Some thing you won't see often are Asian lead characters in Christian themed books. Well, all that is changing with "Sushi for One" the first book of four in a series written by the talented and fabulous Camy Tang. Of interest to Back in Skinny Jeans readers in Sushi for One, is the body image issues that women in the Asian cultures experience.
I admit some bias here because Camy is also a good friend of mine. What I admire most about Camy is that she took the leap of faith and left a good paying yet heart un-fulfilling job in Biotech to go after her dream, a career in writing. Let's learn more:
BISJ: So Camy, thank you for taking the time to chat with us today. Can you start be telling us the inspiration behind Sushi for One?
Camy: Over the years, most of my Asian American friends have told me stories about mothers/aunties/grandmas who nag them about getting married. Some of these naggers are kind of scary. Luckily, my own parents and grandmas are not so bad, but I wondered what if I created a character who was a conglomeration of all these naggers? Then I came up with the characters of the four Japanese and half-Chinese cousins in the story, and the plot just rolled from there.
BISJ: Throughout the book, there are quite a few references about body image in terms of enhancing one's looks in order to "nab a man." For example, grandma says she'll pay for a boob job because Lex is too flat. When Lex is at a restaurant and says she isn't hungry, a male character points out that less calories means she can lose weight. As well, there's a cousin who's a size 0 with long curly lashes who can apparently eat what she wants, and her "look" is highly valued. I found myself nodding my head every time I read one of these cases because in the Filipino culture, being beauty queen pretty is highly treasured, and when I was younger I always felt a great deal of pressure to be thin so that I could get attention from all that aunties and uncles.
Do you think that women in Asian culture compared to American women experience more, less or equal pressure to be thin and pretty and fit a standard of beauty?
Camy: I think Asian women experience the same pressure, but there's also the fact that most Asian women are small and petite. It's rather hard being non-skinny in the Asian culture because there are just so many women who ARE stick thin. My family would sometimes compare me to my cousins, who are size zeros. Most of my Asian girlfriends in high school were slender, while I was a hefty size twelve. Even a size eight would have made me happy.
I also have Lex's problem of a small rack, so when compared to my Caucasian friends, I felt undersized in a bad way. In Sushi for One, Lex comes to terms with her body in her own way. She can only control so much, and the rest is just up to God.
BISJ: Switching from the book to your own life, one of the things that I highly admire you for is taking the leap of faith in leaving your "safe job" in biotech and pursuing your dream of becoming an author of books. You didn't have years of savings in the bank when you did this which most people wait for and end up never doing because of fear. You had faith and stayed comitted even when things were looking scary and looking like the author dream might not happen. What kept you going?
Camy: To be honest, when I quit my job, I gave myself a six month time limit. I had been writing for years, but when I finally quit, I said I'd try writing full-time for six months and if I didn't get a contract, then I'd go back to work.
It helped having that time frame. My husband was happier because he knew he wouldn't be the sole breadwinner for an indefinite amount of time, and I had a goal to work toward. I knew if God didn't open doors for my manuscript in that time frame, then I'd just go back to work and keep plugging away until He did open some doors. Luckily, the door to my publisher swung wide open right at the six month mark.
I guess what I'm saying is, yes it was scary but I also tried to be pragmatic. I wasn't leaping into writing full-time without a plan and a time frame, and I had the full support of my spouse.
BISJ: What's one piece of advice you'd give to people who are thinking about making the same kind of life change in switching careers from dead-end job to dream job?
Camy: Do your homework. I had been writing for years and understood the publishing industry, writing craft, and the Christian novel market. I had already formed some connections with editors, I had an agent. I didn't go into it totally unprepared. There are actually too many writers who go into writing with nothing more than a dream of writing--no understanding of the industry, the craft, the time involved.
Whatever new job endeavor you want to go into, do extensive homework before taking the plunge. Don't go into it all starry-eyed and hopeful, you'll just get slammed.
BISJ: Lastly, Sushi for One is the first in a series. Can you share any other details about the following books and the on going story of Lex and her family?
Camy: The second book is Only Uni, which is Trish's story, and it comes out in February 2008. Here's the blurb:
Will Trish Sakai be able to follow her three simple rules and hold out against two gorgeous guys?
Trish Sakai is ready for a change from her wild, flirtatious behavior. And her three cousins are anxious for her to change, too. Trish is always knocking something over, knocking herself out, and taking hard knocks in her perpetual confusion about men.
When Trish's ex-boyfriend, Kazuo the artist, keeps popping up at all the wrong moments, Trish decides to be firm with herself. She creates three simple rules from First and Second Corinthians and plans to follow them to the letter. No more looking at men! No more dating non-Christians! She will persevere in hardship by relying on God.
Except now Kazuo is claiming Trish is his muse, and he can't complete his major work of art without her. And a gorgeous coworker is reassigned, bringing him in daily contact with Trish. But her cousins are determined to hold her accountable to her plan. She thought three rules would be a cinch, but suddenly Trish's simple rules don't seem so simple after all.
The third book, Single Sashimi, comes out in the fall of 2008 and that's Venus's story. I'm working on that right now.
BISJ: Thanks so much for your time Camy! We really appreciate your story Sushi for One "romance with a kick of wasabi!"
Camy: Thanks so much for letting me be here! I also want to mention that I'm
running a huge website contest, giving away baskets of Christian
fiction and an iPod Nano! Only my newsletter YahooGroup members are
eligible to enter, so join today.
Thanks a bunch, Steph!