Saturday, December 11, 2010

Spotlight: Novelist Alan Chin

With a new novel hitting the market now, novelist Alan Chin has been burning the candle at both ends for some time. He first established himself with the popular book Island Song, and then he followed it up with the Rainbow Award winning The Lonely War and Match Maker, associated with today's Don't Ask Don't Tell headlines. Now Butterfly's Child is being released and Alan is getting ready to increase his fan base again.

Alan is an email pal of mine. We've been corresponding for a couple years and his talent is undeniable. He also gives as much as he gets. This guy has interviewed me for the Examiner a couple of times and he always send me his latest release so that I can get a sneak peek into what he's doing.

Alan is a world traveler whose home base is in San Francisco. He and his husband spend the winter months in Southeast Asia. His reports from the East are always enjoyable. Alan has a way of sharing what he's experiencing and making you feel like you're there too. Pictures are often not necessary. His use of language just sends the senses reeling in such a way that the mental picture you get from them can create the image all by itself.

Now that Butterfly's Child is being released, I got in touch with Alan and asked him for an interview. He happily obliged. Once again it was a great experience. Chatting with Alan is always a pleasure. But when he's talking about his work it's even better. A devout Buddhist, Alan uses his life experiences as the palate from which he paints his words. The view is breathtaking.

CP: Tell me a bit about Butterfly's Child, Alan.
AC: Butterfly’s Child is the story of Cord Bridger, who was raised on a ranch in Nevada until he went to Julliard to train as a concert pianist. Fifteen years later, he goes back to the ranch for his grandmother’s funeral, only to find his grandmother had a woman lover, and he has a teenaged son he didn’t know about. (his high school sweetheart was pregnant when he left)

This is a story about family, and realizing what’s important in life -- of finding your path. And yes, there’s a little gay romance along the way, some heart breaking and some heart warming. It’s a story with many layers, but the central theme always loops back to alternative families.

CP: How does this one compliment your previous novels?
AC: It is similar to my other novels in that much of it is told from the viewpoint of a strong gay protagonist, who is thrown into a situation he is not prepared for, and has to dig deep to find the strength to deal with the issues thrown at him. In fact, this one hits rock bottom, then has to pull out a jack hammer and dig deeper.

It is different from the others in that half the story is told from the viewpoint of a seven-year-old boy who has severe emotional issues, and lives in his own little world, isolating himself from everyone except his older brother.

CP: Where did you get the inspiration for your new book?
AC: About three years ago, while there was a lot of controversy about gay couples adopting children in some southern states, I decided I needed to write something regarding gay families. I wanted to make a statement that traditional, straight parents did not necessarily provide the best environment for children, and that gay couples could provide a stable, loving atmosphere. 

CP: What sort of advance reaction have you gotten from Butterfly's Child?
AC: Only three people have read it and given me feedback. Each one said they read it in one sitting, because after a certain point, they were literally unable to put it down. Of course, these are friends of mine, but all of them are not afraid to give their unvarnished opinions.

CP: How did you get involved with Dreamspinner Press?
AC: I had issues with my previous publisher, so when it came time to publish Match Maker, I decided to shop around. I found a literary agent who spent almost two years trying to sell it to the big New York firms, without luck.  In April of 2010, we parted ways, and I sent the manuscript to Dreamspinner. They loved it, and while the ink was drying on the Match Maker contract, I sent them Butterfly’s Child.  Dreamspinner will also republish Island Song in 2011.

CP: What are you reading right now?
AC: I’m reading a book that hasn’t been published yet called The Boy Behind the Gate. It is the true account of a gay couple who sailed around the world in a 50-foot sailboat. The author is self publishing, and it should be out by the end of this year. Being an avid traveler, I’m really enjoying his read.

CP: You and your husband Herman travel a lot in winter. Where are you now?
AC: We are in Chang Mai, Thailand. We just arrived today, in fact. We spent a long weekend in Bangkok, where the entire city was party central, because it was the King’s birthday. All Thai people love their King, so they go all out this time of year. At one point, there were massive fireworks displays going on in no less than seven different areas of the city, all at the same time. Talk about Shock and Awe!

On this trip we will also spend time in Malaysia, Singapore, an Island in southern Thailand, and a few weeks in Japan on the way home.

CP: How does the practice of Buddhism influence your writing?
AC: I like to think that Buddhist teachings are at the core of all my stories. I always seem to put my protagonists in deep trouble, where they have to dig deep and examine their core. And what they find there, is what I’ve learned by studying Buddhist texts.  I don’t stand on a soap box and do any preaching. If fact, I try to hide it as much as possible, but it’s there if you look for it.

CP: Are you working on a new novel now? If so, what can you share about it?
 AC: I’ve recently completed the first draft of my latest novel, which I hope to publish in late 2011. It is the futuristic story of two twin brothers, one straight and one gay, battling a government taken over by ultra right-wing Christian fundamentalist. It makes a statement about religion and government, and was inspired by a brilliant story Victor J. Banis wrote called Angel Land.

I’ve also recently completed the first draft of a screenplay about a tribe of Native Americans in Southern California trying to buy a Las Vegas Casino. It’s my first stab at writing comedy, and boy, writing funny material is damned hard work, at least for me. My husband, Herman, claims I have no sense of humor, and I’m beginning to believe him.

CP: Where can readers find Butterfly's Child?
AC: Hopefully on the night stand beside their bed. If it’s not there beside my other books, <grin> then they can find it in paperback and all ebook formats on, or on

CP: What do you hope your audience gleans from the book?
AC: My only hope is that they enjoy a good read. If the story touches something deep within, or they find meaning that reflects on their lives, then that’s fantastic.

CP: And what advice or wisdom can you share?
AC: That’s a tough one. All I can share is, each person must live their own life, find their own path. We are surrounded by wisdom, but we must each figure out on our own how to recognize it and apply it to our lives. 

I’m sorry to say, that is my only wisdom. As I’ve grown older, I’ve apparently not grown wiser, only more selective about what I think and do.

CP: Alan, thanks for visiting with me, my friend.
AC: Carey, as always, it has been a pleasure. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying your new blog, and I’m thrilled for the opportunity to help make it a success. Best of luck to you and your readers. 



  1. nice interview, and thanks Alan for the mention - it'll be interesting to see your take on a similar theme.

  2. Carey, thank you for the interview with one of my favorite fellow authors! I read Butterfly's Child before it was published and I loved it. I completely enjoyed Island Song, too, but I think Butterfly's Child is even better. Alan and I were both competitors in the Rainbow Awards, but I truly believe than Alan deserved the win and I was thrilled that such a good book received such recognition. He's a top-notch writer and I hope he has many more books in his head.

  3. Thank you, Victor and thank you, Ruth. Your comments mean a lot to me. Alan is a great writer. I'm sure we'll have many more fantastic reads from him.