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Ed Lin for President

January 28, 2010
Ed Lin for President

Ed Lin - photo credit: Gregory Costanzo

Ed Lin – the author of Waylaid and This is a Bust – inspired me to tell stories in my own voice without apologies or explanations for the cheap seats. It’s fearless prose. If you haven’t read it I suggest you hop to it. Read more about Ed and purchase his books here.

He graciously agreed to answer five questions and here they are.

What is your favorite way to procrastinate? For example instead of writing I like to watch movies about writers and tell myself it’s just like writing.

  • I actually don’t procrastinate. I’m a pretty motivated guy. I write like I’m going to be dead tomorrow and this is the last thing I’m going to be able to get out. (Though I don’t write every day. More on that later.) I think the time that I write isn’t prone to procrastination. I usually write really early or really late, so I’m not going up against shows (TV, theater, bands) that I want to see or otherwise hanging out. For a while I was getting up at 6 am and giving myself a choice: Go to the gym, or go write. [Pats tummy.] Hell, you can see what won out!

If Waylaid was to become an HBO series, who would you want playing the main character and more importantly, would the series involve voice over narration?

  • You know, I think it should be done as a rotoscope-like animation thing with voiceovers, but no narration. I think that if it were done in live action, it would come off as exaggerated. With a cartoon, the audience could view it with more separation and all the homophobia, racism and self-hate would be more, ah, digestible? The kid could look like me, only age-regressed! I would still want it to be something that hit people after they think about it, you know? What I tried to with Waylaid, and you can tell me how well this came off, is make something that touched the subconscious of the reader after the shock of the literal level wore off a little. Like the day after a fistfight, you feel a pain in your leg and you’re like, How the hell did I get that?

What writers who have influenced your work would readers find surprising? Mine is Richard Ford. And I’ll admit I die a little inside whenever I mention it.

  • Aw, don’t die! Own it! Hmm. Would H.P. Lovecraft be surprising? Charles Willeford? Chester Himes? Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? Stephen King? Raymond Carver? Hammett? James M. Cain? (Sometimes I see Waylaid as my tribute to The Postman Always Rings Twice.) I liked Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club a lot. It came out when I was in college and I remember reading it straight through. I was pretty amazed. So many Asians have been bagging on her for years, but they’re assaulting this sort of pillar that the system built up and pushed her books onto. Amy herself has never pretended to be anything she wasn’t, so screw the haters. I was really inspired by Shawn Wong and Frank Chin, two brothers who put it out there when the climate wasn’t so friendly.

    I am as influenced by music and song lyrics as by books. I have to give serious props to Jello Biafra and the Dead Kennedys. The first time I put on their first album, “Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables,” I was scared and excited. The level of biting sarcasm and wit I don’t think has ever been equaled. I’d glad I got to see Husker Du and the Replacements before they split up. Now I like to listen to 50s and 60s jazz while I write, the hard bop and modern stuff like Art Blakey, J.J. Johnson, Art Farmer, Benny Golson, Blues Mitchell and Buck Clayton. [speaking of which, check this out for an overview of how Clayton is the father of popular Chinese music Buck Clayton]

    Another big influence on me is movies. Italian neorealist stuff like Bicycle Thieves, Il Posto, and early Fellini. I love the Apu Trilogy and it is a goddamn crime that it is out of print in the U.S. I’m a huge fan of silent film. I have a laserdisc player because a lot of those movies aren’t on DVD.

Can you give one piece of bad writing advice that has in fact worked for you?

  • , I’m opposed to what is supposedly “good” writing advice – that you should write every day. I think you should listen to your heart, get some perspective on what you’re trying to do and then write when you are so moved. That could be every day or every other day or once a week.
    When you force yourself to write everyday as an obligation, it makes your writing rote and devoid of humanity.
    One of the best pieces of advice that I ever got was from Doris Jean Austin. She told me to never go back and revise until I thought I was done writing. When you go back and start changing stuff, it becomes harder to simply move ahead and keep writing. You’ve heard of suspension of disbelief to make a good book or movie? Writers have to suspend their own disbelief in their own work until the book/short story/poem is done. Don’t doubt yourself midstream. When you get to the bank, then you can check for leeches on your legs.

Do you foresee a point in time where writers of color will be writers FIRST and of color second? And if so, do you think Richard Branson will build us a time machine to take us there?

  • Junot Díaz says, writers of color are seen as their own genre. I kind of see the opposite happening – nobody is going to be a writer first anymore because it’s not enough to simply be a great writer. I’m talking about the mass market here, but people don’t simply want a good or even great book. They want a good story – and that includes the background of the author.

    Even the white authors are breaking down their ethnic makeup. “Ms. X, who is of German and Irish descent. . .” It adds depth to the story about the writer.
    That’s not necessarily a bad (or new) thing. Marketing has always had authors in a headlock. Back in the 50s, when paperbacks were really exploding, misleading cheesecake and blurbs on the covers even pushed decidedly unsexy titles from Aldous Huxley and H.G. Wells.

    I guess in the end I don’t mind if my color comes ahead of my label as a writer – as long as there aren’t any bullshit assumptions about me and my writing that come with it.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. January 29, 2010 3:50 am

    I don’t know Ed’s work, but I am totally going to quote this:

    “Don’t doubt yourself midstream. When you get to the bank, then you can check for leeches on your legs.”

  2. January 29, 2010 8:25 am

    Great interview. I like the way you manage to inject your personality into the questions without trying to steal the show.

  3. fillyjonk permalink
    January 29, 2010 11:05 am

    This is a terrific interview. I don’t know Ed’s work but I’m going to seek it out now. And your questions are beyond great, way more interesting than most ask-a-writer type interviews. If you did these regularly I would read them with gusto.

  4. Joel permalink
    January 29, 2010 4:37 pm

    I’m a huge fan of Ed’s work and delighted to get a chance to read this interview. Thanks!

  5. D. Cheung permalink
    January 29, 2010 5:21 pm

    I’ve learnt and apprecite more about the depth of thinking of Ed from this interview than I ‘ve known him from another circumstances. Keep thinking and writing, Ed!

  6. January 29, 2010 6:32 pm

    Ed is a fantastic interview subject. He gave incredibly funny, thoughtful and surprising answers. Everything you can ask of subject and more than you can hope for as a novice interviewer.

  7. k2thaeo permalink
    January 30, 2010 12:10 pm

    i am a fan of ed lin. as a “reader of color”, it’s refreshing to read stories not commonly assumed to come from this particular kind of “writer of color”. ed’s wit and intelligence comes across in this interview as well as his books. his eclectic taste in music further informs his unique voice. ed lin for president!

  8. hsofia permalink
    January 31, 2010 3:09 am

    Great interview! Never heard of him before, but I’ll check him out.

  9. January 31, 2010 7:58 am

    great Q&A, I will read his work. Big fan of Ed’s sistr Doris, so Ed’s fan by default/proxy?

  10. helen permalink
    February 2, 2010 8:14 am

    I’ve never responded to any blog( not even sure if that is the right lingo) but THAT was a great, fun and inspiring interview! Thankyou!

  11. February 25, 2010 6:08 am

    Hi, I’m actually a reader of Ed’s and a first time reader of your blog. Excellent questions. They were fun without being superficial.

  12. jaed permalink
    February 25, 2010 8:19 pm

    Good for Ed defending Amy Tan. I mean: What if the Joy Luck Club never happened? We’d still be hangin’ out with Master Po and Kwai Chang Kane and Ernie that little Pattasani kid from The Last Electric Knight. Brutal!

    I teach Waylaid in one of my classes, instead of JD Salinger. The youngsters absolutely love it.

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