that did interest me. At about the same time I saw a film or two with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (who I find immensely funny) and had always wanted to try my hand at a film script so I sat down - and the story was released to me in little packets by my unconscious - No-one was interested in the film script so I re-wrote it as a novel. BTW I saw the character of the minor Welsh poet as Simon Pegg and Anna as Nick Frost.

Now I will say this, writing a book first as a film script is really a very good way to go about structuring a novel (maybe not all novels but anything that proceeds as a series of scenes involving action and dialogue). This gives you the skeleton on which you can hang the meat of the narrative. It also meant interestingly that my book is not organised in chapters but in five parts (ie Five Acts as in a play) This was not intended but is how it resulted.

message 8: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Chamberlain | 28 comments Hi Mari

Recommendation? Let's see. If you want to be moved - my memoir Wordjazz for Stevie; if you want to be fascinated by a slice of Hong Kong life, then King Hui: the man who owned all the opium in Hong Kong; if you want to be amused, Dreams of Gold; and if you want to be thoughtfully challenged then The Alphabet of Vietnam - it's not all violence. One narrative stream relates to my translations (with input from various Vietnamese collaborators) of a feminist Vietnamese poet who lived some 200 years ago, whose work I find quite delightful.

Take your pick!

message 9: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Chamberlain | 28 comments Hi NYKen. Good questions. There is a lot of me in the character Jack in The Alphabet of Vietnam in that it was easy for me to inhabit him. But none of the characters in Dreams of Gold are remotely like me - or anyone else I know. In my other published novel Whitebait & Tofu again, I did feel a connection with my lead character - but he is a very different person to Jack. In my three unpublished novels only one character could be said to be an alter ego and that was quite deliberate and I had a great time making fun of him.

As for the question Are people born good writers, my immediate reaction is not. In my own case, I showed some imaginative creativity in primary school but this was pretty much pummeled out of me at secondary school and I even gave up reading fiction (because "it was pointless and unreal" - hah!) for a while at university. Certainly I could hardly put together 1,000 word essay my first year - and was, so my lecturer said - the only social anthropologist to spell family with two ls (familly). But university did teach me to write extended essays of 10-20,000 words and later I pottered away for about 7 years just writing up descriptive paragraphs in a note book - and one day I said to myself. OK. Now I can write. And then at the age of 29, I realised my books weren't going to write themselves so I sat down to write. I wrote two - one was Chinese Gods and the other was a novel that can happily be consigned to the deepest fires of Hell. So was I born? Did I make myself? Who can say? I will say this: anyone who has written a good book has sweated over it. Writing is work. But after you've done the obligatory 10,000 hours that work gets a lot easier. I spent ten years hacking out school textbooks - as a training ground I highly recommend it.

What do you think?

message 10: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Chamberlain | 28 comments Thinking more on the subject I should add that I grew up in a virtually bookless home - my father was a mathematician and my mother read the newspaper and magazines but that was about it. I discovered books at the age of 7 or 8 and have read pretty voraciously ever since. I decided that I wanted to 'be a writer' at around 16 when I discovered Hemingway and, perhaps a year later, Malcolm Lowry. So there was something in me that responded deeply to the idea of stories. Thast was born in me. The rest was a matter of stubborn persistence.

message 11: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Chamberlain | 28 comments I'm just going out to dinner so will be away for a couple of hours but I would like to throw in a thought: NYKen asked me if my main characters were in some way 'me' - That suggests the the 'I' of the writer (and indeed everyone else) is a singular construct. But I have long thought that sanity is really just a controlled, or unexpressed, form of schizophrenia - and schizophrenics (I am talking not as an expert psychologist!) experience multiple personalities which are not controlled and so are experienced as distinct voices. In multiple personality disorder these separate personalities take over the operational 'I' and exclude the other personalities. I think creative people - particularly fiction writers who are good at the job - can inhabit many different characters and each one will reflect something of the personalities that inhabit the writer's own unconscious. Just a thought. Would be interested in what others think, as I know several of the participants in this discussion are fellow writers.

message 12: by Jonathan (last edited May 11, 2012 03:22PM) (new)

Jonathan Chamberlain | 28 comments Hi NYKen. I really don't agree that having the right 'writing pedigree' or familial background is at all important but I do agree with you that it is the desire to create that comes first.

My Hong Kong book is not a novel. It is the life story of a Chinese man who had an extraordinarily rich experience of life. His father born in a remote village of China had come to Hong Kong to make his fortune and somehow or other, through his connections, he eventually came to be a local boss of what in America is called 'the numbers racket' - a form of street level gambling. It's a complex story because Peter, the English name I knew him by, believed in having fun: he was a skilled kung fu fighter who became a playboy and gambler. During the Japanese occupation he became a leading collaborator, destroying himself financially in the process. The next fifty years of his life were a matter of survival. He witnessed the Communist victory in Guangzhou, later he witnessed the Cultural revolution. At one time he was involved in a gang of armed robbers, at another he was a political prisoner. Through his eyes I was introduced to a level of Chinese life that I could never have accessed otherwise. He mixed with triads and with the rich; with pool hall assistants and with American servicemen resting during the Korean and Vietnamese wars. It is entirely his story. I could not have invented it. It is an oral history from the level of the street

I think it would be a great mistake to write a novel that focused too much on the externals of another culture and tried to explain it. That is not the function of a novel. Novels can be many things, but if they are reduced to cultural travelogues then they will fail.

message 13: by Elryxe (new)

Elryxe Detristeange | 2 comments Wow! Where can we find some books of yours? I am from the Philippines though.. But I think I wanna read your books. Especially the controversial ones. =P

message 14: by Jonathan (last edited May 12, 2012 03:08AM) (new)

Jonathan Chamberlain | 28 comments Hi Elryxe, welcome to the discussion. Blacksmith books in Hong Kong publish The Alphabet of Vietnam, Wordjazz for Stevie*, King Hui and my exploration of the gods of Chinese folk religion - Chinese Gods. For more info go to www.blacksmithbooks.com. So it should be easy to get those to you in the Philippines. Dreams of Gold*, Whitebait & Tofu* and my cancer books* are only available print-on-demand from internet bookshops. I have added a star to those that are also available on Kindle. I should add that the books published by Blacksmith are available in the US, Canada, UK and other countries through normal book distribution channels and internet bookshops

You can also find other reviews of these books on the Blacksmith Books website

message 15: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Chamberlain | 28 comments I just went back myself to the Blacksmith Books website - Pete Spurrier is a one-man publishing machine and has published a lot of excellent Asian-based books - and I found this article I wrote some years back for Time Out in Hong Kong on How I write: For what it's worth here is the link - http://www.timeout.com.hk/books/featu...

message 16: by Marianne (new)

Marianne Wheelaghan (httpwwwgoodreadscomMarianneW) | 88 comments Jonathan wrote: "So many qs! How long have you got?

OK. Yes The Alphabet does take risks - it is also a book that was started some 20 years ago and then returned to from time to time over the years - and it sprawl..."

Hi Jonathan, back again briefly. Thanks so such for such thorough and full answers to questions. You're determination to succeed is admirable. I agree that people aren't born good writers. The key to being a successful writer, I think, is not giving up, that thing to do with persistence, and having a burning desire to say something to say ...oh and skill, of course! As for writers being being schizophrenic, maybe, in the sense that we can loath and love our writing at different times, and have to be both creator and destroyer etc but I'm not sure if any form of madness is good for a writer - or anybody for that mater ;o) Thanks again!

message 17: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Chamberlain | 28 comments Perhaps I can pick up a general issue that was implicit in NYKen's question - the position of a European author writing in Asia. He/she (read I) is essentially cut off from the surrounding culture in which he/she lives. To get under the skin of an Asian character is therefore difficult. To only write about European experience in an Asian context is to write about an impoverished experience that will have little of interest to readers living in North America and Europe. That is why little of value has emerged from such writers - of course we can have adventure, romance and so on - The Beach comes to mind, as do some of the writings of Robert Louis Stephenson. Perhaps others can reference other works. Bi-cultural writers like Timothy Mo (I loved his book Sour Sweet) or Maxine Hong Kingston (The Woman Warrior) have an enormous advantage - but I'm afraid de-cultured writers like Amy Tan find it difficult to truly explore their Chinese background convincingly. I was very amused when in one of Ms Tan's books she described a traditional Chinese wedding and said something like this: During the wedding meal an official married the couple. This is not how it works. There is no 'getting married moment' in Chinese weddings - before the meal the couple aren't married - after the meal they are. However, we are blessed with an explosion (of variable quality) of Chinese writers in translation - and these are enjoyable (on the whole) to read precisely because of their intrinsic authenticity. I lived in Hong Kong at a time that cried out for a novel of high satire - but it was too much (no-one could fictionally improve on the absurdity of real events - to give one example a policeman was found to have committed suicide by shooting himself seven times with a gun known to have a fierce recoil, so each time he fired the gun would have spun away from him across the room. You couldn't invent that in a novel without people criticizing it for its lack of reality - and then there was the finance man at the heart of a big scandal who 'committed suicide' by tying a chain around himself and throwing himself into his swimming pool. One day someone should research that period and write the novel - but it won't be me. I don't have the ability to pull that one off.) That was why I was excited to have an interlocutor like Peter Hui - and he needed me to ask the questions about the context of his exploits so I could build up the reality of the context he lived in in a way that would be meaningful to someone living in London or New York.

Also, of course, that was a time when the world was still expansive in its consciousness. Nowadays I feel that everywhere there is a growing insularity. Americans are interested in America. UK writers are hugging themselves to UK realities. Where are the great writers of today?

In my own case, I set The Alphabet of Vietnam in Vietnam and North Carolina based on a short trip to each place (both culturally challenging for me) and Whitebait & Tofu is again set on the Pacific coast of America (based like Kafka's Amerika on zero experience of the place). I am told one film producer hurled the book away in frustration because he couldn't visualize the context I had set the story in. The city was deliberately unnamed. A slightly futuristic place with a large Japanese community.

And it occurs to me now that I did in fact have a number of Japanese characters in Whitebait & Tofu - and I don't think my characterizations were too off-the-mark.

Then of course there are the practical matters of trying to sell a book to a US agent (who is really only interested in US writers) or a UK agent (who requires you generally speaking to be a UK resident)

That is why specialist publishers like Blacksmith Books play a crucial role. Thanks Pete!

message 18: by Jonathan (last edited May 12, 2012 04:05AM) (new)

Jonathan Chamberlain | 28 comments Hi Marianne. Certainly madness as interior confusion is not a good thing for the creator - but I think madness can be seen as normality without the normal restraints. The creator, in my opinion, is closer to the boundaries of that divide. Sometimes, like Van Gogh, yo-yoing back and forth across it but most often, as in Dickens say, being comfortable with the multiple voices that the author inhabits - they do not intrude on his essential core existential stability. When you inhabit a character you see the world in their terms - and that becomes part of you (or emerged from part of you) so to say 'is this character simply you yourself expressing your own view of the world' is a difficult one to respond to. The reality is more complex. Or certainly it is in a good novel. In a poor novel the writer's hero may indeed simply be a slightly fictionalised version of a highly singular concept of who the writer thinks he is.

Basically, for me, a novel that is constructed too consciously is in my opinion going to be an inferior novel. The more a writer is happy to let his/her unconscious flow the better.

message 19: by Marianne (new)

Marianne Wheelaghan (httpwwwgoodreadscomMarianneW) | 88 comments HI Jonathan, thanks again - and just read your last comment about an European author writing in Asia! Interesting stuff! To madness: yes, I understand now - i possibly didn't read you properly the first time -to be able to create you need to be comfortable with those multiple voices, and absolutely, the voices all can't be you, would be very limiting and not very creative. I suppose we writers need to allow ourselves to explore all possibilities with our characters, wherever that leads. I digress ... Oh yes, I agree with all you say about a European writing about Asian culture. Why should such writing be any less valid. If writers can write from the perspective of murderers liars, bullies, lovers, and from the opposite sex, why should we not write from the perspective of other cultures? very interesting! Thanks!

message 20: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Chamberlain | 28 comments Marianne, I imagine it would be the same if, say, you were writing detective novels based on a Pacific island?

message 21: by Mari (new)

Mari Mann (MariMann) | 46 comments Jonathan wrote: "Hi Mari

Recommendation? Let's see. If you want to be moved - my memoir Wordjazz for Stevie; if you want to be fascinated by a slice of Hong Kong life, then King Hui: the man who owned all the opiu..."

Well, I can't choose; they all appeal to me! I'll just have to dive in somewhere...I live in North Carolina so am leaning towards The Alphabet of Vietnam.

I also looked at your cancer websites and it seems like you have an alternative medicine sort of approach to cancer treatment and survival (correct me if I'm wrong). That would be my approach but when my sister, who lives a very different lifestyle than me, was diagnosed with breast cancer, I tried to steer her more towards the alternative and lifestyle changes that I felt would be beneficial and she basically just told me to shut up and said to me, "I need you to support my decisions now." So I did. If you wouldn't mind sharing your views on cancer treatment and survival, I'd be very interested.

message 22: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Chamberlain | 28 comments Hi Mari

Whichever book you choose I hope you find it engrossing.

As for cancer, if I am ever diagnosed, I will certainly choose an alternative approach. Though, that said, I do understand the value of say a lumpectomy - but surgery is useless if the cancer has spread beyond a very local area. Radiation and chem I would steer well clear of - I speak only for myself. However, if I were a young man with testicular or penile cancer I think the argument for chemo is quite strong. There are so many alternative options - and many have very powerful claims to be taken seriously that anyone with cancer would be foolish not to take advantage of them. Sadly the general media are so gung ho about scientific breakthroughs and so negative about the alternatives (and people are so in awe of the concept of 'science' - wrongly believing that doctors have more science on their side than the alternatives) that it is no surprise that many people are dismissive. However, all that said: the person who has the cancer is the person who has to make the decision and you did the wise thing: say your piece and then shut up. Difficult but necessary because your sister is right when she says 'I need you to support me.' - and I hope whatever she does works for her.

message 23: by Marianne (new)

Marianne Wheelaghan (httpwwwgoodreadscomMarianneW) | 88 comments Jonathan wrote: "Marianne, I imagine it would be the same if, say, you were writing detective novels based on a Pacific island?"

Ha ha!!! Exactly! Thanks again for chat.
ps: enjoyed reading your blog and comments on EM Forster's Aspects of the Novel.

message 24: by Ann (new)

Ann Lee (goodreadscomAnnlee) | 39 comments I am interested in all your books. However, the two that strikes my interest are on the subjects of Vietnam and Cancer. My sister died from Cancer, Leiomyosarcoma, in 2009. Of course, I am still hurt and miss her everyday. So, I commend your efforts and look forward to reading your book.

message 25: by A.F. (new)

A.F. (scribe77) | 1824 comments Mod
You talked about controversial scenes of violence in one of your books, and I was curious as to your views regarding graphic violence in general in books. Do you think it's used too much simply for shock value?

message 26: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Chamberlain | 28 comments Hi A.F. I don't like violence in general but occasionally it serves a purpose. For example I hated Kill Bill - but admired Pulp Fiction. Interestingly one of my female readers felt the excessive violence in Alphabet of Vietnam was a bit Tarantinoish (this was how she dealt with it - as cartoon-like excesss). In fact Alphabet is not overly violent - there are maybe 5 very quickly described moments of violence. I do not dwell or revel in the violence. The rest of the book is...well, many things - part travelogue in Vietnam, part poetry (the poems of Ho Xuan Hu'ong), part tentatively developing love story, part philiosphical and historical discussion. I think in some ways the fact that the violence has taken centre stage is a tribute to how effective they are as descriptions of violence - but they take up less than one percent of the book. And it's interesting to me that the people who have been most disturbed by this have been male readers - so I feel I have succeeded in achieving what I set out to do - i.e. infiltrating the idea that Joe is not mad or different, any one of us could be Joe if the circumstances had been different.

So to the general question, yes, Alphabet is a book about violence so it is appropriate for there to be violence in the book - but of course overused violence becomes pointless - the suggestion of violence is much more powerful. Graphic novels and electronic games are far more violent - but without questioning the violence - the violence is the point of the exercise. I find that disturbing (I also hate horror films!).

Does this answer the question?


message 27: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Chamberlain | 28 comments Hi Ann, Thanks for the comment. Just to say, please make sure the cancer book you get is The Cancer Survivor's Bible - the other books are out of print including the book Fighting Cancer listed in the booklist at the head of this chat. The book has just come out - actually officially not out till mid July but it is available and I would advise everyone to read whether or not they have cancer because cancer is definitely going to be part of everyone's lives - maybe not our cancer, but the cancer of someone we love - and the more we are prepared the better the outcome is going to be.

message 28: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Chamberlain | 28 comments BTW - last night I was just browsing my Amazon rankings (as I do obsessively) and I suddenly noticed a new review for Dreams of Gold by someone called Andrew Rogers. I should explain that I contacted a number of top Amazon reviewers (based on a suggestion on Goodreads) and this has been a great way to get reviews - somehow better in the UK than in the USA - but Andrew's review I thought was masterly - (especially as he gave me 5 stars lol)

message 29: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Chamberlain | 28 comments One further point I want to make about violence - meaningless violence for its own sake is repugnant, reveling in violence is repugnant - but it is also repugnant to shy away from the horrors of violence and to pretend it didn't really exist - as happened with the massacre by US troops at My Lai. 500 plus unarmed Vietnamese villagers were shot to death and no-one was punished with longer than 3 years in prison. I find that repugnant. Guns are very much part of American life and I find that repugnant.

message 30: by Xujun (new)

Xujun Eberlein | 23 comments Hi Jonathan, it's a pleasant surprise to see you here! I reviewed your book "King Hui" back in 2008. http://insideoutchina.blogspot.com/20...

It's a fascinating book. I look forward to reading more of your work.

message 31: by A.F. (new)

A.F. (scribe77) | 1824 comments Mod
Jonathan wrote: "Hi A.F. I don't like violence in general but occasionally it serves a purpose. For example I hated Kill Bill - but admired Pulp Fiction. Interestingly one of my female readers felt the excessive vi..."

That answered my question nicely, as did your further point, thank you.

message 32: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Chamberlain | 28 comments Hi Xujun, great to talk to you. I always thought your review was the one that best recognised the finer details of the book. The cultural, factual fabric that gives texture to the crazy life that Peter led. It was great fun listening to Peter week on week (over 70 2 hour talks over 2 years). I just wish I hadn't then left the book to lie in the bottom drawer for some 8-10 years. I had thought it would take a lot more work to get in shape than it did - and of course Life (with a capital L) was happening to me.

For me it was a journey of discovery into the basement of Hong Kong life. And while Peter had all these different stories, he didn't realise he also had this wealth of fascinating detail that I extracted from him bit by bit. Sadly, the book as it is was slightly over-edited (by me) at the suggestion of the Publisher of Hong Kong University Press - so there are a handful of episodes that still haven't seen the light of day. If you can think how I might do this, I would be extremely grateful (fingers crossed that they haven't got lost). Anyway, great to talk to you and hope your own writing is progressing well. Are you still in Hong Kong?

message 33: by Anita (new)

Anita Bartholomew | 13 comments Jonathan, your books sound intriguing and I wish you much success with them.

message 34: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Chamberlain | 28 comments Hi Anita. Thanks. I hope you enjoy reading them.

One book I haven't mentioned much - but one close to my heart - is Whitebait & Tofu. A kind of pot pourri of Japanese moments - but there is a wonderful description of love in it - and I can say this without blushing because I didn't write it (all authors are thieves - was it Brecht who said that?) - Anyway, just saying this to put it on the map.

message 35: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Chamberlain | 28 comments Hi Xujun, just checked out your profile - should have done that first - you are obviously doing very well with your writing. Well done.

message 36: by Marianne (new)

Marianne Wheelaghan (httpwwwgoodreadscomMarianneW) | 88 comments Jonathan wrote: "BTW - last night I was just browsing my Amazon rankings (as I do obsessively) and I suddenly noticed a new review for Dreams of Gold by someone called Andrew Rogers. I should explain that I contact..."

hello again, i'm just catching up with the latest comments and was curious about what you said about contacting a number of top amazon reviewers ... can I ask how you went about doing that, if you're still around? Cheers - and well done on another 5 stars!

message 37: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Chamberlain | 28 comments First find a reviewer that has a little note under the name that says 'Top 100 Amazon reviewer' or similar. Click on the name and you will get contact details (or not if the reviewer doesn't want to be contacted). Beside the name there will be a precise number - top reviewer ranking. If you click on that the whole ranking opens up and you can scroll through other names. Then you can send personalised messages to whoever you want.

message 38: by Marianne (new)

Marianne Wheelaghan (httpwwwgoodreadscomMarianneW) | 88 comments Thanks Jonathan:) More questions - sorry- did you give them a free copy of your book or did they happily buy it? Were they happy to do a review? Sorry for the questions, and finally, do you think the "top" reviews made a difference? Cheers. I promise these are the last questions!

message 39: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Chamberlain | 28 comments I sent some of them paperbacks and some Kindles. No-one will want to be asked to buy a book in order to review it. Have they made a difference? Possibly not - I don't think reviews will sell a book - but they will reinforce whatever else you're doing. Reviews don't get a person to come to look at your book - but they may help to convince them not just to browse but to buy. Getting people to know your book exists is the hard bit.

message 40: by Marianne (new)

Marianne Wheelaghan (httpwwwgoodreadscomMarianneW) | 88 comments That makes sense. Thanks again for being so generous with your time and knowledge!

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Books mentioned in this topic

Dreams of Gold (other topics)
The Alphabet of Vietnam (other topics)
King Hui: The Man Who Owned All the Opium in Hong Kong (other topics)
Wordjazz for Stevie: How a Profoundly Handicapped Girl Gave Her Father the Gifts of Pain and Love (other topics)
Chinese Gods: An Introduction to Chinese Folk Religion (other topics)

Authors mentioned in this topic

Jonathan Chamberlain (other topics)