Anna Tambour presents 

The virtuous medlar circle
thoroughly bletted
the chicken spits the cook
the interviewer quoted
Charles Tan on fiction

Charles Tan is an enthusiastic and accomplished interviewer (see his interview of Lucius Shepard), reviewer — and recently, a writer of some superb fiction. 

He recently contacted me for an interview, but it's time to hoist him instead.


AT: What do you look for in a book?
Charles Tan: I think the most important part is that it accomplishes what the author intended it to.
Are authors' intentions so transparent—and if so, should they be?
An author shouldn't be transparent but rather his story should be. After reading a story, one can't say "I'm not sure how to feel about this." If that happened, you've failed as a writer. One needs at least one dominant reaction or emotion: it struck me, it was horrific, it was amazing, etc. Readers must be able to grab the thesis of the piece, although some skilled writers make their readers work hard to attain that insight--but it's hardly an unfathomable agenda.
You spoke of 'the industry'. What do you mean by this?
Industry isn't limited to just the business side of things. It could be the people, the environment, whether positive or negative. It might be how people aren't giving credit to non-American writers, or the exploration of works by foreign authors. It all depends on your experience and point of view.

I'm engrossed in the business side of things too much. I mentally start crunching the numbers to examine how feasible a project might be. Or in my case, I want to promote Philippine speculative fiction and I can't do that by being ignorant of the practical limitations.
What do you think of children standing in line for an author to sign their books?
This will always be a two-fold experience. Sometimes, people read authors because the author is popular, not because their fiction resonates with them personally. I think many of our popular best-sellers are like that, whether it's Dan Brown, J.K. Rowling, or the recent Stephenie Meyer.

On the more positive side, if you're a genuine fan, it can also form a relationship. The reader has a relationship with the book but standing in line also enables you to form relationships with the other people standing in line or simply getting the chance to thank the author for what they've written. A dialogue can start, much like fan letters. And for me, it can also be a source of pride, that you're willing to stand in line because you're really interested in a book. For all the ills of book signings, it's one of the ways we shout to the world 'hey, we love books!'

Of course peering in from the outside, there's honestly no way for me to tell whether a child is waiting in line because of the former or the latter.

As much as we might hate the commercialization of fiction, commercialization is the most efficient way to distribute books.
What do you think of author intrusion?
I want to know the author as well as their work--although making sure the two are apart. For example I don't like it when people start making claims that the author's work is autobiographical (unless it's true--although there are certain levels of autobiography as most of us write to a certain extent based on our actual experiences, even if our characters will never behave the way we do).

The relationship also intrigues me.

There are also other times when I'm more interested in the author than their work (whether it's because they live really exciting lives, are kind and good people, share similar interests, etc. or because the latter the latter isn't up to snuff as we wish it would be). Then there are times when you dislike the author but like the work.
Do you have any other reason to read fiction?
Lately, because I've chosen to be a writer, it's important for me to read. Being a passionate reader is a requisite to wanting to become a writer.

and now,
in the Virtuous Medlar circle
for the first time in this world

A Retrospective on Diseases for Sale

a short story by

Charles Tan


(more biographical details there too, with links to more of his published fiction)

See also:

Bibliophile Stalker

Philippine Speculative Fiction Sampler

The virtuous medlar circle

is part of
Anna Tambour and Others

January 2009
The Virtuous Medlar Circle © Anna Tambour 2004 - 2009