As promised, Wild Women Authors is pleased to welcome back author Lyndi Alexander for round two. She brings Li Zhong, from WINDMILLS, a young adult novel, due for release from Zumaya Publications this summer. Welcome Lyndi and Li Zhong.
Where are you from, Zhong? A small province in China, but I have lived in Hong Kong since my retirement, teaching martial arts to young people.
Tell us a bit about this story, please. WINDMILLS is set after a terrorist bioweapons attack has killed off a great majority of the world’s Caucasians, particularly in America. One of my young students is charged with a great mission, to bring Chinese healing herbs to her father who has defected to America. I volunteer to help her get them there safely. We encounter many people on the way, some who will help us, and others who wish to see us dead.
What made you choose working for the Ministry of State as a spy as a career? I had the training and skills that allowed me to do the work of an assassin and agent, and I was good at it. I felt like I participated in the creation of history of our times. I had a wife, and I was able to well provide for her with the income I received. It was enough.
Knowing what you know now, if you had it to do over again, would you stick with that career or do something different? I’d probably do it again. I was never cut out to be a farmer or a streetsweeper. What I did was important, and made great changes in the world. But whether it was right, or whether it was wrong, was not a choice that I was allowed to make at that time.
What is your biggest fear? That I will not be able to expiate my sins before I die.
Who is your favorite fictional character and why? I once read the story of Richard III by the English writer Shakespeare. I found his approach to life fascinating, even though it brought him to his death.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received? That I should quiet the voices of the souls who haunt me, as I could not change their fates. My wife, Meilin, told me that. Even if she disapproved of my work, she supported what I did.
It's Lyndi's turn on the hot seat: Which writer, from either books or movies, has had a major impact on your writing? I’ve always enjoyed Stephen King, particularly the early books, and how he can take the most ordinary people and circumstances and slowly reveal how scary/horrible/mysterious they can be.
With regard to research, where did you start for this novel? Did that lead you down different paths, thereby changing the original concept? I had actually started this novel at a point about two-thirds into this story, but my editor asked me to begin the story several months earlier. This gave me the chance to research the fascinating city of Hong Kong and figure out how someone could cross an ocean after an apocalypse has occurred. It really helped bring the characters to life and gave me perspective on why they act the way they do.
This has been a unique turn for our usual guests—and we're so glad it has been this way. Let's see a blurb from WINDMILLS:
Terrorists launch a plague in the United States that spreads to kill most of the world’s Caucasian population. As the deadly bioweapon mutates, Tzu Lin Kwan’s father, a renowned medical doctor and biologist, defects from China to help develop a cure. His only daughter, Lin Kwan, is left behind in Hong Kong with her aunt.
Then Kwan’s father summons her from across the sea to bring him Chinese medicinal herbs. Lonely and missing her parents, she accepts the challenge, traveling with her sensei Li Zhong to the New World.
But a Chinese spy is on her trail, determined to kill her and Li Zhong, and when Kwan discovers her father has disappeared, she sets out on a journey to find him and deliver her precious cargo, a quest that she may not survive.
Lyndi also brought an excerpt with her:
She swallowed her objection. Zhong was probably right. He would believe he was, anyway, and the chance of him changing his mind was as likely as that of the Paramount Leader deciding to set Hong Kong free again.
“If we can find a freighter going east, we should be able to secure passage. But it will not be inexpensive.”
Ehuang paled; her mouth opened as if she were about to speak but suddenly clamped shut. She left the table. Kwan heard her in the kitchen taking out plates.
She must be about to serve dessert. Food always solves problems for her. I wish I could find it so easy.
She took a swift mental inventory of what she owned. Other than the standard electronics a young person her age used—game unit, cellular phone (now primarily useless), and a couple of computers for when the power and her aunt allowed, she didn’t have much. A small amount of savings, perhaps a couple thousand silver yuan—less than $300 in American money.
She had a few family heirlooms, things her parents hadn’t felt safe carrying with them across the ocean: an abalone-and-pearl hair comb of her mother’s; and her father’s treasures of some old military medals, a handful of Japanese military yen he’d kept from an earlier war, and three gold yuan that predated Communist rule of the People’s Republic. He’d told Kwan once that he kept them in anticipation of the day their people would be free again. Even to a collector, these personal possessions would hardly bring much in the way of cash. She could think of no way they could possibly raise the money they’d need to make the trip.
Doomed from the start.
Shuai peered shyly around the corner from the bedroom. Even though she wasn’t included in this conversation, she could scarcely avoid overhearing them.
“I can sell my hair,” she whispered.
The thought struck horror into Kwan’s heart. Women of her family had always been encouraged to grow long hair, feeling that even if they didn’t have a lot of money, at least they would have beautiful personal assets.
“No, Shuai,” she said quickly.
The little girl stared at her.
“We both could. They could make several wigs for the fancy women. They can afford to pay.”
Kwan’s breath caught in her throat, or was that rising nausea? Her long, thick hair had defined her for years and hadn’t been significantly cut since she was five years old. Boys complimented her on it. Other girls coveted it. She had no parents, no money, old hand-me-down clothing, nothing worthwhile, but others had envied her hair. It was her one vanity.
Ehaung stood in the doorway, plate trembling in the hands she held clenched on its edges.
Tears came to Kwan’s eyes. She studied Shuai’s hair, lying free and loose on her back. Maybe twenty-four inches. She knew hers was the same. Their hair was tended and well-cared for.
“We could make a thousand yuan, maybe more. But, no, Shuai. I couldn’t ask you to do that.”
“I want to,” the little girl insisted. Her bottom lip stuck out as her eyes glittered with determination. “It will grow back. If my hair can see you safely to the care of my uncle, then why should I not give it?”
Kwan’s throat was full, and she could not speak. Her cousin’s generosity, the support of the entire remainder of her family, amazed and pleased her.
“Mine, too,” Ehuang said, her voice a soft murmur. She set the almond cookies on the table and returned to the kitchen for the teapot.
The scent of the baking cookies had filled the apartment all afternoon; Kwan’s mouth had watered, waiting for them to be served. Now, their festive promise had changed to the taste of dust in her mouth.
Kwan turned to look at Zhong, who sat nodding with approval.
“All great causes require sacrifice, Kwan.”
The pain of anticipating her new shorn look sat on her shoulder for a moment then faded. This was only a means to an end. A small price to pay for seeing her parents again.
And as Shuai said, it would grow back.
Zhong cleared his throat.
“I would do the same, but…” He gestured at his close-cropped head with a wry grin. “Besides, perhaps it will be easier to pass you off as a boy when we sail on the Fang Ming next week.”
Wow. We can't top that, so won't even try! Tell us a bit about your publisher. How did you hear about them? What influenced your decision to submit to them? My publisher is Zumaya Publications, and I actually met my editor Liz Burton at an online writing convention pitch session back in 2010, when I sold her my women’s fiction book SECOND CHANCES (written as Alana Lorens). In 2012, I had a casual conversation with her about this YA post-apocalyptic story I’d wanted to find a home for, and she asked to read it. A week later she not only bought it, she asked me to turn it into a trilogy! So I had to go back and create the story I’d only hinted at in backstory, how Kwan came to leave Hong Kong with her sensei to find her father, and then this first book came together for release this summer. DESTINATIONS, book 2, will be out in 2014, and the third book will be released in 2015.
Lyndi's story speaks to the philosophy of thinking outside the box and stretching your limits. Congratulations, Lyndi! We hope you'll come back and visit us again.
To learn more about Lyndi Alexander and the stories she creates go to: http://lyndialexander.wordpress.com or https://www.facebook.com/lyndialexander13
To purchase WINDMILLS, go to Amazon.com and other online purchase points