Henry Chang is a native New Yorker who grew up on the mean streets of Chinatown. He is a graduate of the City College of New York, and has been previously been published in Bridge Magazine, Yellow Pearl, On A Bed of Rice, and The NuyorAsian Anthology. He resides in New York City. Chinatown Beat is his first novel.
What made you want to become a writer?
I became an avid reader during my high school and college years. The voices I heard in the books and magazines inspired me to tell my own stories through writing. Growing up in Chinatown I experienced many things and I felt I had a lot of stories to tell.
Was the journey difficult?
It was a difficult journey because you have to deal with the everyday stuff of life, like your job, and family, and then still find the time, place, and energy to try to be creative. For me, writing the stories was a labor of love. After I’d found a voice to write from, I wrote every chance I could; in restaurants, on paper napkins, and in coffee shops, libraries, anywhere I had a thought, or a scene in my head. I tried to keep a pen and pocket pad handy, jotting down observations while in the subway, in the park, even on the beach. You have to love what you’re doing creatively, whether it’s writing, painting, photography, or anything else you do to express yourself. You shouldn’t follow your ideas and goals only because you see money or fame as the prize, but because you love what you’re doing and you’re happy expressing yourself.
Any lessons learned on your writer’s journey?
On my journey, I learned to never give up, and to move on to the next project instead of getting stuck, If one thing doesn’t succeed, try something else. Keep all your work together, in case you want to go back to it one day. Like myself, you may be discovered years later.
Where does that inner drive to write come from?
The inner drive to write comes from your desire to express an idea, or story, something you feel is worthwhile and needs to be shown.
How do you keep readers turning pages?
You have to reveal parts of your story at the proper time, when the characters are ready, not before, in order to build suspense or intrigue. You have to plot and pace the events in your story.
How often will you revise and re-write your work?
There are more than a few re-writes already as I go from longhand writing, then typing into the computer to Word editing. Then more revising with an editor from the company that’s publishing my work. I wind up revising and re-writng a lot. That’s okay, as long as you are true to your story and you’re happy with it.
What are some creative ways you’ve learned to generate ideas?
Reading books, magazines, and newspapers certainly is a good idea. The internet is also a good resource for research and ideas. Whenever I’m traveling, I tend to jot down images I’ve observed, using quick notes about things. If I have a camera handy, I’ll take some snapshots to remind me later of the people, the places, or even the colors of the setting. Writing is an organic process for me; this means I like to feel and use my senses to experience whatever I’m writing about. This method may not be for everyone, but I put myself out in the freezing cold, under the burning sun, or pouring rain, so I feel and describe what my characters in the story are feeling or seeing. I never put myself in danger, but I allow myself to make unusual observations, to see the world differently, to see how people react in different environments.
Another way to generate ideas might be to take what you intend to write about, meditate or think about it in a completely silent, isolated setting, for an hour or so, and be ready to write down what ideas come to mind.Don’t just sit there staring at a blank page and expect something to happen.
What are some practical solutions for writer’s block?
Go out into the environments of your characters, and see, hear, smell, taste what your characters are experiencing.
Do you have a favorite book?
Offhand, I liked Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe because it’s such a great New York City story, and NYC is where I live.
Do you have a favorite time of day when you like to write?
I like to write soon after I get up in the morning, when my mind is fresh, focused, and open to new ideas. I also like to write later in the evening, because things happen in nightlife that don’t occur in the daytime.
What is one saying or proverb you live by?
I’ve always believed in the Boy Scout motto “Be Prepared”. Be pro-active, have your plan ready before you take action.
What advice would you give kids who wish to pursue a career in writing?
Get the proper guidance counseling and direction at school, look for internships in the writing industry, do a lot of reading to find out how you want to write and what you want to write. There’s usually not a lot of money in writing, so also consider teaching or journalism while you’re crafting your writing.
Where can parents and kids find out more about your work?
Go to my website Chinatownbeat.com for more information about the book and related .links.
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