Here is my interview with Ray Hecht

authorsinterviews

Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.

 

Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?

Hello, thanks for having me. I am Ray Hecht, and I’m a thirty-five year old writer.

 Fiona: Where are you from?

Where I’m from is a bit of a long story. I identify as American, but I was born in Israel. My dad is American, and my mom is from the Soviet Union. They met abroad and got married, but my sister and I moved to the United States when we were just babies. My earliest childhood memories took place in Indianapolis, Indiana but I consider my hometown to be Cincinnati, Ohio because that’s where I came of age and where I lived the longest in my life.

I went to college to study film in Long Beach, California…

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Challenges of moving to and living in and writing about Taiwan

 

As I get used to living in and occasionally blogging about Taiwan, I have been trying to be as optimistic as I can get. But there are times when I have to admit certain challenges in changing locales, figuring out new ways to live, finding inspiration to write, and how I don’t always take it as well as I’d like.

Moving is always a bitch, even though in many ways going from PRC China to ROC China still contain many similarities. It’s not like I’m totally new to the whole Mandarin-speaking Asian country thing. And there are so many convenient things about Taiwan, from the high speed rail to those kiosks at convenience stores where you can pay phone bills and order taxis.

Also it’s quite clean. Taiwan is an incredibly efficient and well run little country.

But it’s not all good times, least not for me. Sure overcoming minor challenges is of course positive in it’s own right, of course, yet I’d like to take this time to share the slightly complainy perspective if you will.

 

I canz #scooter~ #Taiwanlife

A post shared by Ray (@raelianautopsy) on

 

There is the subject of transportation. On this I terribly miss Shenzhen. Even with all the China-police state crap, it was so easy (and so cheap) to get around by the subway or bus or hail a taxi. Taipei does have great public transportation, but I’m living a bit out of the big city for now… So that means a scooter.

I had to learn a new skill and everything. I was nervous at first, having zero experience with motorcycles. I was never the kind of expat to rent a motorbike and ride around Southeast Asia. I do like to bicycle, and I cannot say that’s the same. Now I am getting more and more used to zipping around town at 40-60 kilometers an hour, and the left turns are particularly tricky.

It is kind of awesome, actually.

 

#OnePiece: the Restauarant!

A post shared by Ray (@raelianautopsy) on

 

Food. Not that Taiwan food isn’t great, as everyone knows. I mean, the night markets!

I just miss my life in Shenzhen when I could order in inexpensive Chinese food at any time of the day. The grocery stores are well stocked with domestic and foreign items here, and health inspection laws seem to be much better than in the mainland. It’s a great culinary delight to live just about anywhere in Taiwan.

I was however really used to my routine of ordering in tomato-eggs rice from the Hunanese restaurant, and vegetable curry from the cha chaan teng Hong Kong diner, and those peanut noodles from the little stands, and so on.

Currently I have more routines that I’m slowly getting accustomed to, which so far has mostly consisted of ordering inpizza from Dominoes. Soon I will learn better.

Meanwhile in Taipei, what’s better than discovering a One Piece-themed restaurant!!!

 

Fulong beach #Taiwan

A post shared by Ray (@raelianautopsy) on

 

Travel is a blessing and a curse. I will probably take the high-speed rail to Taichung over the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival holiday weekend. Even though everyone says the nature and beaches are better along the east coast, which doesn’t have high-speed rail connection.

I was something of an expert at traveling in mainland China, if I do say so myself, that vast land with no end to history and tourist traps and epic cities and quaint villages. Etc., etc. I knew all the good websites to book guesthouses and where to stand in line for train tickets. Guess airbnb does work anywhere though.

It is amazing that the relatively small island of Taiwan contains so many places to go, and it will be years before I travel it all out. For now I am slightly intimidated on how to organize trips to new places.

I did enjoy taking the slow train to Fulong beach a couple of weekends ago; that wasn’t bad.

 

Then, there’s most important aspect of wherever it is I live: creative output.

Writing-wise, you see, I am in a bit of a rut.

I only got here fairly recently, and it takes time to get a feel for a place in order to write about with a sense of authenticity…

Do not expect a barrage of travel articles any time soon. I’m no expert on the place yet. Inspiration, for me, is more often a train of the slow-running variety.

Do stay tuned for a certain fictional writing project, which is far from ready to be announced and I will give away no hints as yet, but when the time comes then the time will come.

 

 

And also, the people. I don’t know too many here as of this writing. I know some. Honestly, the caliber of expat on average is a grade or so higher than many of those crazed outcasts who end up in China.

That’s just one of those things that happen when one moves, making friends can take time and all that.

It’s not that I’m super lonely. I am only a bit lonely.

That is what the internet is for.

Eh, mostly can’t complain.

 

 

 

Still, to everyone out there who’d like to keep in touch and maintain friendships and moreover check out Taiwan, please hurry up and come visit me!

Saturnine, In Her Head, Out of Time: a science fiction tragic love story

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071P94QQ5

 

Readers,

I am pleased to announced the publication of a new short story entitled Saturnine, In Her Head, Out of TimeIt is a science fiction tragic love story, about the power and futility of memories. Also, I am just fascinated by the concept of the brain’s perception of time and so I decided to explore some concepts.

Read for the Kindle, only .99 USD (and the smartphone app is free if you don’t already have it). And if anyone would like to review, please email me at rayhecht@gmail.com and I’d be happy to share.

Please let me know what you think!

 

 

Synopsis:

Saturnine has regrets.

Sometimes, she wishes she could go back and do things differently. Don’t we all?

She just found out that she can.

Thanks to the good people at Kronostastic Inner Journeys, Saturnine is about to “rexperience” the unresolved circumstances of her last relationship. Hopefully, as she regresses into the past within her own chronological perception, she’ll be able to figure out what went wrong and finally get over it.

However, time paradoxes and probability theory can really get in the way of closure.

Whether in the past, present, or future, life never does turn out as planned…

Beta read, anyone?

Hello friends,

Would you like a preview of my latest short story? It’s a science fiction tragedy, a love story, with time travel, about how we are all helpless to the unfair whims of destiny… and also includes some of my theories on how the human brain might be able to one day perceive time.

Intrigued?

Please email me at rayhecht@gmail.com for a complimentary Word file. In return, I only ask for a fresh set of eyes to catch typos, suggest rewrites, and perhaps let me know what should be expanded and/or cut. Or, just tell me what you generally think of the story and that would be most appreciated!

In return, I’d be happy to help edit anything you may in turn be working on.

Keep on writing and reading~

 

Cheers,

Ray

 

 

 

Guest blogger and author Ray Hecht on what it means to ‘connect’ in the 21st century

Classic Jenisms

ray-hecht-headshotIn this post, I feature my first ever guest blogger, Ray Hecht, an American writer who has published books about Ohio, California, Hong Kong and Shenzhen, where he has been living since 2008.

You can find out more about him through his blog: https://rayhecht.com/

“Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die.”

The quotation above is taken from the end of a novel titled Howards End, written in the 1920s by the British novelist and critic E. M. Forster.

It is also exactly the kind of quotation that gives literature a bad name.

Unlike Dickens, it is sentimental eloquence without human agency; unlike…

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Interview: Arthur Meursault, author of Party Members

meursault

Only known image of the mysterious author!

 

Party Members was certainly one of the more interesting of my reviews on China-centric books. Whether one agrees with the intense tone of the novel, or thinks it goes too far, no one can deny that the author displays a uniquely powerful talent at expressing his particular vision…

I was lucky enough to recently procure an interview with author Arthur Meursault, in which I ask questions to explore his writing process and inspiration.

And a very interesting interview it was, henceforth below:

 

 

Party Members is a rather unique China novel that delves into themes few other novels would dare to tread. What was your process like in writing the novel?

This will be ammo for my critics, but honestly speaking the book was remarkably easy to write. Once I decide to write something I find it difficult to concentrate on anything else until it is completed. Just ask my wife: She had to clean the house single-handed for about twelve months. Initially, Party Members started as just a short story about some middle-class Chinese nouveau riche one-upping each other over dinner (the current Chapter 3 in the book), but I just kept adding more and more detail till it mutated into a full-blown novel.

In total it took me about a year to write, then I just left the file in a hard drive folder doing nothing for another year before I went back and did some editing to it. When I get the urge to write I can do just that–I’ll write and write until the demon is out of me and the words are on the page. It’s like a madness that I have to exorcise and I genuinely find it difficult to sleep or concentrate at work if I have an idea that I haven’t committed yet to the page. Editing, on the other hand, is a tiresome process and one that I don’t find enjoyable. The resident Grammar Nazi at my publisher is an extraordinary individual who has a passion for correcting obscure grammatical errors with his red pen of pain. At first I thought that I had done a decent job of proofreading my own copy, but Mark at Camphor destroyed my confidence like a nerd at a prom night getting drenched in a vat of pig’s blood.

 

The book does go into some dark places. As an author, do you ever feel disturbed that your imagination goes in unexpected directions?

If you were to read some of my other short stories–and you can find a couple on my blog–you’d be surprised at how light Party Members is compared to some of the other things that I dream up. I’m generally a pretty misanthropic type of guy. If you were to ask me what my belief system is I’d probably tell you I was a nihilistic antinatalist who views all life as malignantly useless – but I’d tell you that with a smile and follow it up with a “knock knock” joke. As for whether I get disturbed by my dark thoughts or not, my answer would be that I feel I’m just one step ahead of most people. Look at the way the world is turning, and my dark thoughts are increasingly becoming today’s reality.

 

Since releasing the novel, have you been surprised at some of the reactions whether positive or negative?

It is divisive and the classic type of book that will get one star from one reader and five stars from another. That’s how I intended it to be. I didn’t want to write a safe harmless book that people could agree on, I wanted to write a book that would upset and disturb those who kid themselves to the nature of reality and bring solace or a knowing smirk to those who see the darkness in life. The response has been exactly that, but with some additional modern criticisms from “the current year’s” SJWs who stifle thought by saying that a straight white male shouldn’t be allowed to express a negative thought about anything other than himself.

 

When did you know that you were going to be a novelist?

I’m not a novelist–I’m very clear on that. I have a full-time job which takes up 95% of my waking life… and I just so happen to have written a novel. As much as I would like it to define me,it unfortunately won’t. Tomorrow I will still have to continue the day job and the reality is that a niche interest book about China with naughty content in it most likely won’t sell that well and will be all-but-forgotten once I tire of trying to promote it. Maybe, just maybe, one day I will swallow my pride and write something that has a potential of selling: An erotic fiction featuring vampires or the story of a tenacious black woman who fought against 1960s racism to become the first botanist in space. However, having sold my soul, I still wouldn’t call myself a novelist.

 

What authors and books have inspired you?

Have you ever heard of The Fourth Turning? It’s a theory published in the late 1990s that claims history follows the same 80-year cycle continuously. It also says that within that 80-year period there will always be four individual generations with four individual personalities. Furthermore, a person can look for people with similar thoughts and moods by looking for their generational counterpart in the previous cycle. So a person like myself who grew up during the “Unravelling” of the 1980s and 90s should find like-minded authors within the generation that grew up approximately 80 years ago during the previous “Unravelling” cycle. Since all my favourite moody and cynical writers like H.P. Lovecraft, Albert Camus and F. Scott Fitzgerald are from that era, I’d advise any author seeking inspiration to do the same process.

God, that’s a bit of a dry response, isn’t it? I’m in danger of taking myself too seriously.

 

Do you prefer reading books about China, or more international literature?

There comes a point in any man’s life when he simply can’t read anymore books about China. One more autobiography about the Cultural Revolution or an alcoholic English teacher in tier-88 Hunan, and I’d probably grab a samurai sword and go berzerk outside a Beijing branch of Uniqlo. I still read books about China, and when I do I post reviews of them on my blog, but for every book I read on China I now read another ten on something else. Michel Houellebecq is the king of the current European zeitgeist.

 

Are you working on anything new?

It isn’t easy when struggling to keep hold of a full-time corporate job during a period of economic decline, but I’m slowly working on a collection of short stories. I’ve written about half of them and they’ll be so dark that they’ll make Party Members look like The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Some of the stories include tales of a woman driven mad by her garden wall and a new computer game craze that makes people infertile. If that sounds all a bit too much then I can try and appear a little more balanced by telling you that I have already written a full-length children’s story about pugs but I keep getting tempted to add sinister undertones to the draft.

 

What advice if any would you give to aspiring expat writers?

Do it. Please. The world needs more writers. That vlog on YouTube you are planning may seem tempting–and there’s probably more money in it too–but there are already enough spiky-haired excitable people giving us 8 Reasons why Asian Girls are Better or The 3 Best Pumpkin Spice Lattes in Beijing. Buzzfeed might thank you for that, but your grandchildren won’t.

 

Lastly, do you have any thoughts on the future of literature in Asia be it by foreign writers or by locals?

Big Western Publishing will continue to publish boring but “worthy” books by well-connected authors who say the right things. Small Independent Publishing will continue to publish interesting and original works by new authors that will be ignored by almost everybody. And Chinese Publishing will continue to publish the works of Xi Jinping.

THIS MODERN LOVE: a novel by Ray Hecht My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dots and Demitasse

heart-vs-phone

This book plays off several shades of the contemporary grunge with a persistent neo-noir gradation. It saturates the cliché and builds it up through every paragraph till it blows into a cumulonimbus of decay. It is a tale of ‘missed connections’ and opportunities. A dystopic dirge keeps throbbing in the background while the four protagonists dance to its tune in perfect psychedelia.

It is hard to go through the book from this frame of reference. We can see ourselves in the pages making love to cellphones and avatars and losing sight of the reality while sinking deep into the mire of a new strain of love, the new romance. No one cares anymore for ‘the real thing’. Is there actually something real? Well, we do not have the time to spare on that kind of discovery. In an age of fast food and digital cash, finding true love seems rather…

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Reflections on the year 2016

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2016 was, to say the least, a tumultuous year.

It’s already something of a meme to say that 2016 sucks so much. And yeah, that’s largely true specifically in the political sense anyway.

However, in my personal life I can definitely declare that though it’s been hard I can claim lot of positive growth over the past year. I traveled the world, I promoted some writing, I published here and there, wrote another book, and I even moved in with my girlfriend!

There has been a lot on this very blog worth share. I reviewed, I interviewed. And although at this stage it’s hard to say if it will lead anywhere, one of my personal productive favorites of the year was starting anew on my hobby of drawing silly little comics.

In thinking over this arbitrary marking of the Earth going around the sun that we all mark on our calendars, I have thought about it most nostalgically and created a list of links below. Here, a few posts that stand out to me to sum up the crazy intensities of this most epically year:

 

In February, right after Chinese New Year, I was lucky enough to be detained by the Chinese police after attending an unlicensed rave party. I tested negative for drugs and was soon released, while sadly others I knew tested positive, leaving me with the opportunity to write what proved to be my most popular piece of writing ever. The guys over at Reddit China were somewhat opinionated. But I had my say.

Hey it even led to a piece I wrote for the Wall Street Journal.

 

With my novel South China Morning Blues published — from Blacksmith Books, Hong Kong — in late 2015, I was very focused on promoting the book all over Shenzhen (and Guangzhou, and Hong Kong) over the beginning of the following year and on. It was a big part of my job for months on end. The highlight was definitely in March when I went to both Beijing and Chengdu for a little get-together known as the Bookworm Literary Festival.

 

The travel it did continue. I visited the great country/not country of Taiwan as part of my girlfriend Bronwen’s art residency in May. Absolutely wonderful place. There will be more on Taiwan come the next new year.

And in June it was time to go to Israel for the bi-annual visiting of the family. What a trip I met some little nieces and nephews, saw my parents, had emotions, all the while some legal complications came up and had to be dealt with.

 

One event that really stood out in the summer was the art exhibition by Bronwen and some other locally sourced artists over at Sin Sin Fine Art in Hong Kong. Great work. I happened to write an article about it.

 

At last, the dreaded subject of American politics. Over the second half of 2016, I carried on with my life and moved and wrote and promoted, meanwhile in America (totally affecting the rest of the world) it all went well and truly insane. I became rather consumed in following the politics of the horrible election cycle. Finally, of all things, I was forced to start writing political columns. The anxieties of the day before, then November’s horrific results, and a touch of conspiracy theory commentary.

Sadly, at this rate I will probably have yet more to say in 2017. A lot more. Despite the apocalyptic scenarios at hand, I’ll try to be optimistic about the new year. What’s certainly true is that nobody knows what will happen next.

 

Thus was the year. I and you survived. Thanks for paying attention to me and my humble perspective. On a concluding note, let us mourn the actual concept of truth and facts with this cartoon by Tom Tomorrow… RIP truth~

Good luck to 2017, we’ll need it!

tmw2016-12-21color

THIS MODERN LOVE: a novel

bookcover-epub

https://www.amazon.com/THIS-MODERN-LOVE-Ray-Hecht-ebook/dp/B01MA54L4I

 

I am pleased to announce the release of my latest novel, This Modern Love.

Unlike my previous writings about China, this story is primarily concerned with America. It is about the way that technology has skewed modern relationships, and explores various themes of youth and immigration, sex and emptiness and the whole soul-of-my-homeland thing.

Please check it out on Amazon. It is available as a Kindle eBook as well as a paperback edition. I believe it works well as a digital read.

If you would like to review, please contact me and I’d be happy to send it to you.

Thanks for reading!

 

Synopsis:

American love isn’t what it used to be.

Roommates Jack and Ben are complete opposites when it comes to romance. For Jack, a mere waiter, it’s easy to use to the latest to app meet a new girl every weekend. But Ben, even though he’s a programmer, can’t seem to figure out how to maneuver online dating.

On the other side of town, sisters Andrea and Carla have their own issues. Andrea is a bit of a wreck, stumbling from one dramatic episode to the next. Carla is more concerned with blogging than dating, though she does get lonely at times. In an age of narcissism and alienation, it’s just so hard to meet someone.

Over the course of one day, these thoroughly modern men and women keep passing each other by. From yoga class to the club – all in a haze of drugs, sex, and selfies – opportunities for true love come and go, and no one notices because they were too busy staring at their phones.

Welcome to the 21st century.

End of the month…

… and I don’t have any big blog planned. Whatever to write about~

I try to post something at least once a week. I’m afraid I don’t have enough to say this time.

It’s been a hell of a month. I secured a very busy and slightly lucrative freelance editing job. When it’s all out there perhaps I’ll share. Suffice to say, rewriting an entire book over the course of September wasn’t easy. But very good work to do.

In keeping busy, I’ve been very antisocial lately. Which works for me. Most of the time I’d rather stay in and read and watch movies and occasionally play video games, to be honest. Could it be I’m getting boring?!

I have plans to release some of my own writing. In due time. And some book reviews coming up, perhaps interviews. There’s always Chinglish. What else should I share? I have an idea for a short blog series about literature under a medium I haven’t explored as yet.

So stay tuned…

Would you like a sneak preview to read?

Dear readers (and writers),

The time has come for the announce that I am about ready to share something new. If you happen to be one to enjoy my humble writings, here it is.

At a mere 50,000 words, it’s more a novella and not too much commitment to read. Took me the greater part of 2015 and the working title is “Modern Love Story” and yes I know that needs work. Or possibly “This Modern Love” as in the Bloc Party song — see below. “Modern Love” as in the song by the late great David Bowie would be a nice reference as well but seems too similar to Aziz Ansari’s recent recommended book Modern Romance.

Similar in structure to that novel about the twelve animals of the Chinese Zodiac, this new story only focuses on four people: Two men and two women. Half are modern and the others more traditional, and the point is each pair would be perfect for each other but they keep getting distracted and miss their chance.

Also, it’s about the soul of America.

See, I was inspired after the last time I visited the United States, and after being away for so long I now feel I have the outsider’s perspective. Mostly it was from observing some friends using the Tinder app in order to hook up. I never got the chance to use it, but I thought about all that online dating stuff from a literary point-of-view, and thus..

 

Well, if you would like to read more about my take on how modern technology has skewed sexual relationships between men and women, then please email me via rayhecht@gmail.com

Any input at all would be appreciated, from catching typos to scathing critiques and expertise on technological language.

And as always, if you would like to share anything you are writing I’d be happy to help edit as well!

Keep reading and writing, everybody

 

Here’s that song ~

 

Why I Write

http://www.whyiwrite.net/2016/01/ray-hecht/

 

Ray Hecht

South China Morning Blues 

Ray Hecht is an American author based in Shenzhen, and blogs at rayhecht.com. Raised in the American Midwest, he studied film in Long Beach, California before moving to China in 2008 where he divides his time between fiction writing and freelance journalism. South China Morning Blues (Blacksmith Books, 2015), a story of depraved expats within the hypermodern southern Chinese sprawl, is his debut novel.

 

Why I write

That is the ultimate question, isn’t it? I don’t truly know the answer. Perhaps because I am a lonely person and I got into certain habits and now after years of this I am compelled. I want to express myself, I have enough ego to believe that others should read what I write, and it’s just a part of what I do and who I am. I have these things in my head and this compulsion to write it down and I hope beyond hope that people would like to read.

 

How do you go about writing?

I try to write every day. When a long-term project is going, I write about four days a week on a decent week. Good weeks more, bad weeks less. To me, it’s not about hours so much as word count. Five hundred works at least, or a thousand words on a very productive night. That may take hours or it may take 30 minutes.

I like to stay up late, because that’s the time when everyone leaves me alone. That magic time from midnight to about 2 a.m. I used to write later, but it’s getting harder and harder to keep up with a night owl lifestyle these days. That’s when all the original words come to me, and the next afternoon I tend to do rewrites.

 

Where do you write?

I like to lay down in my bed in my underwear with the laptop. I remember the old days when I had a big PC, it was much harder to motivate myself. The laptop is the most perfect invention ever…

 

Worst distraction?

…excepting, of course, that the Internet is the absolute worst distraction ever. If left to my own devices I tend to constantly check my email, Facebook, news sites etc. Porn isn’t even as bad as social media. Sometimes though you just have to unplug and force yourself to finish a deadline. Unless there’s research to be done.

 

Best inspiration?

I suppose I’m inspired by various things. A good song can inspire. A book, a show. A crazy life experience can especially inspire. Most of all, combing through my own memories of complex life issues and mix and match it into new combinations; somehow that give me ideas about what to write.

 

How often do you get writers’ block? Do you ever doubt your own ability?

I don’t really believe in writer’s block. However, I doubt my own ability all the time. When I compare myself to the major authors whom I respect, I am not in the same league at all. But I’ve chosen to write and even if it’s shit I have vowed to finish what I started.

The thing about writer’s block is that I always have more ideas than I have time to write them down. It should always be that way. Instead of being choked by the blank page, I suffer more from sheer laziness. Writing can be mentally exhaustive, and although endless ideas are swirling around in my mind, sometimes I don’t have enough energy to record and tinker with those ideas.

 

Contemporary writer you always read?

I always read new Haruki Murakami and Neal Stephenson. Murakami isn’t as good as he used to be, frankly, in my humble opinion. Stephenson is such an insanely prolific writer that it takes me longer to catch up with his latest thousand-plus tome then it does for him to write, yet I always do try to catch up.

 

Favorite book on China?

Speaking of which, Reamde by Neal Stephenson is a great book that takes place in China, full of hackers and gold-farming. He really gets it right.

 

Favorite Chinese author?

My favorite may be Su Tong, and especially his novel My Life as Emperor. Written very matter-of-factly and full of cruelty, it rather haunted me.

 

Favorite book?

There are several books that have supremely influenced me. I’m going to keep it in the realm of fiction: Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson is the ultimate irreverent yet smart novel, with so much energy. I know I’m not smart enough to write science fiction, and cyberpunk in particular, I am purely a fan with no desire to emulate.

I have to mention The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea which sent me on a lifelong journey to figure out what the hell is going on in the world.

As for literary inspiration, Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting and Bret Easton Ellis’ Glamorama are works that have directly influenced how I string words together…

 

Favourite writer?

As for other mediums, I would like to say that comic book writer Grant Morrison is one of my absolute favorites. Able to write mindfuck profound postmodern comics, as well as fun superheroes, and I am very envious of his abilities.

 

The book you should have read but haven’t?

I am currently trying to find the time to start Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. I have a feeling it’s going to be a tough one.

 

You look back at the first thing you had published and think…

Wow I was lucky!

 

How did you get started writing?

I scribbled on occasion when I was a kid, more interested in drawing than writing. When I was in school I decided to study film on a lark, and I didn’t really finish, but I decided I like prose more than screenplays because you can be alone. I decided to write novels when I was twenty-three years old, wrote several, and then almost 10 years later it worked out.

 

Does writing change anything?

I suppose it changes your social life, because friends and loved ones can’t understand why you are always avoiding the outside world. It’s worth it though, I hope.

 

What are you working on now and when is it out?

Well, I’m still working on promoting South China Morning Blues which is currently out in Hong Kong and beyond.

I have another novel in the works, a full draft is finished, and it’s not about China. It’s about how technology effects relationships and I got the idea from last time I visited America and observed as an outsider the whole Tinder dating thing. If I’m incredibly lucky it will be published in less than a year. A lot has to fall into place. I believe it will be published eventually. Wish me luck!

 

Continue reading

Bookish.Asia Review: South China Morning Blues

South China Morning Blues • Ray Hecht

http://bookish.asia/south-china-morning-blues-ray-hecht/

The Pearl River Delta is home to Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Macau, Shenzhen, and cities of millions – such as gritty workshops to the world Dongguan and Zhongshan – that you’ve never heard of. Despite being the powerhouse of the country’s decades-long economic boom, China’s southern cities have been largely ignored by English-language novelists for the more glamorous settings of Shanghai and Beijing. When stories are set in the south, they are usually period pieces taking advantage of the region’s rich historical backdrops of war, revolution, and the treaty port clash of cultures. It was a welcome change to come across a novel set in modern-day Guangdong.

South China Morning Blues is divided into three sections, each named after a city in the region. The multiple storylines begin in Shenzhen, move to Guangzhou, and end on Lamma Island in Hong Kong. The novel provides a kaleidoscopic view of urban China as seen through the eyes of a dozen mostly twenty-something Chinese and foreign characters. There’s Marco, a macho American businessman looking to get laid at every opportunity; Danny, an English teacher finding his feet; intellectual stoner Eric; artist Ting Ting; American-Chinese journalist Terry; and… I’ll stop there. Twelve is too many to run through, which raises the question of whether that number of characters makes for an overcrowded cast.

Although there’s no consensus on the maximum number of main characters a novel should contain, it’s generally thought that eight or nine is the upper limit for a medium-length work. Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting, for example — which, with its multiple narrator structure, was one of Hecht’s inspirations — has perhaps seven main characters. When I opened SCMB, and realized that Hecht had chosen twelve because he wanted one character for each animal sign of the Chinese zodiac, the approach seemed like a recipe for disaster.

Surprisingly the big cast works. Credit goes to the author for how he does this by adding a couple of characters at a time, building up layers, and coming back to earlier people as some of storylines are threaded together. The effect is an unusual but engrossing reading experience, an immersive feel of varying waves of engagement. The number and range of characters, subplots, and places gives the novel an epic flavour; it’s a big canvas which contrasts with the mundane considerations of daily life that the characters describe.

South China Morning Blues is written in a stream-of-consciousness, first-person narration. Unavoidably, this is sometimes inane and slow moving; but it’s also often funny and, above all, honest. The novel is painfully true to life: how we actually were when young and finding our way, rather than how we would like to remember ourselves. I laughed aloud in numerous places, perhaps most often for Danny, the non-descript English teacher andlaowai newbie who is soon playing the veteran. In one such scene, a fellow English teacher – young, fresh off the boat, and completely clueless – asks Danny how long he has been in China.

“Well,” I say. “I’ve been in Shenzhen for a year now, but in China almost two years. Before here I lived in a town you’ve never heard of up north.”

“Wow,” he says, easily impressed. I feel cool, sophisticated.

One of the pleasures of SCMB is seeing how characters grow up (or don’t) over the two-year period of the novel. Eager to know how things worked out for them, I raced through the book in three days, pleased with the ending and yet sad the story had come to a close.

SCMB contains a lot of drinking, drug-taking, and sex, but not unrealistically so. Alcohol and drugs are a social lubricant and stress-relief for people in a new place. Likewise, business entertaining in China involves heavy drinking and frequently a side-dish of whoring, so it’s not unnatural that when Marco, the self-styled Casanova, is on a business trip to Dongguan, he should partake of the city’s infamous delights. Marco takes two hookers back to his hotel and is working his magic while the women watch television:

In front of me, I have two bare asses. They cost me only a grand each. That’s in RMB.

Enthusiastically, I slap the one on the left and pound away against the other one. She insisted that I wear a rubber. That part never gets lost in translation. This experience would have felt better without, but whatever….

I wish that I could persuade these girls to perform some lesbian shit. I push their heads together. They kind of kiss for a second, but then smirk and turn away. Don’t these bitches watch porn, or what?

My cock feels ready to explode out from under me, almost like I should call in a bomb threat to the hotel or something.

At times SCMB can be a bit depressing in portraying the shallowness of many Chinese–foreign interactions, but once again it rings true. In fact, I’ve met people like all twelve of the story’s characters. Much of the realism comes from author Ray Hecht writing about what he has himself experienced or seen, having lived in the novel’s two main locations, Shenzhen and Guangzhou. Hecht, who was born in Israel but grew up in the American Midwest, arrived in China in 2008 at the age of twenty-six. He works in Shenzhen as a writer and teacher, and has written two previous novels: The Ghost of Lotus Mountain Brothel and Loser Parade.

South China Morning Blues deserves to sell well. It’s easy to see the novel becoming a big hit among the expat population in China, but it should also appeal to general readers. Hecht’s Pearl River Delta tapestry is at heart a racy drama exploring universal themes, so no knowledge of China is required to enjoy it.

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South China Morning Blues is published by Blacksmith Books. It’s available from the publisher’s website, Amazon, and bookstores in Hong Kong.

Author Ray Hecht has a website chronicling aspects of his writing and life in Shenzhen.

 

By  December 11th, 2015

Interview with Ray Hecht on His New Novel “South China Morning Blues”

(Originally posted on: http://www.speakingofchina.com/bookreviews/interview-with-ray-hecht-on-his-new-novel-south-china-morning-blues/)

 

People have called China endlessly fascinating. But you could say the same about the expat scene here. In the seven-plus years that I’ve lived in this country, I’ve come across some real characters here – people I could have sworn were straight out of a novel.

I’m reminded of many of them after reading Ray Hecht’s new book South China Morning Blues, which features a motley cast of young expats and Chinese locals living across Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Hong Kong, including:

…Marco, a crooked businessman with a penchant for call girls; Danny, a culture-shocked young traveler; Sheila, a local club girl caught up in family politics; Amber, a drug-fueled aspiring model; Terry, an alcoholic journalist; and Ting Ting, a lovable artist with a chip on her shoulder.

 

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Through 12 distinct viewpoints, South China Morning Blues takes readers on a tour of the dark underside of the expat scene in China, culminating in a dramatic life-and-death situation that brings everyone together. It’s a fresh take on life in 21st century China and definitely worth a read.

I’m happy to once again feature Ray Hecht on the blog and introduce South China Morning Blues to you through this interview.

 

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Here’s Ray’s bio from his website:

Long story short, raised in America from the Midwest to the West Coast on a starchy diet of movies and comics and science fiction paperbacks. There’s a Mid-East connection in there too. I like to write fiction about such states as California and Ohio, and such provinces as Guangdong. Japan being an interesting topic as well. Lived in Shenzhen, China since 2008 (has it really been that long?), a lovely Special Economic Zone Hong Kong-bordering chaotic city that has given me so much. I occasionally partake of some freelance journalism for various local publications.

You can learn more about Ray Hecht and South China Morning Blues at his websiteand buy a copy at Amazon.com, where your purchase helps support this blog.

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What inspired you to write this novel?

Good question to start out with. A few things come to mind: After living in China in those earlier years, I found the country to be absolutely fascinating, and I wanted to share the experience of the land by telling stories.

Also, I’d long been a fan of Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting and had a lot of respect for his system of multiple narrators that all have distinctive versions of experiences,and being more interlocking short stories than one big narrative. I think one of the philosophies that fiction can teach us is the subjective nature of reality. The way some people, say, move to Guangzhou and complain how they hate it while other people see it totally differently and love it.

Another inspiration, I must say at the risk of sounding pretentious, was James Joyce’s Ulysses. Not that I’m smart enough to write something like that — or even smart enough to truly understand the famously-dense book. But the way the novel utilized mythological metaphors, as per the Odyssey resonating in early 20th Century Dublin. I wanted to try something like that. The ancient mythologies of the world will forever be able to inspire modern stories.

Well, for me, characters are most important. A character needs unique personality traits, archetypes that make them stand out, something interesting about their histories and personas. After that’s established, a plot begins to form… And so the idea evolved to use the Chinese Zodiac to structure the characters of a novel…

 

Your novel is told through the perspective of 12 main characters as they live in or visit three major cities in South China — Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Hong Kong. How did you decide to structure your novel like this?

As said, I had the idea to base characters off the Chinese Zodiac in order to tell stories about modern China. Seemed to make sense at the time.

I’d already ended up living in Shenzhen, which is a major city most people around the world have never heard of. The city is next to Hong Kong, and I spend a lot of time there. For the sake of literary research (also because I wanted to research a historical novel about Canton circa revolutionary 1911) I moved to Guangzhou for an off year in 2011. I find all these cities fascinating in their own unique ways. I mean, Beijing and Shanghai are great, but I ended up in the southern Pearl River Delta region and I am glad I did. No place on Earth has more stories.

It seemed obvious that my novel about the soul of present China would have to incorporate those three cities.

 

Like your memoir, South China Morning Blues features quite a bit of sex and recreational drug use. How much did your personal experiences influence your writing in this book?

Ah, an embarrassing question. Hmm, how can I put this…?

First of all, my biographical writings may have some sex but I don’t think there’s much to brag about. Outside of a handful of tell-all dramatic episodes, by far it mostly concerned online dating and several serious relationships. Not too crazy, right?

The sex scenes in SCMB are, shall we say, meant to be more literary. At least more literary in the sense of literature I like to read. Being more extreme than real life in most cases. Many of those scenes were inspired by way of hearsay of other people I know, my own imagination, and a bit of research online. Not really based off my own personal experiences very much.

(Hey, I did say that Trainspotting was an inspiration.)

As for recreational drugs, I experimented a bit in my youth — and by youth I mean my mid-to-late twenties, I was very boring as a teen — and I think I was always responsible about it. To be honest, I’m often shocked when I observe how extreme drugs and alcohol are in the China party scene. It is something that needs to be depicted, whether glamorized or not. No outright spoilers here, but if you read to the end there are consequences for the characters who abuse themselves and I think it’s important to showcase that side.

All in all though, I want to show all sides of real life. Using illegal substances, having irresponsible sex, pushing the boundaries, and making mistakes; these are all things that human beings actually do. And they are interesting things. I believe they are things worth writing about. Worth portraying, without too much judgment. More or less, presented as is. That’s writing.

 

Tell us about one of your favorite characters from the novel and why you like him or her. Continue reading

Interview with Ray Hecht on writing and his new book, “South China Morning Blues”

http://www.travis-lee.org/2015/10/30/interview-with-ray-hecht-on-writing-and-his-new-book-south-china-morning-blues/

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Interview with Ray Hecht on writing and his new book, “South China Morning Blues”

For author Ray Hecht, the answer is a psychedelic experience at Burning Man.

Author of Loser Parade411, The Ghost of the Lotus Mountain Brothel (which I reviewed here), and Pearl River Drama, his most recent book is South China Morning Blues. available now at the publisher’s website and for pre-order on Amazon.

I asked Ray his thoughts on writing, his inspiration for South China Morning Blues and much more:

 

Can you recall a single instance that inspired you to be a writer or is it something that you’ve always had an attraction to?

I can’t recall a specific incident, it’s something that developed slowly. I originally wanted to be an artist before I wanted to be a writer. I felt like writing would be a good thing superfluously in my teens, and tried some stories. It was in college – late years in college in my twenties – I decided to study film screenwriting. I remember at 23 for some reason I vowed to write a novel a year. I didn’t follow up on that particular pace, but I have been writing seriously ever since.

 

Do you work on a specific schedule, where you write every day?

I mainly like to write in the middle of the night, but life doesn’t always let me. Usually I do first drafts after midnight. Then, next day at noon to the afternoon I might slowly do rewrites. It would probably be a good idea to get a consistent schedule, wouldn’t it!

 

Do you have a preferred writing program? (Word, text editor, etc.?)

Microsoft Word of course. I’ve even been studying some of the more intricate ways to edit and use the software to the best of my ability. Got a lot of typing shortcuts memorized. If it’s not too obvious to say, isn’t Word basically a must in this day and age?

 

You’ve mentioned that your love for ‘Trainspotting’ and ‘Snow Crash’. Could you tell us more about why you like these novels?

I love the danger and the outlaw attitude and the intelligence and the punk rock aesthetics and just how damn sexy it is. The novels are quite different, although they are both written in present-tense first-person narration. They are also both novels that exploded their respective writers on the scene.

‘Trainspotting’ by Irvine Welsh is magnificent literary achievement. The phonetic dialectic in writing, the grittiness of the drug culture, the power of each separate narrator’s unique voice. And yet, it is a free-flowing art work that explores all over without sticking to the rigidity of a narrow plot. Plus, it can even be darkly funny.

‘Snow Crash’ by Neal Stephenson is incredibly smart, a complex cyberpunk postmodern science fiction epic, and yet it doesn’t take itself too seriously and is often hilarious. I wish I was smart enough to write science fiction, but I’m not. I do highly admire Stephenson’s ability to be brilliant and at the same time be that cool.

 

What do your friends and family back in America think of you being a writer? Are they supportive? Do you ever find that some people just don’t understand what being a writer actually is?

I’ve been very surprised how supportive most of my old friends have been. Although, due to the nature of my writing topics I tend to keep family at arm’s length. Hopefully though, I impress everyone back home and most are proud of me.

However, I tend to think most people don’t understand what being a writer is at all. Rather, they imagine that being a writer is this thing to be. Especially people who want to be writers. Nobody seems to imagine what it is to write. Writing is a thing to do. Lots of people want to be writers; most people do not at all want to do any of the writing. That’s the part people always get so particularly wrong.

 

What was the impetus for writing South China Morning Blues?

To put it bluntly, I feel compelled to spend endless lonely hours writing. I needed subject matter to write about. I ended up in China, studied a bit, observed here and there, and the stories had to be told. That’s the short version.

 

While reading your book I saw a lot of familiar people and situations. Was it much the same for you, in that you were drawing from personal experience?

Some of it was personal. Much of it was hearsay. A whole lot never happened to anyone I know (that I know of) but things I only learned of online.

I’ll go ahead and reveal this right now: The drug stuff was based on personal experience. The sex stuff was not.

 

Were there any big scenes / characters cut at the editing stage?

Not too much. Perhaps there should have been. I rewrote and rewrote and polished, and perhaps this is bad writing advice, but I don’t like to cut out too much.

 

The presence of Chinese zodiacs. Did you know about that when you started or did it happen naturally?

I knew the basics of the Chinese animals, even when in America – though never a believer – I knew I was dog year and so on. When I set out to write this novel, I further researched. The acknowledgments gives a shout out to the book I mainly used.

Can’t say it happened naturally; it was a conscious choice from the beginning to structure the characters that way in the foundation and then see which way their stories would go…

 

In the book we see people struggle with identity and ambition. Danny says, “Back home, my old college classmates are surpassing me”, a feeling I can relate to. Do you think the ambition that many foreigners in China have — opening the business, becoming the great writer, etc. — is a way for them to keep up with their contemporaries?

Sure. But not only for expats, many people often feel anxious that the people from their past are surpassing them. With expats in particular, the contrast between one’s own weird life and those left in the home country can be stark. It’s a positive thing to healthily compete and start a business or forge a craft. At least expats in China tend to be interesting people (even if weird) and that can make for good goals. Being motivated by old cohorts surpassing, whatever works.

 

Going with the previous question, do you think there is something about China that attracts these kinds of people?

Good question. There is something about the expat phenomenon that attracts odd people. Odd in good ways and bad. Adventurous, or the dreaded loser stereotype, I don’t know. But there’s something there.

And why China of all places? I suppose it’s a big place, and it’s blowing up right now in world history. I’ve always liked that the economic growth puts it in this sort of limbo between undeveloped and developed, full of cheap outdoor restaurants and expensive shopping malls, and somehow that can suit certain people.

 

To close it out, do you have any advice for new writers who are reading this?

Going back to perceptions of the writer versus writing, I can only say to write. You’d think it would be obvious. Don’t fantasize about being this mythical creature called the writer. Be a person who writes. Then, when the writing gets good, whatever your niche may be, go out there and network and best of luck to you in getting published.

That is all.

 


 

Big thanks to Ray Hecht for doing this interview. To learn more about Ray, visit his website. You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

South China Morning Blues is available now on the Blacksmith Books website and for pre-order on Amazon.

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