Friday, December 14, 2012

The Next Big Thing - Blog hop by Jan Alexander

Novelist and financial journalist Jan Alexander has been "tagged" to participate in this blog hop — a series of self-interviews answering 10 questions about upcoming or recent  books that each author is invited to post on his or her own blog — and then to "tag" other authors for further entries.

In addition to posting on our collective "Thoth" blog, Jan has her own site at

What is your book's title?
Getting to Lamma is a tale of an American woman, recently divorced and searching for a deeper meaning to the “I” that inhabits all of us, goes off to the other side of the world. Oh—should I have called it “Eat, Pray, Love”? Well, one might say it’s of a similar genre, but speaking strictly for myself, my imagination leapt much further than anywhere I could go on my own—ie. this is a novel, not what really happened.  My heroine, Madeleine, finds political intrigue, a business scandal, and inner contentment, not happily-ever-after love. I’ve never wanted to write a search-for-Mr.-Right story because the hero and heroine would have to either die or start bickering about how to fold the laundry.  My new novel, which I hope will be finished soon, is about two young women who go off to China—and instead of finding true love they find a man with very special powers, who helps them turn the hyper-capitalist world of contemporary China into a paradise for the broke and artsy.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I did go off to China and Hong Kong after a divorce. I got a masters in Chinese studies before I did that, so it wasn’t actually running away on a whim. This was the 1990s and China was a lot grittier than now. A number of things that happened in my travels came together – a bicycle accident in Shanghai when cycling was still the way you got around, a defection to the West, a daily dose of business scandals while I was working as a reporter in Hong Kong. And yes, a lot of romantic adventures, borrowed from my life and others’.

What genre does your book fall under? 

Unless there is an actual seeking-adventure- in-exotic- places genre, Getting to Lamma is just plain literary fiction. I wrote fiction of the sort I like to read—with something bigger than my heroine’s own family, friends and ambitions haunting her. My new novel is speculative fiction. But since it’s a fantasy, I felt like I had permission to poke fun at a lot of things—the price of real estate, bad books that get published, childish parents, uneasy love, and friendships that work in spite of human flaws.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? 

For Getting to Lamma I always wanted Mira Sorvino to play the heroine. She studied Mandarin, you know. And Keanu Reeves, or someone who looks like him, definitely has to play the leading man in my new novel.
 What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? Getting to Lamma is like following an escapee from a Woody Allen movie as she looks for love and meaning amidst the moral ambiguities of post-Tiananmen China.

Is your book self-published or trade published? (The original form of this question said "or represented by an agency?")  

It was published by a small publisher, Asia 2000 in Hong Kong, in 1997, but the U.S. distribution comes through, a POD publisher.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? 

About five years from start to publication. Then I rewrote it again for the U.S. edition. At one point I quit my job and worked on the novel seven to eight hours a day. That was my idea of a life of luxury. Now I write fiction for about two hours a day, starting at 5:00 a.m. So it takes a long time. That’s why in my second novel hyper-capitalist contemporary China does an about-face and starts valuing art and letters more than money. It doesn’t last, though.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

That’s kind of in the eye of the beholder, but I look to the great writers for inspiration, and wrote it with a fantasy of being a female Graham Greene. I felt at the time that not enough women writers had run off to Asia.

 Who or What inspired you to write this book? 

The aforementioned Graham Greene. And Virginia Woolf. I always wanted to write novels, then I found some stories in China.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?  

It has a happy ending, but only in the sense that happiness means you’ve found a moment you’d like to hang on to. People have read it and asked me what happens to Madeleine after the ending; to my mind that’s a measure of a novel engrossing the reader. 

Other writers coming up in the blog hop:
Maudy Benz- Author of “Oh, Jackie”, a heartfelt tale of a troubled girl on the cusp of adolescence at a time when the tyranny of innocence reigned.
Patricia Eakins- Author of “The Hungry Girls and Other Stories” and “The Marvelous Adventures of Pierre Baptiste, Father and Mother, First and Last.” She has combed a body of lost history and created  magical realism in magical prose.
Delorys Welch-Tyson—Author of “Ginger Snaps”, “Ladyfingers”—and more “cookie” titles on the way.     Rollicking, rowdy tales of women who just won’t do as they’re told.
Previous blog-hoppers include:
Geoffrey Fox, who talks about his recent novel A Gift for the Sultan on his blog Literature & Society
Mary Tod, a writer of historical fiction whose blog has just that title:
Sophie Schiller is a writer of historical fiction and spy thrillers. She has a recent book called Transfer Day. Her own blog is at
Richard Sutton has written two novels, The Red Gate and Gatekeepers about the O'Deirg family and the ancient secret they are charged to protect. He blogs at
Kirstie Olley lives in Australia and calls herself a speculative fiction writer. And she is pleased to have completed NaNoWriMo. She blogs at