Today, I’m doing something a little different; an interview with T.E. Waters, popular Wattpad author of The Ghost Tiger’s Lament. Don’t forget to check out this writer’s beautiful print editions!
1. What is your favorite part of the writing journey?
As someone who likes to construct stories around certain key scenes instead of necessarily writing in chronological order, I think the most magical part of writing is definitely when all the pieces I’ve been setting up suddenly click into place and settle into one coherent whole. Sometimes in really unexpected ways.
I’m sure something in my subconscious is working all this stuff out while I’m not paying attention, but it still gives me a little thrill every time things just pull together or reveal themselves to me in ways I didn’t even actively consider.
2. Do you have a favorite story that you’ve worked on?
I don’t think so, although the Ghost Tiger universe is definitely near and dear to my heart. Every story I write means something to me, and each one teaches me something a little different.
3. Have you ever created a character similar to someone you know?
No, not actively. I think most of my characters are Frankensteins with pieces of me cobbled together with pieces of external influences, both fictional and not.
What I do instead is I “collect” behavior and quirks that I find interesting (or annoying) and store them in a mental bank, but I never really know when something’s going to come into use…
4. Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what kind?
Music often inspires me or helps me set a mood, but often I find it distracting when I actually sit down to write. So I think it depends on the kind of scene I’m writing, how I’m currently feeling at the time, and what kind of music it is (I listen to a really eclectic mix of stuff: classical, jazz, rock, video game music, soundtracks in general, world music…).
I think when a story or scene is heavily influenced by a specific piece of music, I tend to listen to it obsessively on repeat, which I bet would drive other people crazy, haha. I also listen to music when it has a heavy influence on the setting/worldbuilding, the way some people look at photos or maps to ground them in a location.
Otherwise, when I feel a need to really concentrate, I usually stop the music and just let the words flow.
5. What inspired your book The Ghost Tiger’s Lament?
The Ghost Tiger’s Lament is actually thinly disguised historical fiction, although I obviously took major liberties with the way the world works. Chinese history is really vast, but I think people only tend to be more familiar with very specific time periods — usually the ones that lend themselves to lush visuals and therefore get filmed more often, or the ones that have influenced a gazillion video game adaptations. My personal interests, though, lie mainly with the not as sexy pre-imperial history (roughly Shang Dynasty to Warring States), before there was any real concept of a single unified China, and before a great deal of what is now commonly understood as “Chinese culture” had really been codified… but that gets into seriously nerdy territory.
There were several things that inspired the universe of Ghost Tiger, which revolves in large part around the historical Wu-Yue conflict, which I won’t go into. But most specifically:
1. Tiger Hill in Suzhou, which is a site heavily associated with swords (supposedly thousands of them were buried under a pool there for reasons we can only speculate on). Also, there’s a story about a white tiger who appeared as a tomb guardian there after the death of a certain king, and I really love that image.
2. The “Yue Maiden”, a figure I first encountered in a short story by the famous wuxia (martial arts) writer Jin Yong/Louis Cha. I was quite surprised to learn that she wasn’t a completely fictional character, but had actually been mentioned in at least one historical text. Given the context of the original reference (as part of a collection of pseudo-historical anecdotes), there’s still no evidence she actually existed, but just the fact that there was such an early, unambiguous record of a female warrior made me smile.
3. The mythological “Four Symbols”: I’ve always been fascinated by these figures, one for each season and cardinal direction. The White Tiger of the West, representing autumn; the Azure Dragon of the East, representing spring; the Vermilion Bird of the South, representing summer; and the Black Tortoise/Warrior of the North, representing winter. Especially interesting to me is that despite how ubiquitous the imagery is nowadays in East Asian pop culture, these symbols are among the ones that actually hadn’t been entirely codified yet in the Ghost Tiger time period. There’s an alternate system, for example, that actually featured a bird (north), a snake (south), a bear (center), and the sun and moon (east and west respectively).