Interview with Hock G. Tjoa

Published 2014-03-31.
Why do you write?
Because when I am writing, it feels like there is nothing else I would rather do.
Have you always been a writer or why did you start?
Writing is actually my "third act." I was a college professor, then a banker/finance manager and now a writer. When I retired, I thought I should study calculus to keep from going crazy but that was an insane idea. Then I thought of studying Mandarin (I am Chinese); soon I got bored with the text books and started translating "real stuff." One of the items was a famous book called The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, said to be the best introduction to traditional Chinese culture. From that study, four years later, came The Battle of Chibi, my first book.
Who are your favorite writers and why?
I have read Tolkien and J.K. Rowling over and over because they have created new worlds and write flawlessly. I also like Salman Rushdie, Larry McMurtry and a host of others I continue to discover. I am fascinated by the stories and how they are told, unusual stories told with a difference.
How do you approach cover design?
The covers for my first two books came courtesy of Createspace and its templates; I published in paperback then. When I change to publishing in ebook format, I made adjustments, easy with software today. With my third and fourth books I got more ambitious (and lazier) and turned to professional help, both with proof-reading and the covers.
What do you read for pleasure?
These days, almost everything I read is for pleasure. I have pretty much given up on the news and politics. I do like to challenge myself and so have read stories about young adults, even young teens, or the paranormal and some things which one would not associate with pleasure so much as with learning about how and what to write. Learning itself makes that a pleasure.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I like my laptop because it has versions of the reading apps that allow for the greatest control, but I am learning how to use similar apps on a 7-inch tablet that I have just acquired. Originally, the idea was to be able to read lying down, but I find that that makes me sleepy.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
None that has brought fame and fortune so far, but I expect to keep learning and trying.
Describe your writing process.
For The Chinese Spymaster which is the novel that was entirely made up, that is, it was not a translation and/or an adaptation of some other work, I started with an idea or two that I wanted to make work. Then I created some characters and they led me to situations, actions and other characters. I often wrote notes of what I thought some scenes would play out but felt that if I kept in mind the integrity of each character the scenes would often develop differently. By contrast, in writing The Battle of Chibi, I felt obliged to follow the text quite closely; I did make radical decisions about which chapters or parts of chapters of The Romance of the Three Kingdoms I would keep.
Who were the greatest influences on your writing?
More than the writers I mentioned earlier, I think of my high school senior year English teacher and my college English teacher. They were both very dedicated and required a five hundred word essay a week which they would have graded before the next one was due. My high school teacher even required that the essay be written during class! But he was less strict about the number of words.
What's the story behind your latest book?
I have heard a great deal about Judge Dee; his fans are as devoted and loyal as those of Agatha Christie or Nero Wolfe or Carl Hiaasen. So I thought I would see if I could turn his stories (written by Robert van Gulik) into a play. (I also have an interest in community theater.)
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Books by This Author

The Ninja and the Diplomat
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 69,160. Language: English. Published: September 5, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Spies & espionage, Fiction » Mashups
(4.00 from 1 review)
***COMRADE BRODSKY REPORTS THAT THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC WILL ATTACK ASEAN*** The Chinese intelligence agency received this message from a trusted asset. He had just completed the sale of MANPADs, manually portable anti-aircraft devices, in Macau. His customer was Carlos a.k.a. Hashim. Why buy arms for the rebels in the Philippines? What else lurks unseen?
Agamemnon Must Die
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 40,970. Language: English. Published: November 1, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Adventure » Action, Fiction » Classics
(4.50 from 2 reviews)
To sail against Troy, Agamemnon sacrificed his virgin daughter Iphigenia. Ten years later, he returns victorious, hoping that Queen Clytemnestra has forgiven him. He is so wrong.
The Ingenious Judge Dee
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 20,350. Language: English. Published: November 13, 2013. Categories: Plays » Asian / Japanese, Fiction » Mystery & detective » General
(4.00 from 2 reviews)
A double homicide, a "reluctant" corpse, a bride poisoned on her wedding night--all taking place in a small county, one of fifteen hundred in Tang dynasty China, and all demanding investigation and judicial response within a month!
The Chinese Spymaster
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 56,880. Language: English. Published: September 29, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Spies & espionage, Fiction » Cultural & ethnic themes » Cultural interest, general
(4.17 from 6 reviews)
Chinese Intelligence uncovers a North Korean trying to sell a nuclear device. Then they find five other dealers trying to do the same for--the Pashtuns. Is this a "Pashtun Spring"? A realignment of geopolitical power in Central Asia? The Spymaster must also confront a vendetta within the Party and he determination of of his Old Friends and their wives to make him a match.
The Battle of Chibi
Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 100,120. Language: English. Published: August 11, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Historical » Ancient
(4.14 from 7 reviews)
This book retells selections (translated by the author) from the great classic, the "Romance of the Three Kingdoms." This novel combines fascinating characters in action as well as classic ideas in conflict, battle scenes, deception and earnest debate; there is even a marriage arranged to entrap the Loyalist leader.
Heaven is High and the Emperor Far Away, a Play
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 20,470. Language: English. Published: November 11, 2011. Categories: Screenplays » Period piece, Plays » Asian / Japanese
(4.00 from 3 reviews)
This is the story of Shopkeeper Wang and the friends, the regulars, and the transients who visit the Yutai Teahouse, in Beijing, during the turbulent decades of the early twentieth century-- a world of those living at the bottom edge of civility and into which corruption and exploitation roughly intrude. This is a world of the poor caught up in the spin-cycle of world historical change.