When I put out the call to authors for interviews, Alex answered. I was very impressed with his writing and presence in the writing community, so that meant I had to have him for an interview. He is a very active member of Medium and publishes there frequently. His stories are amazing.
It gives me great pleasure to introduce you to Alexandro Chen.
Welcome to my little blog, Alex. Let’s get right to the interview. Is being a literary fiction writer a gift or a curse?
I think being a writer—regardless of the genre—is a curse. Or a disease. You’re walking on the street, taking a shower, or talking to a friend and an idea suddenly infects you. Once in your mind, you can’t remove it from there. Well, there’s only one way: to turn that idea into a story. Only then the virus will leave you to colonize its next host. Your reader.
I love how you look at writing! I think you have a gift, no matter how you see it. Why did you choose to write literary fiction?
Actually, I call my genre “literary fiction” just to have something to use on website’s forms, tags, and categories. Truth be told, I have no idea what my genre is, nor I’m trying to write in a particular one. My motto is: if a story idea fits a genre, I don’t write it. Because if you want to create something truly original you have to be willing to sacrifice the safety of belonging to a group.
Do you have any tips on what to do and what not to do when writing?
Don’t try to find the perfect plot, scene, or even sentence. Just write your stuff. If it’s good, pat yourself on the back. If it isn’t, tell yourself, “Okay, what I wrote is crap, but I’ll make it better tomorrow.” Then repeat and repeat. Without realizing it, you’ll reach perfection. (And it doesn’t matter if you don’t; you still have more tomorrows to get closer to it.)
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever researched?
I needed to write a suicide letter in a story. So I went on Google and read around four suicide letters to check the wording, formatting, etc. Not weird, but made me feel weird.
Research can take us to some strange places. I once had to research spanking for this one character I have. So, where do you see publishing going in the future?
There’s going to be more and more self-published authors because it’s so easy to publish these days. With a single click, your work can become available to the masses in less than a second. Compare that with sending query letters to hundreds of agents and waiting for months or even a year for a reply. Nowadays, you can even build a fanbase with online publishing platforms like Medium or social media sites likes Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
Do you proofread/edit all your own books before you submit them for traditional publishing or self-publish them, or do you have someone who does it?
To edit/proofread my writing, I use Scribophile, a website where writers edit each other’s writing. I think having six or more writers check your work is as good—if not better—as hiring one professional editor. Plus you remove the bias barrier.
I agree. Having several pairs of eyes can be better than one. How about a couple of questions about marketing. Are there any amusing stories about marketing books that happened to you?
The most amusing story about marketing I have is not doing any marketing at all. That happened when I posted my short story, Season to Love, on the Medium platform. I did nothing. I just wrote the best story I could, and the site delivered it to the right readers.
Do you think that giving books away free works and why?
I’m not sure about books, but you definitely should give your short stories away for free. It not only helps you to create a fan base, but it also gives you feedback that you can use in your future work. As for me, sharing my work always “works” as long as it touches at least one person. Because I didn’t start writing to earn money—if I ever do, though, it would be just a side effect of my passion (I mean, of my artistic disease).
And now a couple of personal questions. What do you want your tombstone to say?
“There’s no Heaven or Hell. I knew it!”
Who was your childhood hero?
I don’t have childhood hero, but I have an adulthood hero. George Carlin. He was a comedian who went on the stage once and greeted the audience with: “Why is it that most of the people who are against abortion are people you wouldn’t want to fuck in the first place?” He symbolizes everything that I don’t dare to do. Also, he taught me not to write to give value to people but to make them question their values. Not to write to let them escape reality but to remind them of which one they are. Not to write to tell them something about myself but to help them rediscover something about themselves.
Thank you so much for stopping by. I had a blast!
Alexandro Chen was born and raised in Chile and moved to Taiwan in 2006 to study Foreign Languages and Literature. During this period, he taught English at a cram school. He currently lives in Taipei, Taiwan, where he writes stories featuring unconventional romance, everyday magic, and gloomy topics with a glint of hope. In 2015, he self-published his first novel Animal Suicide. Since 2017, he has been publishing his short stories on Medium.