Posted by Joyce Anthony at 1:02 AM Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Thank you for being here, John. Can you tell our readers a little bit about who you are as a person--background, family, pets, hobbies?
I'm from Des Moines, Iowa, and now live in Boulder, Colorado. My wife and I have two young children, so between raising them and writing novels, I don't have time for much else. But when I can sneak away from the computer, I enjoy traveling, hiking, working on my Japanese garden, and heading out on various adventures with our children.
You have traveled extensively in Asia. What is it about that part of the world that captures your interest? Having taught English in Japan, I imagine you speak Japanese. Do you speak any other languages?
I've been fortunate to travel all over Asia, and I'm definitely enamored with this part of the world. I love the history, weather, people, food, natural beauty, culture, and affordability of it all. I'm always eager to explore, and so much of Asia seems somewhat undiscovered. As far as languages, I speak a bit of Japanese and Thai, but many people in Asia speak English quite well, so there's never been a huge need for me to learn local languages. Of course, I try to speak with my hosts in their native languages whenever possible.
History plays a large role in your writing. Do you believe that you could have written such powerful works had you not actually experienced the places you write about?
I'm a writer who has to visit a place in order to bring that place to life on the page. For instance, my first novel, Beneath a Marble Sky, is based on the story behind the creation of the Taj Mahal. I spent a month in India prior to writing this novel, which was crucial to the writing process and success of the book. My recent novel, Dragon House, takes place in modern-day Vietnam. To research it, I traveled to Vietnam several times to get a great feel for the people, culture, and environment. I hear from many readers that the city of Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh as it's called these days, really comes to life on the pages, and I think this is because of my personal experiences there.
Can you tell us what inspired you to write Dragon House?
While spending time in large Asian cities, I couldn't help but notice how many street children existed. These children were out at all hours of night and day, selling their fans, postcards, drinks, etc. I always enjoyed chatting with them, and was so impressed by their optimism, wit, intelligence, and resilience. I felt compelled to bring their stories to life within a novel.
In Dragon House, you have several characters who have been touched by wars. It struck me how accurately you could portray the feelings involved. Have you personally experienced any combat and if not, how did you go about researching to be so accurate?
Well, I've spent a lot of time in countries that have been affected by war, and have spoken to people who have lived through it. Certainly in Vietnam the legacy of war is quite strong. The people have moved beyond this history in some ways, but in others, war still lingers. I've made it a point to talk with people who have fought in recent wars as well as much older conflicts. No one reflects on war with fond memories.
You speak at a lot of book club gatherings. How did you come to be involved in doing this?
When my first novel, Beneath a Marble Sky, took off on an international level, I decided that I wanted to give back to book clubs, so I added a letter to the back of the paperback that invited book clubs to invite me to their evenings. I included my email address. During the past three years, I have spoken, via speakerphone, with 2,300 book clubs around the world. It's been a wonderful experience for me.
Can you tell us a little bit about Blue Dragon Children's Foundation?
This group supports street children in Vietnam--clothing, educating, and sometimes sheltering these children. It's a wonderful group, one that is driven by incredible philanthropists from all over the world.
Part of the proceeds from Dragon House are donated to Blue Dragon. I am curious as to whether this is only because you believe in what they are doing or if it is also your way of giving back to a place that has given so much to you in the way of enrichment?
It's both, actually. I believe that street children can be saved, can be turned into productive and happy members of society. And that's what Blue Dragon does. I also want to give something back to the children of Vietnam, who enriched my life. So far, we've raised enough money to buy complete sets of school books for about 700 street children.
Do you believe that authors are in a position to bring about great changes in the world? If so, do you think we also have an obligation to use our talents to bring about a better world?
I believe that all of us can bring about positive change. Authors do have an advantage of having a platform--we can create work that inspires people, we can pass on our own beliefs, etc. I think it's important for authors to generate something positive from their work. This is certainly something that I take quite seriously.
Your website has information on your two previous books, but I read a preview of The Wishing Trees and know that is on my reading list when it comes out. Can you tell us a bit about it?
The Wishing Trees takes place in eight different countries, and is the story of a widower and his ten-year-old daughter who travel around the world, inspired by a series of letters written by the dead wife/mother. It's a different sort of novel for me, and I'm really excited about it. I think it turned out quite well.
Where can readers get in touch with you, John?
I'm in the process of creating a new web site at johnshors.com, but it's not quite up. So, it's best for readers to contact me directly by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Is there anything else you would like to share with us today?
I'm grateful for everyone's support, and appreciate the opportunity to chat with you.
You can find more answers from John on his website!
Tomorrow, I will be sharing some information on Blue Dragon Children's Foundation, John's charity of choice, and John will share with us how he came to get involved with them. Until then, if you would like to have your own copy of Dragon House, Please visit here.