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Interview With Camy Tang

Even if you’re not a sushi lover, Camy Tang’s new book, Sushi for One?, is a chick-lit promising a tasty kick of wasabi-laced romance and humor. Steeped in rich multiculturalism, Camy presents authentic characters and hilarious situations that keep you thinking and laughing. Take a look at what our very own “Loud Asian Chick” has to share about her amazing journey to publication.

Camy, your first book, Sushi for One? released this month and the “story behind the story” seems to be a true testimony to God’s timing. Tell us about that journey to publication and what it feels like now to hold the culmination of all your hard work and faith.

I’ve always loved writing, but my attitude wasn’t the greatest. I was more interested in my name on a book cover than in giving God glory. So, God asked me to lay down my writing.

At first I thought He was nuts, but once I realized He was serious about it, I fought Him long and hard over it. Eventually, I did it—laid down my writing, stopped cold turkey. Set my manuscript away (all 500+ pages of my epic fantasy novel that was going to take the world by STORM!).

I went into biology research—probably as far from fiction writing as I could go—and made up stories in my head, but never wrote anything down. Then, I got laid off from work and out of the blue, God gave me the green light to start writing again.

I completed five novels before I sold number five. The first two were VERY BAD. The next three were definitely much better. :)

Now, my debut novel, Sushi for One (manuscript #5), is releasing this month! I’m totally excited. My husband is so proud of me—holding that book in his hands affirmed to him that this really is what God wants me to do.

It ought to be—I mean, He made me set it down once already.

(This is kind of an edited version of the story. For all the gory details, I wrote a blog post about it:

The Sushi Series is an excellent example of branding. How did you come up with the idea and when did you realize you really hit on something great?

It was a word from God.

I had been considering writing Asian American characters because there were so few Asian heroines in chick lit. However, none of the publishers were looking for multicultural stories, so I wasn’t avidly pursuing it.

Then, at the ACFW conference in Denver, Colorado (2004), Brandilyn Collins prayed over me and three other friends.

We had originally gone for prayer because Cheryl Wyatt wanted prayer for her injured hip, but then Brandilyn prayed for all of us. I told her to pray for me however the Spirit led her.

The very first thing she said was to very clearly tell me to “write your heritage.”

I hadn’t told Brandilyn that I was considering writing Asian characters. I hadn’t told anyone, actually.

This was the most specific word from God that I’d received about my writing since He’d told me I could start writing again. I wasn’t about to ignore it.

So manuscript #2 (out of five) became an Asian American chick lit. Around that time, I realized that no one else had written any contemporary Christian fiction with an Asian American protagonist. I had a niche in the marketplace.

As other multicultural chick lit novels erupted in both mainstream and Christian publishing, I realized that God had given me something both unique and marketable. So, I kept writing Asian characters through three other manuscripts.

I learned all I could about branding so that I’d understand it and use it to add strength to my novel proposals. I took a few workshops, read some articles online, talked about it with a few industry professionals. Greg Williamson coined the nickname “Loud Asian Chick,” and I brainstormed with friends for my tagline, “Romance with a kick of wasabi.”

So I guess you could say that the entire branding thing was part divine inspiration and part elbow grease (both mine and my friends’).

Your blog, Camy’s Loft, plays a big part in your marketing. You also write articles for various other blogs about the craft of writing and other topics. How do you fit it all in?

It seems like a lot of work, but actually it isn’t. Well, it does help that I like to talk a lot. LOL

For my blogs, I usually devote only one day a week to writing blog posts. I will write all five Camy’s Loft posts on one afternoon each week, and save them as drafts in Blogger. As each day arrives, I post the blogs.

For my other blogs, I also try to write my posts in advance and save them as drafts.

I have the blog posting schedule in my computer calendar, and I get a nice reminder a few hours before the blog post is due. If I haven’t already written the post, I have a few hours to do so.

Blogging, for me, is all about doing what I enjoy, but doing it efficiently.

And how does your faith and spiritual life play into the picture?

There’s no way my faith could NOT play into the picture. The only reason I’m even writing is because God has led me down this path.

I think I’m fortunate in that I had a very obvious word from God to be a writer. After all, He’d told me to lay it down at one point, and He made it very clear when He wanted me to take it up again. Because of this, I have no doubts that this is what God wants me to do.

It helps that I have friends who keep me accountable and pray for me. I couldn’t walk this journey without them.

I try to spend time with God every day. That time in His Word every morning helps me orient myself for the day. I also like to think it helps me to write better every day, but that might be just positive thinking.

What do you feel is your greatest challenge as a writer?

Daily obedience to God. It’s too easy to get caught up in the wrong things—goals, opinions, feelings, expectations—because I’m doing what I love to do.

I know it’s considered a “dangerous” prayer, but I pray for humility so that I can serve Him with my writing, and not serve myself. I’ve been down that path before, and it’s not glorifying to God. I don’t want to go there again.

Who or what inspires you to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from?

Honestly, I think God gives me my story ideas. He definitely has His own opinion about what issues He wants me to write about.

Sometimes He speaks by an idea that forms in my head, other times He speaks through friends who mention things to me. Sometimes I feel like He wants me to write from my own experience, sometimes I feel like He’s asking me to write about someone else’s experience.

I also try to keep things in prayer as I’m in the formulating-my-characters-and-storyline phase, so that He has His finger in everything.

What do you think makes a story come to life?

I’ll be honest here—I think it’s 50% honed writing craft, and 50% skill. God can give the skill, but it’s up to the writer to work on perfecting his/her writing craft.

Everyone learns best in a different way—whether visually, or audibly, or tactilely. I happen to learn visually, so I read a lot of books.

However a writer learns best, he/she should work hard to learn the writing craft. If you learn visually, read books. If audibly, listen to MP3 workshops. If tactilely, utilize some form of tactile stimulation as you learn. I don’t think a writer has any excuse not to constantly be learning writing craft.

And the best part is that as their craft is refined, their writing becomes more vivid, more compelling, more alive. It’s like instant gratification, and who doesn’t like that?

Finish this question. When I think of the future in terms of writing and publication, I …

... pray I’m always in God’s will, no matter what happens.

On your dedication page, you mention “Captain Caffeine.” Who is this mysterious coffee drinker?

My husband. After I started writing again, I had to reenter the working world. I was frustrated because I wanted to write full-time again, and I felt I was getting closer to publication (although in hindsight, I was being stupid because publication isn’t something you can schedule on your calendar).

My husband let me quit my current job to write full time for six months, to see if I could get a publishing contract. Well, I heard I was going to pub board at Zondervan right as the six months were up, so he let me bite my nails in unemployment for a few months longer.

When I got contracted, I had promised him I’d get him something with my advance money as thanks for believing in me and letting me quit my job. Since he loves coffee, he chose a uni-tasking, highly expensive coffee grinder and an all-stainless-steel Italian espresso machine. I posted a picture here:

Any parting words for up-and-coming writers?

Remain in God’s will. If every aspect of your writing is under His control, then He’s responsible for each manuscript, each rejection. He’s responsible for your writing career.

On a more practical note, keep learning more about the writing craft and the writing business. Move on to another book once one manuscript is completed. If you keep working hard to make your writing both unique and compelling, eventually it’ll become both unique and compelling.

Thanks for sharing with us, Camy!

Thanks for letting me be here, Dineen!

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