Jen: This week we are happy to have debut author Christine Son joining us. Christine, welcome. Please share a short bio with us.
Christine: Thanks for having me! Let’s see, I’m an in-house lawyer who spends all of her free time writing fiction. My novel, Off the Menu, was released on August 5, 2008 by Penguin/NAL.
Christine: Essentially, it’s a story of three Asian-American women who are the embodiments of what everyone—their parents, their peers, each other and themselves—expected of them. But they’re not living the lives they really want to lead, and ultimately must fit their dreams into the confines of the real world. In a sense, it’s the story of my own struggle, and the struggles that so many of my thirty-something year old friends are experiencing, whether our dreams are vast and seemingly out of our reach, as is the case for some of the book’s characters’, or small but still incredibly important. I think it’s a theme that everyone can relate to, at least on some level, even if you’re not Asian. But it does have a cultural perspective to it, as well, which I think makes it a bit more interesting (at least I hope!). The book is available in all the usual bookstores and online retailers.
Jen: At what age did you discover writing? What made you pursue publication? Tell us your call story.
Christine: I discovered writing when I was a kid, really, maybe in the first or second grade. I loved stories. I loved telling them and writing them. But I put writing on hold until after I was working at a law firm. Pretty big gap, I know. It was such a dream, such a unicorn of sorts, and I didn’t feel like I had the right or the luxury to pursue it. I had my parents to please. I had school loans to pay. I had so many obligations in the quote-unquote real world that I didn’t think that I could write as a career. But the longer I worked as a lawyer, the more dissatisfied I became, not so much because I dislike the practice of law, but because I realized just how much I wanted to pursue this passion that I had never given a chance. So, one day, I just did it. That’s really the four-word answer. I stopped talking about it and dreaming about it and making my husband crazy with both, and then just did it.
Christine: Of course! When the book sold, my husband and I went to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants. And when the book released, we did the same thing. In the grand scheme of things, I guess two dinners aren’t terribly extravagant, but the special things in life never are.
Jen: How do you approach your writing? Do you plot or go with the flow?
Christine: I try so hard to plot, but it never works out for me. So, I just go with the flow and see where the story takes me. Initially, I do have an idea of what my characters want, but their wants tend to change midway through the story, which usually means that I have to go back and rewrite the book to make it fit.
Jen: Do you have any “must haves” while you’re writing?
Christine: Hmm. Let’s see. I must have quiet. I’ve never been one who could work while music’s going in the background. I have a tub of earplugs in my desk drawer just in case my husband’s watching TV too loudly or the neighbors are mowing their lawns, which they seem to do on an obsessive-compulsive basis. What else. I must have a notebook to jot down ideas in, pens, my laptop, a lot of light. I have to have a few bottles of water within my reach (I drink way too much of the stuff), and I tend to have a lot of Chapsticks laying around. I lick my lips constantly when I’m writing. I have no idea why.
Jen: Describe a typical writing day.
Christine: If it’s a weekday, I’ll start pretty early in the morning, around 4:30 or so, and then work until about six, when I get ready for my day job. I’ll start up again around 7 or so at night, and depending on how much creativity’s flowing, will be up until about midnight. Weekends are more intense, and are my weekdays without the job in the middle. Obviously, if I have other commitments, I’ll take a break from writing, and if I’m in the middle of a horrible mental block, I might take a few days to figure out what’s wrong with my work-in-progress. I take a hundred breaks while I’m writing (I have an unfortunately limited attention span), and will fiddle on Facebook or play Free Cell or Spider Solitaire, or I’ll watch TV for a bit, or I’ll replenish my stock of water and Chapstick.
Christine: I’d love, love, love to write a compilation of funny short stories. I’ve got an idea in mind, but it’s going to take a bit of hashing out before it’s cohesive enough to put to paper.
Jen: Where do you draw your inspiration?
Christine: Everywhere! My own experiences, those of my friends, snippets from the news, usually in the Odd Stories section. It might come from a conversation I’m having with someone, or a dream that I had. Really, it could be anything from anywhere.
Christine: I love Ann Patchett. I think Bel Canto is one of the most beautiful books ever written. Yann Martel is a god to me. Life of Pi breaks my heart and makes me laugh out loud every time I read it. I can reread books a hundred times the same way I can watch the same movie three times in succession. It drives my husband crazy (especially the movie part), but I just never tire of something that moves me. Right now, I’m reading John Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith and David Sedaris’s When You Are Engulfed in Flames.
Christine: A little bit of everything. Watch movies, hang out with friends, try new restaurants, hit balls at the golf range, try to get a poker game going. I like to cook, and can grill a pretty mean steak.
Jen: What’s next for you?
Christine: I’m working on my next novel, which is about the merging of two dysfunctional families. It’s a bit of a mess (oh, if only I could plot rather than letting the story lead where it will lead), but I’m sure it’ll come together soon.
Christine: Sure! What do you like to read? What draws you to a book? When do you read most (on vacation, on a plane, at night, etc.)? How often do you buy books?