When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
In high school, my language arts teacher, Mr. Nigro, gave me a homework assignment to imagine how I would use a million dollars to renovate my bedroom. As a lazy teenager, I wanted a bed that I never had to get out of to do the things I wanted to do. I wrote how I would put my bed on an elevator that would descend to the places I loved: a library, a video game arcade, a food court, a movie theatre, and a swimming pool. Mr. Nigro handed my essay back and said I had a great imagination, and I should consider writing as a career. That’s the first time that I thought being an author could be my dream.
Who were the authors that influenced you as a youth, and in what ways?
I loved reading the Hardy Boys detective novels in elementary school. Part of the reason was that I had no siblings until I was a teenager and I was always curious about what it would be like to have a brother. The other reason was that I liked mysteries. In fact, I worried that I’d have to return the books before I could finish reading them, so I always read the last chapter first so that I knew how the mystery was solved. I think that helped me think about the mechanics and structure of stories. Today, I’m all about plot and structure when I work on my manuscripts.
How did it feel when you got to hold your very first advanced copy of your book?
My first book was The Mystery of the Frozen Brains. I was so proud of the book that I visited probably about five or six bookstores in Edmonton to look for the book on the shelves. If I found it, I would ‘face’ the book so that people could see the cover. I swear the bookstore employees must have thought I was a literary shoplifter because I was always lurking in the same section.
What was the inspiration behind your book(s)?
My latest book, Kung Fu Master, was inspired by my childhood experiences dealing with racial stereotypes. As a Chinese kid, I was often pegged as the guy who was good at math and kung fu. For the record, I’m terrible at both, but I pretended to be a martial arts expert when the tougher guys at school asked if I knew kung fu. That got me in a bit of hot water as I had to show off my kung fu moves, which I copied off Chinese kung fu movies that I had seen.
What was your publishing journey like?
I lucked out with my first book. A colleague informed me that his publisher was starting to publish young adult novels and suggested that if I had anything to show them, he would put in a good word for me. I happened to have a first draft of The Mystery of the Frozen Brains completed, and I sent it in. The publisher liked the premise of the manuscript enough to give me a contract. But before you hate me for having this easy ride, I should point out that I started as a playwright and I have a stack of rejection letters and emotional scars to prove that nothing ever comes easy for a writer.
What advice do you have for aspiring young novelists?
If you’re starting out, don’t fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others. You can’t control why a publisher picks one manuscript over another. The only thing you can control is your story. Make it the best it can be. And if you have negative thoughts about writers, editors, or publishers, remember that the community is small and bridges are extremely flammable. Don’t burn them before you even have a chance to cross them.
If you could have any superpower, which would you choose?
My superpower would be the ability to read people’s minds, so that I could find out what they really thought of my books. On second thought, let me revise that. My superpower would be the ability to read the minds of the people who like my books and ignore the haters.
Where is your favorite travel destination?
New York is my favourite place to visit. I’m a sucker for Broadway theatre and New York pizza.
When you’re not writing, what are your favorite hobbies?
I love listening to podcasts. My favourite are Reply All, Under the Influence, WTF, and The Soundtrack Show.
Where can people find you online?
People can visit my website (martychan.com) or check out my tweets (@marty_chan) and Facebook posts (https://www.facebook.com/MartyChanAuthor/).