Why set Blossom’s story in San Francisco during the 1906 earthquake and firestorm?
Disasters bring out the best and the worst in people. Having lived in Southern California since the 1970s (I’m a teenage transplant from Detroit), earthquakes have fascinated me. The Midwest gets tornados and blizzards with some amount of advanced warning. With earthquakes, it’s a random trick of Mother Nature. She literally pulls the rug out from under us when we least expect it. That’s the price for living in paradise!
One of the triggers for writing the Blossom Trilogy came after watching the film Titanic for the umpteenth time. I read a quote from director James Cameron in which he talked about telling the epic disaster story though the eyes of engaging characters. And, he pointed out how everyone knows how the disaster ends, but they don’t know what happens to his characters—who lives, who dies.
So, I looked in my own backyard, so to speak, to find a disaster to set a love story against. And that was the 1906 catastrophe in the Bay Area.
How did you learn about Chinatown and the Chinese culture?
I worked in downtown Los Angeles right out of college. I was part of a great team (Peggy, Karin and Amy, that’s you) with a wonderful manager named Julie Edwards. We’d celebrate life’s milestones by exploring the city on extended lunch hours on “creative field trips.” More than one trip included LA’s Chinatown. I’m not exactly sure why, but Chinatown always intrigued me—the food, the architecture, the color, the souvenir shopping.
After I was well into the first draft of Blossom, my family spent a few days in San Francisco, and we made a point to wander the streets and alleys of that city’s Chinatown. We literally walked in my characters’ footsteps.
Once Blossom’s story was fairly well set, my wife booked a once-in-a-lifetime trip to China. We were immersed in the Chinese culture, and we did every possible touristy thing we could cram into ten days.
Is everything historically accurate in your book?
Being a storyteller is a lot like being a travel agent, or perhaps it’s more like being an airline pilot. It’s my pleasure—truly, it’s my pleasure—to help readers escape whatever is going on in their worlds and live vicariously with my characters.
For the most part, the details are accurate and precise, though some have been manipulated like sticky candy on a salt-water taffy machine to help enrich the story and the characters who inhabit it.
Is Blossom a Cinderella story?
Though Blossom was not written with Cinderella in mind, there are a number of Cinderella-like elements in it. Consider the following:
- Blossom Sun is a generous, hard-working, thoughtful girl in a lower-economic situation who longs for something more in life
- Brock St. Clair is living a charmed life above Chinatown on Nob Hill in what many would have considered a castle of a house
- Monique LaFontaine is a prostitute with a heart of gold who helps Blossom transform herself
Sounds a lot like Cinderella, Prince Charming and the Fairy Godmother, doesn’t it? Whether it does or not, Cinderella makes an appearance in Blossom—the Chinese version of Cinderella, that is. Her name is Yen-Shen.
As for the iconic ballroom scene, you’ll have to wait until Blaze, the second book in the Blossom Trilogy, to experience Blossom’s romantic waltz.
How would you describe your writing style?
I write so that readers can have an active and sensory experience. I’m inspired by the pace and brief-chapter construction of Dan Brown’s novels. I do my best to always have my characters in touch with their feelings, thoughts and surroundings so readers can see, hear, smell and even taste the story. Most of all, I like to read books that feel more like watching a film. That’s what I strive for when I write.
Why a trilogy?
Blossom started out as a self-contained book. Once I had a diverse group of beta readers provide feedback, I kept getting asked, “But what happens next?” People wanted to know more about the main characters after the disaster. So, I outlined the second and third books and then went back to plant the seeds for those stories back into the first book. You won’t believe what’s in store for them!
Who’s your favorite character and why?
That’s an unfair question. It’s like asking a parent to pick a favorite child. I love all of my characters equally. But if I have to make some sort of choice, I would select the one who intrigues me the most: Austin St. Clair. He’s a bad boy man-child. He’s a conniver and a survivor. He’s frustrated and frustrating.
Do you believe in the predictive power of fortune cookies?
I’m not so certain that a strip of paper that’s packaged in a delicious cookie can tell my future. But I got one several years ago that I framed and keep on my desk. It says, “You have a charming way with words and should write a book.” I’ll leave the truth of that sentiment up to my readers!
I’m currently working on the second and third books in the Blossom Trilogy: Blaze and Bliss. I’m also plotting several Christmas romances and an American version of Downton Abbey. And for Marilyn Monroe fans, I’ve got a whopper of a Cinderella-type romance that will knock your socks off.