author’s questions and answers

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1) What inspired you to write Good Luck Life?

While growing up in a small town in California’s Central Valley, I was always confused and curious about the Chinese traditions and rituals I grew up with. Being Chinese meant I had another layer of cultural holidays to enjoy and observe, such as the sharing of red envelopes during Chinese New Year, making joong during Dragon Boat, and gifting moon cakes during the Mid-Autumn Festival. I wanted to connect the “whys” with the “what” and “how” with the celebrations of my childhood.

My catalyst was the passing of my immigrant grandfather in 2001. He was the last of his generation and I wanted others to have the best of two worlds (Chinese and American) which he gave to me.

2) What is your background?

I had an all-American background with cultural brushstrokes. There were occasional conflicts between my family’s Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner and the St. Valentine’s Dance, or a Sunday softball game with Qing Ming, the Clear Brightness Festival, when we visited our ancestor’s gravesites. The Chinese celebrations always won out in my family. My family was the only Asian family in our small town, Riverbank, California, where I attended elementary and high school.

I’m an advertising/marketing professional with 20 years of experience. I worked with Saatchi & Saatchi Communications and Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising for over a decade upon graduating from San Jose State University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications. I’ve worked in other San Francisco based advertising and marketing agencies where I managed blue-chip clients. I must admit that the advertising/marketing skills and contacts I acquired in my professional life served me very well in getting published.

3) What is a good luck life?

As I was writing Good Luck Life, I discovered that the Chinese rituals and customs fell under three overarching themes: 1) inviting good fortune and happiness, 2) deflecting evil and harm, and 3) remembering and honoring our elders. With every whole fish that’s served at our table, every firecracker I light, every three bows for my ancestors, it comes down to one of these three themes.

4) What was your writing and development process for the book?

In 2001, I conceived the idea for Good Luck Life when I couldn’t find anything like it in the bookstores.

I interviewed dozens of Uncle and Auntie Laos (“lao” means “old” in Cantonese) who invited me into their homes and were willing to share all their Chinese secrets. Things like why shouldn’t I wash my hair on Chinese New Year’s Day (because it’ll wash the New Year’s luck away), or why I shouldn’t visit a Chinese auntie with an armful of white flowers (they’re associated with mourning). They answered every question and armed me with out-of-print books, clippings and photocopied articles. They also fed me very well.

The Chinese Historical Society of America provided facts and figures, and the San Francisco Public Library – Chinatown Branch became my second home for book research and writing. The Chinatown library has an excellent Asian collection and the reference desk librarians there are my heroes. They embraced Good Luck Life as their own.

I was “fortunate” to have been laid off from my day job not once but three times in the course of three years. This is an indication of how the dot-com fallout affected San Francisco’s advertising community. Between freelance assignments, I took advantage of the time to focus on building a winning book proposal and getting an agent who could land a dream publisher. In November 2003, I signed a contract with HarperCollins Publishers and in March 2004, I took a leave of absence to write full-time to complete the manuscript which was submitted in July for a Chinese New Year’s 4703 release.

5) How did you select the holidays and celebrations you cover?

The Chinese holidays I cover in Good Luck Life are the celebrations I remember my family observing year in and out. Interspersed between the holidays were the special occasions and rituals associated with the important rites of passage for a Chinese wedding, a Red Egg and Ginger party to welcome a new baby, a birthday of longevity banquet, and the inevitable funeral.

6) Who is Auntie Lao?

Auntie Lao is a device I use to represent all the old wise and wizened aunties who bestowed their ancient Chinese beliefs and superstitions upon us. I grew up with many Auntie Laos and love them dearly.

7) How has writing Good Luck Life impacted you?

I wear more red. Seriously though, writing Good Luck Life put me in touch with my cultural heritage. It’s given me the gift of appreciation for where I came from and those who came before. It also humbled me for the experience of witnessing and practicing what it means to be generous in spirit.

8) What would you like your readers to take away from Good Luck Life?

That a good luck life can be had by any and all who are interested in the Chinese culture. Every time you walk into a Chinese restaurant or a Chinese store, you can’t help but be surrounded by it. The practices are based on an ancient culture but can be easily adapted in modern society. Besides, who doesn’t need a little good luck in their lives these days?

9) As a first-time author, what advice can you lend about getting published?

Maintain a clear vision, have a thick skin, and don’t quit your day job.