Guest: Author Alexa Kang [Free book offer]
I picked up Alexa Kang’s “Shanghai Story” for something a little different to read.
I had no idea just how different it would be.
It is the bravest piece of work that I have ever read.
Even more impressively, Alexa managed to do it frankly while keeping it a ‘clean read’.
The only book I can compare the ‘warts-and-all’ treatment of the facets of war in this book is “The Naked and the Dead”, but Alexa manages do it without falling back, (as Norman Mailer did), on sex, vulgarity and baseness.
While looking into her Rose of Anzio series and short stories,(one prequel, one sequel), I see that I am not the only one who recognizes the courage and depth of Alexa’s work, as many WWII sites and buffs in the U.S. and in England, (as the main characters are American and English), laud her work and accuracy.
I amvery much looking forward to reading her Nisei series about Japanese-Americans surrounding WWII, (the “Nisei” are second-generation), and the painful and unimaginable position in which they found themselves.
No people’s history should be lost.
When I first started to write this interview, I had only read Shanghai Story and was overwhelmed. As I looked into your other works, I have been equally impressed, but I will start with my original questions, if you don’t mind. I know that I will gush over Shanghai Story. I’d love to also gush over the Rose of Anzio short stories, (I’ll Be Home For Christmas and Christmas Eve in the City of Dreams), but that would give far too many spoilers.
(Please forgive me for talking more myself than is seemly for an interviewer. I was simply this moved by what I have read of Alexa’s work so far.)
Alexa, I hardly know where to begin, as Shanghai Story is truly rich in so many facets of the world, especially China, in the story’s time period. You have so much information and with social differences so far removed from most people from western civilizations, yet you manage to make it clear to the reader. I didn’t find it necessary to consult the simple glossary which you provided, or the ‘cast of characters’ during reading the book, but I did read through them at the start, which was most helpful. I was pleased with the clear introduction giving the honorifics and the transliteration. Please explain to our readers the difference between the ‘old’ Wade-Giles Romanization, (which most of us read growing up), and the ‘pinyin’ system you decided to use, and any other information pertaining to the introduction.
Hi Tonette, thank you so much for your compliments about my book. I’m honored to be invited for an interview on your blog.
For me, Shanghai Story was a very ambitious project. I wanted to chronicle the history of how China descended into WWII. It was very challenging to take the enormous amount of history, with the complexity of all the events that had occurred, and present them in a fiction story that could be easily comprehensible to readers.
The decision to use Pinyin came down to the reality that Pinyin is now the dominant and official system of Chinese translation. Wade-Giles would have been more historically accurate and easier for readers who don’t know Chinese. Pinyin contains some Romanized spellings which look impossible to pronounce (e.g.: “qin”). My editor and I discussed the pros and cons of each. In the end, I think that as Mainland China continues to become a more engaged and integral part of the global community, Wade-Giles will, for all practical purposes, become obsolete. I want my story to be accessible to future generations of readers who will be primarily familiar with Pinyin.
That said, I did keep the Wade-Giles translations for a few things. The main one was the Whangpoo River. This river was a landmark even back in the pre-war era. It felt wrong, like a temporal error, for the characters to refer the name of this river in Pinyin in their dialogues or their internal thoughts, especially when they are referring to or thinking of it in English.
Whether to use honorifics within the story was another decision my editor and I discussed. I didn’t see any way to exclude honorific in dialogues when all the characters speaking were Chinese. They had to be using honorifics. For example, Clark’s younger sisters would not under any circumstance have addressed him by his name. So, despite the challenge this would pose to readers, I decided to use them, with the inclusion of a reading guide for honorifics at the beginning of the book.
One thing the readers might not know is that I’m fluent in Chinese. I wrote all the dialogues between Chinese characters by first imagining them in Chinese. Then I drafted their dialogues accordingly in English, but not in the way that a translator would do it. I didn’t simply translate to convey the literal meaning of the text. I crafted the dialogues in English to simulate as closely as possible the speech of the Chinese characters, because I wanted my English readers to hear what a Chinese person would hear. At the same time, I made sure that the Chinese characters’ speech did not sound like stereotypical Chinese speech. I drafted the English equivalents so the dialogues would be how an English speaker would’ve said it, but without losing the Chinese words that were used. In this way, I included a lot of Chinese idioms on the Chinese dialogues and Clark’s internal thoughts, without the idioms sounding like something out of a fortune cookie.
Despite that I am a romantic, what also kept me reading was your bravery in your not pulling any punches. Not one group goes without you pointing out where they fail in their words and actions, or where each person falls or stumbles. There is no character who has superhuman virtues, no group above unrighteous thought or behavior, and you point out the realities of them all. No one is spared your light shining on their wrongdoings, not just Mao and the Communists, the Opium tradesmen, Hitler and the Nazis, but the Japanese, the English, the Americans, Chiang Kai-Shek, his wife, (Soong Mei-Ling), the KMT government, and nearly every other facet of Chinese government and society, along with the usually spared Jewish community.
What gave you such courage to tell it as it truly was without simply lauding the better factions, or, (as in some cases), the lesser of evils?
I do feel keenly the pressure on writers in our political climate today. With Twitter policing the public sphere, there is a lot of scrutiny on how we portray different groups of people. I’m a bit more shielded than contemporary fiction writers because historical fiction readers skew older, and are generally less embroiled in social media controversies. Historical fiction readers are also extremely demanding when it comes to historical accuracy. They don’t want anachronism. Many of my readers are of ages at which they can still remember and relate to the people and situations I write about. I myself remember very well the world of my late grandmother, who lived through WWII. I saw how she and her friends lived, and the impact the war era and the post-war world had on them. In my books, I’m presenting the world of the past as I remember it. Perhaps younger people today would find that world problematic, but the truth that I personally know and remember is undeniable and indisputable.
But you’re absolutely right that today, writing about different groups of people is a treacherous landscape to navigate. It is the reason I felt compelled to include an Afterword to explain why I wrote some characters of certain backgrounds in negative or positive lights, and why I included racial slurs in some scenes where I felt doing otherwise would be disingenuous.
While it is quite frightening for me to write this way, I don’t feel brave at all. I think the brave ones are the soldiers and resistance fighters who fought during WWII, and the victims who faced the atrocities of that war, then survived and overcame the sufferings and injustice inflicted upon them. I watch a lot of documentary footages of WWII for research. I’ve seen bombs and missiles dropping on men on battlefields, and on women and children in towns and cities. Comparing to all those people, what I did was nothing. Learning about people who lived during the war era gives me the perspective not to lose sight of how much easier our lives are today compared to those who went before us.
One thing that guides me when I construe characters is my view on human nature. I think that all the ways we categorize people are external. We group people by nationality, religion, race, ethnicity, etc. But for all our external differences, underneath, we’re all human driven by the same motivations and desires. We have the same capacity to do good and evil. I’ve traveled extensively around the world. Everywhere I went, I saw that people want the same things: health, love and acceptance, money, security, power and influence, validation and justification, superiority over others. We also have the propensity for compassion and to do good, especially for people we care about. So while we have cultural differences, our human nature is the same. From this standpoint, my approach is to present my characters as fundamentally human. This way, the characters would be relatable widely to all audiences regardless of the characters’ backgrounds.
Lastly, I have a policy of trusting my readers. I tell my readers that I trust them to interpret my stories. When we trust our readers and invite them to judge for themselves, we elevate them. In response, they feel their opinions are valued, and they make a greater effort to engage with nuances and complexities. When we don’t give them the chance to think and be the judge, all they have left is to decide whether they agree or disagree with you.
Presently, we are all under some pressure to not speak of certain things that are viewed as problematic. There is a concern that if we let problematic things be told, it could cause harm. But taking that view with fiction would mean we believe readers are not intelligent enough to be exposed to the vast area of gray between black and white, and to think for themselves. I’m not comfortable with this approach. It feels disrespectful to my readers. I start with the premise that my readers can understand and interpret my stories when exploring the complexity of our world through fiction, without me telling them how to think.
Perhaps my view is foolhardy in today’s world, but I’d like to hold on to it for as long as I can. I hope we are still able to process and interpret complexities. Even if not, I don’t feel I’m the authority to tell readers what is the correct way or incorrect way to look at the world. What I want is to present history to them as truthfully as possible, and let them decide for themselves what to make of our past. When the book is in their hands, it is their journey.
I read about Soong Mei-Ling and her sisters many years ago, and I was sure that even though much was exposed at the time, not all was told. You do no protection of Mei-Ling. I have not gotten farther into the series, but could you tell me if her sisters also show up in your story?
Madam Chiang/Soong Mei-Ling will appear again in Book Two, Shanghai Dreams, but her two sisters will not be in the later books in this series. The Soong sisters are 20th century legends. There’s a story in there to be told to the Western audience for sure. (No, I’m not making any promise to be the one to write it!)
Besides historical personages, were there any of your fictitious characters based on real people? For instance, is Greg Dawson based on Claire Chennault?
Yes! A major character, Alex Mitchell, will be introduced in Book 3, Shanghai Yesterday. He is based on Carroll Alcott, an American radio personality in Shanghai during the time period when my story took place. Mr. Alcott was a courageous man who waged a war on-air against Imperial Japan for its aggressive expansion into Asia and its military’s human rights abuses. However, Alex Mitchell is younger and much more handsome. Alex is one of my favorite characters in this story. I had so much fun writing him.
The character Greg Dawson was not based on Claire Chennault, although I did imagine Dawson to be an American pilot who worked for Chennault.
I want so to continue reading the Shanghai saga and more, but frankly, with the old servant going home to Nanking/Nanjing, I am going to do so when I personally feel stronger. How much can I risk asking you to discuss the subject of The Rape of Nanking without too many spoilers for your story?
Since my story is set in Shanghai, none of the main characters will directly witness or experience the Rape of Nanking. Also, the massacre at Nanking is very well-known. I did not feel the need to retell the gruesome details at length for readers to understand the atrocities that took place. Rather, I used the opportunity to adapt into the story a historical figure who would challenge the readers to think about who could be coined heroic in times of war.
The first character we meet in Shanghai Story is “Yuan Guo-Hui”, aka, “Clark”. He is a young man returning to a traditional/ transitional China after studying in America for six years. What inspired the character of Clark?
I had three goals in mind when I construed his character. First, I really, really wanted to write an Asian male lead. When I look at current English historical fiction novels with Asian leads, the central character is almost always a suffering Asian woman. Her travails are always a result of her being a woman in a sexist society. Her roles would be confined, and her powers would be limited. I wanted to get away from that narrative and write something different.
Secondly, I wanted to write about the political history of the war. I love writing epic dramas with larger-than-life characters. If a WWII story set in China is about a woman, the scale of her story would have to be smaller. Her challenges would have to be on a more personal scale, especially if she is the type of powerless, impoverished woman so often written about. With Clark, a young man from a prominent family in Shanghai, I could put him in the center of all the forces of influence in the city. He could interact on the same level with all the movers and shakers with the power to shape the road to the war and its outcome.
My third goal was to make him a bridge between the East and the West, not just in the story, but also as a bridge to bring Western readers unfamiliar with China into pre-war Shanghai. Clark is a man of Chinese heritage with Chinese values, but he is westernized. He is not completely foreign to new readers, and they can connect to him right away. When they begin following his journey, they don’t have to overcome a mental barrier to relate to him.
Asian men are very under-represented in American fiction. I hope Clark and my story will add something different to the WWII fiction genre.
I personally never understood how anyone could be happy in an arranged marriage. To do it for family position and security could be seen as a duty and for honor, but to willingly choose to put your body and soul into another person’s hands willingly and be happy about it is beyond me, (although it is still being done and I have had friends who want it.) Alexa, you manage to put into your story every point of arranged marriages, the pros and cons in particular societies, and the games that are played by all parties, including Shen-yi, Clark’s life-long fiancée. The theme continues in your Nisei War stories. What has been your experience with arrange marriages?
It’s crazy when we think about how recent the idea of choosing your own spouse is in most parts of the world. I would never want to be in that situation, but arranged marriages were historically how people married in many countries.
My late maternal grandparents met by arranged marriage. My grandmother was only nineteen and my grandfather was in his early thirties. She barely saw what he looked like before their wedding. It was an accepted custom back then where they came from. They only lived together for a few years after they married. He was working in Cuba before that. During their marriage, he continued to spend long periods abroad. It’s actually not considered unusual for Chinese people to live and work abroad away from their families for extended periods. The practice is quite common even today. My grandfather died abroad in his fifties. Honestly, I don’t think my grandmother minded much that he was gone for most of the time they were married.
Family/cultural/national duty and honor are recurring themes in all of your series’ families. Have you found this a common attitude around the world?
These themes are certainly important to all cultures, but I think the Chinese have traditionally placed a much higher value on family duty, and they’re more bound to cultural expectations.
National duty tends to be more relevant to people who are in positions to act and protect their country, like my character Clark. Otherwise, it’s not something most people feel obligated to beyond a concept, unless the government imposes it on them based on certain ideologies, like fascism and communism. WWII is very interesting because around the world, a generation of young men was either indoctrinated into the belief that they owed a duty to their countries (e.g. Germany and Japan), or called to duty by conscription (e.g. the Allied countries).
Are there any of your family’s experiences in this series?
No. People in my family were common folks. They never experienced the kind drama wrote about in Shanghai Stories.
The other major character in Shanghai Story is Eden Levine, a Jewish expatriate who got out of Germany with her family in a timely manner. [China had open borders and many Jews sought and found refuge there while America and some other countries were dragging their feet.] I had been surprised some time ago at the extensive Jewish community in China today, but I had not realized just how far back it reached and how it managed to survive throughout the changes in modern Chinese history.
Eden’s bravery for standing up for an injustice to a person who does not want her help and the anger and disappointment of her family and community is realistically played. How did you develop Eden’s character, and those of the different Jewish communities in China?
I wanted Eden to serve as the moral compass of the story. She’s in a world where multiple fractions of people with competing interests were pushing different agendas. It is a ruthless world where nobody is completely innocent. Even Clark has to bend the rules when he has no choice. Unlike him, she doesn’t have a greater burden to carry on behalf of his country and his family. She could be true to herself where he couldn’t. Her choices depended entirely on her own conscience. Through her character, I wanted to explore if a person could persist in doing what is right based solely on her conscience.
In each book of the trilogy, Eden is presented with a situation where she has to wrestle with her conscience to make a difficult choice. In Book One, she has to decide whether to stand up for someone who is, in every manner of speaking, her mortal enemy—a Nazi. I wanted to see how a person could go against the pressure of the community, when it would be so much easier to stand by and do nothing. I think for Eden, it’s even more than that. Since she has reasons to believe his innocence, if she does not try to help him, she would be no different than the people back in Germany who stood by while the Nazis persecuted the Jewish people. So what would she do?
The attraction between Eden and Clark is something which they deny to themselves, let alone to each other. Did this story start out with their relationship to each other or more about China and WWII as a whole?
I intended the story to be about China and WWII. The attraction between Clark and Eden, however, brings a human side to the story. Forbidden love between interracial couples is no longer taboo in most parts of the world today, thankfully. But it was a super fun for me to write that story arc.
I have to say that the way Eden and Clark are portrayed on you website are the best match I have even seen to descriptions of characters in books! How did you manage to get them so close?
Thank you!! I’m so surprised you asked. Readers don’t often realize all the work we put into packaging the story to give them a full, immersive experience. I spend a lot of time creating graphic images for my new releases. For Shanghai Story, it took me many, many hours searching for the right photos of models on image licensing sites. I then worked with my graphic artist to create images for my website and social media for the book launch. Technology today is amazing. We can do so much digitally to get everything the way we want. I’m truly lucky to be writing novels right now. So many options and possibilities are available to us that weren’t before.
I know now that I should have started with your Rose of Anzio series. My uncle was a minister and a chaplain who was decorated for his service at Anzio. He was so moved that he wrote poetry about the sadness upon seeing his men dead in the field, the snuffing out of young, promising lives. How did you decide that the battle for Anzio would be the focal point of your saga?
First, thank you to your uncle for his service. From all the diaries and journals of servicemen I’ve read, I know that his work had been invaluable to give them the spiritual and emotional support they needed. Does your family still have any of the poems he wrote? Perhaps your family might consider sharing them online with others who are interested in WWII?
Rose of Anzio was my debut series. It’s not related to Shanghai Story, and they could be read in either order. I chose Anzio as the story’s backdrop because I wanted to write about a part of WWII that historically hadn’t gotten as much attention. I’ve learned so much about the Battle of Anzio since then. Anzio was a long and brutal campaign. I’m glad I was able to contribute in a small way to keeping alive the memories of those who fought there.
Your website has photos of places in Italy that you mention in Rose of Anzio. Were you familiar with these places beforehand or did you go there to do research?
No, I wasn’t. I learned about all the places through research. After the series was released, I took a private WWII tour of Sicily and Southern Italy. I visited all the battle locations I had written about. I wanted to see those places for myself, and to give my readers real-life visual references for the story. My tour guide was wonderful. She got us passes to some places that are closed to the public. For example, we got to visit the part of the beach where the Third Division first landed. That area is now an Italian military training ground.
I was very happy to see from that trip that my descriptions on geography and places in the books were very accurate. The tour helped me see in person why the landscape of the region made the battle so treacherous for the Allied troops. Our soldiers were basically sitting ducks in a wide-open space for the Germans to shoot at them from every direction.
Your reviewers also mention how well you portray war and the medical staff without being overtly gory. How did you do your obviously extensive researches this subject and for all of your works? Does research take longer than you expected?
I don’t have any time expectation as to research when I write. It’s hard for me to know how long it would take to find the information I need. Sometimes a small but necessary detail, like what kinds of bag, or camera, or pen people used in a particular year, might take me hours to discover. Other times, I might find a video on YouTube taken of a town in the 1930s or 1940s, and it would show me everything I need to know to write a scene. Writing about the battles and medical situations required more expert opinions. For Rose of Anzio, I was able to do the basic plotting by reading primary sources. The U.S. Army and the U.S. Army Medical Department also have a trove of records available online to the public. I found a lot of specific records on military organization and administration at Anzio, and the planning for support by medical and supply units.
I also had the fortune of coming across a British military historian on an internet forum who helped me map out and set up my battle scenes. During the editing process, I had an editor who is a U.S. Army veteran review and edit all my battle scenes. For medical questions, I relied on personal friends who are doctors and veterinarians (in a scene involving a dog).
What were some things which surprised you which you found while digging into background information for any of your works?
Right now, I’m doing a lot of research into what happened to Japanese-Americans during WWII. I learned that in 1944, Roosevelt and Congress passed the Denaturalization Act to encourage them to renounce their American citizenship. I never knew this. That was horrible! These were American-born citizens. Where did the government want them to go? And how could they demand patriotism from Japanese-Americans on the one hand, then passed a law to tell them the country didn’t want them as citizens? I also learned that if a Japanese-American woman married a Japanese immigrant, she would automatically lose her American citizenship. Both of these laws call to my mind similar laws and actions the Nazi regime took toward the Jewish people. They are very disturbing and upsetting.
On a lighter note, when I was writing Shanghai Story, I was surprised to learn the rumor that Soong Mei-Ling had an affair with Republican presidential nominee Wendell Willkie. The rumor was likely true. It was said that Chiang Kai-shek had barged into Soong’s room one morning with guards to try to catch them in the act, and he looked under the bed to see if Willkie was hiding there.
I think that people from most cultures have, and still have, questions about their ‘patriotism’ and allegiances from those who feel superior by virtue of how long their people have been in America, (which can be ironically, conversely applied to Indian/Native American people). I recently met a woman whose parents of German descent met in a Texas internment camp during WWII, but the Japanese-Americans were hit the hardest. How did you decide to do a series about their stories? Did any one particular story, person or family inspire you to write of their hardships and of the choices they made, and those that were made for them?
My choice to write a series about Japanese-Americans came, again, from my goal to bring something different to the WWII historical fiction genre. For this series, I draw on the anecdotal accounts and stories of many real-life Nisei (second-generation Japanese-Americans during WWII). I’m Asian-American myself. Although I didn’t experience something as drastic as internment, I can relate to their experience and how they felt growing up with two cultural heritages. I know what it was like for them to be viewed as being not American enough, and the prejudices they faced.
I will say though that we’ve come a long way. The kind of discrimination they contended with in their lives lasted through the 1980s when I was growing up. Personally, I feel the social climate has improved over the decades. As Asian minorities, we are more visible. Generally speaking, we can enter places without feeling we don’t belong. Of course, there are a lot of ways we can still improve. I also don’t know if it’s ever possible to change the mind of every person who holds racist views. But if we want to make things better, we can’t just look at everything that’s wrong. I don’t think it’s healthy mentally to only dwell on all the things that are wrong. We need to look at the positive changes we have made, so we can learn from them and build on them. We need to see that we have made progress, so that we have a reason to believe our world can be better and there is hope.
Have you decided on how many Nisei War stories there will be? I know that you intend for these to stand alone, but will they continue with the same characters?
For now, I’m planning five books, but no guarantee!!! The books will each be about a different character, but all the main characters will be linked to each other somehow.
Although you show characters finding the ‘righteousness’ of WWII, you certainly do not glorify war in any way. Congratulations on finding a balance. Haven’t you found that most stories about war lean only one way or the other, total war glorification or complete and total non-violence, (even to no self-defense)?
I don’t know if this is generally the case in war fiction, but I think this is often true in WWII fiction, particularly in WWII movies and TV series. This is probably because we think of WWII as “the last good war”, where the Allies and the Axis can so easily be characterized as good vs. evil. Of course, the facts weren’t so simple. The Allies were never as morally superior as fictionally portrayed. Still, this is the only war that we can view through a black and white prism because it was in part a war of ideologies. It was a war to determine whether democracy, Communism, or fascism would win and dominate. It was also a war where the subject of race came to a head, not just in Germany, but also in Asia, and in Western colonies. As the narrative goes, good triumphed over evil. As fiction creators, we can take the liberty to glorify the violence of war on the Allies’ side, and condemn the brutalities on the Axis’ side.
Contrast that with other wars. Before WWII, wars were fought to extend the power of the ruling elites. They were fought over land, territories, and resources, so it’s harder to view those wars through the lens of good vs. evil, unless we’re talking about overthrowing an evil king or emperor. For fiction about these wars, we have protagonists we root for, but I’m not sure if we necessarily have to view the winning side as the righteous one.
After WWII, we had the Korean War, then Vietnam. Our views toward the Vietnam War are much more divided, and I think fiction on the Vietnam War reflects that. Post 9/11, we’ve been continuously involved with the regional wars in the Middle East. But the political situations there are so complicated, it’s impossible to clearly portray any party involved as simply good or evil. Glorification of any party or the violence involved is much harder.
On the other hand, WWII also lends itself to stories where we can completely avoid the reality of war violence. WWII elicits a level of nostalgia. The 1930s and 1940s were decades of great cultural advancement. In pop culture, we had big band music, jitterbug dancing, and glamourous Hollywood stars. The transportation of millions of soldiers around the world brought these cultural elements to the rest of the world. Next to that, the war was fought in many places where we like to romanticize: Paris, London, and the colonized towns in Africa and Southeast Asian cities. Romance was a big part of WWII. We have endless real-life stories of soldiers falling in love overseas, and girls-next-door writing letters to homesick soldiers who they married when the war ended. As fiction writers, we can create full stories just about these non-battle-related subjects. I cannot think of another war that we can romanticize this way to such a great extent. Certainly not for any of the wars that happened post-WWII. If you write war stories about Vietnam or the Middle East, the stories would be pretty grim.
You’ve probably answered this dozens of times, but please tell those reading here how you went from writing manga fan fiction to writing historical novels.
Haha! It was all serendipity. I honestly never aspired to be a writer. When I was a child in the ‘70s, I was a fan of a Japanese anime TV show and manga series called Candy Candy. It was a story set in the early 1900s. Its plot was in the tradition of Heidi and Anna of Green Gables, except the story followed the main character, Candy, into early adulthood. Candy Candy has a global fandom because the anime was broadcasted in Asia, South America, and Europe. However, it was not shown in any English-speaking countries. It was a very powerful story during its time, and it influenced a generation of girls around the world. Today, it has a cult following of women who grew up with that story.
Anyhow, the way the story ended was very unsatisfying. The main issue was that the author left it open whether or not Candy would reunite with the man she loved. Their separation was traumatized our minds and we never got over it. The lack of resolution plagued us for decades, and fans began writing fanfics to “fan-fix” the story. The first one circulated among fans by snail mail. Then the internet came along, and all the Candy Candy fans found each other online. We started creating websites and forums to share our memories, and we wrote many more fanfics to reimagine the missing parts of the story and the characters. I was one of the fans who was compelled to write a fanfic novella to bring Candy and the man she loved back together.
Several Candy Candy fanfics achieved iconic status within the fandom. Mine was one of them. I was shocked to see how well my little fanfic novella was received. It was fan-translated into Spanish, Italian, and French. Afterward, I wanted to write a love story about the children of the main cast of Candy Candy. These children didn’t exist in the cannon, but were purely my own imagination. Because Candy Candy ended in the mid-1920s, the story about the children of the cast would have to take place in the middle of WWII. At first, I didn’t know if I could go through with it. It was one thing to write a story, but to have to do deep research into WWII was a different matter.
Still, the urge to write this story was so great, I went ahead. This story ultimately became my debut series Rose of Anzio. The main characters, Tessa and Anthony, are my imagined children of the characters from Candy Candy. Rose of Anzio took me more than a year to write. Each time I finished a chapter, I would post it on the Candy Candy forum where I was a member. The fanfic readers were fantastic. They gave me so much support, comments, and feedback. When I decided to publish Rose of Anzio to a wider audience, they became my first customers because they wanted to own a copy of the story and hold the books in their hands. Rose of Anzio, in fact, is now very well-known in the Candy Candy fandom. I have thousands of requests for it to be translated into Spanish. On the Amazon Japanese store, there’s a book review in Japanese that talks about Rose of Anzio being inspired by Candy Candy.
Here’s a postscript to that venture. In April 2019, the author of Candy Candy, Keiko Nagita, attended the Livre Paris book fair to promote the release of the French translated edition of Candy Candy rewritten as an adult novel series. A group of my Candy Candy friends and I decided to go to the book fair to meet her. (I met these friends online through Candy Candy. This childhood story brought us together as lifelong friends.) My friends urged me to bring a copy of Rose of Anzio to give to Ms. Nagita. I wasn’t sure initially. Ms. Nagita is an idol to me. But I followed my friends’ suggestion. During one of the author’s meet-and-greet events at a book store, I was able to tell Ms. Nagita her story inspired me to write Rose of Anzio. I asked her if she would like a copy. She was so kind! She not only said yes, but asked me to sign it! So she now has a copy of Rose of Anzio-Moonlight.
You have a few supernatural elements in some of your stories, but not in many. I have to say that so far, one is a very touching story that will stay with me. Do you plan on adding any more of this type of spiritual element to your works in the future?
As of now, I have no plans to write a new one. I am a fan of the paranormal genre. Sometimes I think about writing a horror WWII flash fiction story as a free treat to my readers for Halloween, but I never got around to it. With the way the market is segmented today, and the application of algorithms in online retail stores, we are bounded to producing books in our chosen genre in order for the books to sell. I have a number of WWII stories I still want to get out of my head. I may consider writing in a different genre at some point. For now, it’s more a dabble now and then for fun.
Do you know where your muse will next lead you?
I do. After the Nisei War Series, I have another series in mind, plus another potential spin off from Rose of Anzio about a secondary character in that series. We shall see.
I know that I’ve handed you a lot to work on, Alexa. Is there anything else that you would like to say to our readers?
For anyone who hasn’t read my books, I hope you will give them a read. If you sign up to my newsletter, you will receive a complimentary copy of Christmas Eve in the City of Dreams, a spin-off story from the Rose of Anzio series.
Signup link: https://alexakang.com/nlsubscribe/websitesignup/
Thank you so much for your time. Please let everyone know how they can learn more about you and your writings:
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Alexa-Kang/e/B01AXTLTS4
Link to the Shanghai Story trilogy: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07JDL5N6J/