Giveaways Inspirations and Influences

Guest Author (& Giveaway): Wesley Chu on Inspirations & Influences

“Inspirations and Influences” is a series of articles in which we invite authors to write guest posts talking about their…well, Inspirations and Influences. The cool thing is that the writers are given free rein so they can go wild and write about anything they want. It can be about their new book, series or about their career as a whole.

Today’s guest is debut novelist Wesley Chu, whose novel The Lives of Tao will published by Angry Robot Books, in April 30th, 2013.

The Lives of Tao Wesley 600x400

Please give it up for Wesley!

All right, a little background first. My debut novel, The Lives of Tao, is out tomorrow April 30th. Huzzah! The story follows Roen Tan, a cowardly fat slob meandering through life. He is inhabited by an alien named Tao, who drags Roen, kicking and screaming, into a civil war over control of humanity’s evolution. Along the way, Roen gets into shape, builds confidence, finds love, and develops a stiff jab.

So what’s my inspiration?

My father is an English professor. I used to joke about it because I didn’t think he spoke a word of it until he was in his twenties. Well Wes, that explains why you’re an author now, right? Nope. The thing about parents is that they want their children to not make the same mistakes they made.

So when I graduated high school at the ripe old age of seventeen, I told English Professor Father. “Dad, I think I want to be an English major and become a writer.”
In no such uncertain terms, he said “hell no,” and “your life will suck.”

Now, these are the same parents that once said joining the gymnastics team was the gateway drug to running off with the circus so I took the advice with a grain of salt. English Professor Father was actually very diplomatic about it and said that my life would be very difficult but the general gist was major suckage would follow if I went down that path.

Now, traditional Asian parenting preached pragmatism. My options were basically computers or law. Medicine was out because we all knew my careless ass would probably kill someone. Becoming an author was as far away from being a pragmatist as I could get. Acting wasn’t even on the radar. Har har; I double whammied them by eventually going into both.

Initially, I wimped out and studied computer science. Got a good job, made decent money, and proceeded to live my twenties in soul-sucking numbness. When I hit my thirties, I wondered if this was it and if I was already a dead man walking. I began to soul search and reassess my life. So how did I come around full circle and ended up here anyway?
After watching Gattaca one night, I came to this realization; just because you’re late to the party doesn’t mean the party’s over. And just because I detoured off my childhood ambitions doesn’t mean I couldn’t get back on course.


Whoever saves any strength for the swim back is a chicken, okay?

I sat down and prioritized my life. What’s important? What’s not? What did I really want to do with my life? Where did I want to be in ten years? A few days later, I walked away from years of martial arts training, quit World of Warcraft (the first time), stopped going out with all my friends, and pushed all the silly distractions that had occupied my twenty-something mind.

I sat down at a café, and wrote a 190k piece of monstrosity called Woes, Toads, and Crossroads. Not gonna lie; it sucked. And it was probably the most important thing I ever did in my life.

I took my lumps with the book and eventually trunked it. I gave myself a month to grieve over all that work, and then planned out another book. This time though, I took everything I learned from all the mistakes I made in Woes and applied them to my next project. That project eventually became The Lives of Tao.

People often asked me why I made Roen so old. I wanted to write someone who was old enough to be set in his ways, but young enough to change. He should have already had every opportunity to come into his own, but for reasons of his own doing, hadn’t. At the end of the day, The Lives of Tao is as much a late coming-of-age story (which is very different from young coming of age) as it is about an alien civil war.

Personally, I believe Roen and I kind of made this journey together. The contexts were obviously different but I’d like to think we both detoured from what we were supposed to be earlier in life and had to find our way after we’ve made all these mistakes.

Sure he went from a fat unhappy slob to a svelte alien inhabited secret agent whose very actions can alter humanity’s destiny while I only became a guy who fulfilled a childhood dream to write. I took that unhappy soul sucking twenties guy made and changed him to who I always wanted to be. And I did it by telling his story.

In a way, it’s like The Neverending Story with guns. Without a luck dragon. Or a flying bat. I do have mist-like villains though.


Hey, what about me? I had to push a frigging lawn mower all movie.

So in keeping with the catchphrase of The Lives of Tao “There’s a Hero in Every One of Us,” I say there’s a whoever you want to be in every single one of us, no matter how old you are.

Wesley Chu was born in Taiwan and immigrated to Chicago, Illinois when he was just a pup. It was there he became a Kung Fu master and gymnast.

Wesley is an avid gamer and a contributing writer for the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland. A former stunt man and a member of SAG, he can also be seen in film and television playing roles such as “Banzai Chef” in Fred Claus and putting out Oscar worthy performances as a bank teller in Chicago Blackhawks commercials.

Besides working as an Associate Vice President at a bank, he spends his time writing and hanging out with his wife Paula Kim and their Airedale Terrier, Eva.

You can catch up with Wesley online at his blog, or on Twitter: @wes_chu.


The Lives of Tao

We have one SIGNED ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of The Lives of Tao to giveaway. Contest is open to ALL and will run until Sunday May 5 12:01AM. To enter, please use the form below. Good luck!

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  • Vanessa
    April 29, 2013 at 10:22 am

    My FAVORITE coming of age story is The Shadow of the Wind.

  • lissa
    April 29, 2013 at 10:47 am

    you make it sound so easy, not all of us could just up and change their life but it’s always reassuring to know it can still be done, however late it becomes

  • Kristina
    April 29, 2013 at 11:13 am

    I really can’t tell my favourite… I guess I need to read more.

  • Hebe
    April 29, 2013 at 11:27 am

    My favourite coming-of-age story is probably The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova.

  • superbwg
    April 29, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    So many fantastic coming of age stories everything from Anne of Green Gables to any to the Tortall stories by Tamora Pierce. Howl’s Moving Castle, with Sophie stuck as an old woman is probably one of my favorites. I have to say, not that I am not quit as young as I once was, stories about adults finding a new path is starting to inch up my favorites list more and more. It is always good to know you have options, regardless of your age.

  • Josephine
    April 29, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    Little women.

  • Lexi
    April 29, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    Wow, there are many at different ages. I loved the Tortall books when I was younger (yes, even Terrier), and also Howl’s Moving Castle. Since then, I have enjoyed some of Mercedes Lackey’s heroines, as many of hers are coming of age albeit in different ways.

  • Gerd D.
    April 29, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    I’ve always a hard time to put down what exactly makes a coming of age story, but if “Howl’s moving castle” counts as one I gladly will pick that one as fave. 🙂

    (But if “Something wicked this way comes” counts – it has to be that one!)

  • Shawn Manning
    April 29, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    Sounds really interesting.

  • Linda W
    April 29, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    My favorite coming of ages stories are SABRIEL by Garth Nix; HATTIE BIG SKY by Kirby Larson; and SAVING FRANCESCA by Melina Marchetta.

  • Lauren
    April 29, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    My new favorite is Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe — holy crap, what an epically beautiful book!

  • JoshA
    April 29, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    Star Wars!

  • Mary Anderson
    April 29, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    Isn’t almost every story about coming of age? If it’s a good story, anyway…. And at what point does a person STOP coming of age? And which age is THE age you should come to and stop? And yes, there are periods where you lie dormant (or stagnate, however you want to put it) but that sure as hell would not make a very good book!

    I don’t have a favorite coming of age story, but I think Bujold does really great character growth and development while maintaining the essential integrity of the person – who Miles is in the end is not who he was in the beginning, but he is still Miles. (or Caz, Ista, Ivan, Fawn or Cordelia or any of her multitude of memorable characters.)

  • Hnnah H
    April 29, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    I’m not sure if I have a favorite per se. I’m going to third Howl’s Moving Castle and add The Pinhoe Egg to the mix. Also, although I’ve used this series in practically every giveaway, the Young Wizards series also counts.

  • Shannon H
    April 29, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    Tamora Pierce is my jam, I love all of her stuff. I also just read The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making and that was great as well

  • E.Maree
    April 29, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    My favourite coming of age story is Harry Potter, I reckon.

    I’m really excited about reading The Lives of Tao. Wes is a sweetheart, and a hard working guy, and I hope he has many successes ahead of him. 🙂

  • E.Maree
    April 29, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    Actually, I changed my mind immediately after posting — The Perks of Being a Wallflower is my favourite coming-of-age story.

  • Katrina
    April 29, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. Sophie figures who she is and who she wants to be by being turned into a very old woman- if that’s not coming of age, I don’t know what is!

  • Brendan
    April 29, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    Less one book, but a series: the Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett.

  • scribe kira
    April 29, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    Howl’s moving Castle

  • Ms. T
    April 29, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    My favourite coming-of-age story has to be Harry Potter because, well, I came of age whilst reading the series. And there’s something to be said for that.

  • sarac
    April 29, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    I loved Jellicoe Road – such a great coming of age story.

  • erinf1
    April 29, 2013 at 9:47 pm

    Congrats to Wesley on the new release! Thanks for sharing 🙂 I’d also have to say Harry Potter. We really got to “see” him grow up!

  • Claire
    April 29, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    I just read Jo Walton’s Tooth and Claw and loved it and am willing to argue that it was a coming of age novel…..

  • Stephanie
    April 29, 2013 at 9:55 pm

    Cliched though it may be, I would have to say Harry Potter – the change! And I think I can say for my generation we grew up with the characters.

  • Mary Preston
    April 29, 2013 at 11:20 pm

    I’m positive that I have read coming-of-age stories, but not sure how to define or classify a story as just that.

  • DebraG
    April 30, 2013 at 5:13 am

    Great post, I enjoyed reading about how you changed your life. Some things are more important than others. I cannot think of a coming of age book, Hmm maybe Harry Potter. I really like those books.

  • Elizabeth Bevins
    April 30, 2013 at 8:24 am

    Your book sounds intriguing. I’d love to read it! Please enter my name for a chance to win.

  • Jamie
    April 30, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    My favorite coming of age has to be the His Dark Materials series. Lyra and Will show both male and female coming of age stories, and also show how they are very much the same. And of course it’s just pure magic.

  • Kerry Benton
    April 30, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    Well, recently I’d say The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao moved me the most, but if I’m being honest about which coming of age story hit me when I was myself at that age which most responds to them, it’d have to be Dune.

    There are probably a dozen more good ones, but those are straight from the heart / gut.

  • Lisa Schensted
    April 30, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    Can I just say that you had me hooked at “avid gamer”? Because it is TRUTH.

    I feel like so many of my favorite books have elements of coming-of-age in them. That’s the main reason why I absolutely ADORE YA. But if I have to pick my fave, which you are making me do, I’d say the current top spot is the Alanna series by Tamora Pierce.

    Thanks for the giveaway! GAH this book sounds rad!

  • Allison
    April 30, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    It would definitely have to be Harry Potter. Not only was it a coming-of age story with each of those wonderful characters, but I was also growing up with them

  • Samantha
    April 30, 2013 at 7:27 pm

    My favorite coming if age story is The Mortal Instruments!
    Thanks for the giveaway! 😀

  • Anna
    May 1, 2013 at 12:31 am

    Congrats on what sounds like a fantastic debut! I’m partial to a lot of the middle-grade coming-of-age stuff I read when I was actually coming-of-age–A Wrinkle in Time, every Tamora Pierce book, To Kill a Mockingbird (not middle-grade, but that was when I first read it). And now I can’t read those books without a fuzzy feeling!

  • Ashfa
    May 1, 2013 at 7:11 am

    My favourite coming-of-age story is Harry Potter.

  • Abbey
    May 1, 2013 at 10:08 am

    Hard to choose a favorite, but I think that Kristin Cashore’s books are all great coming of age stories. Robin McKinley has also written some wonderful coming of age stories including The Blue Sword and Dragonhaven.

  • cat falls
    May 2, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    the name of the wind!

  • SueCCCP
    May 4, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman and The Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett: rather different in tone, but both seriously great literature.

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