Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Interview with Philip Chen

Continuing my interviewing series, I would like to welcome Philip Chen to the blog.  Hi Philip!

Briefly describe your journey in writing your first book.
In 1990, I had a series of disturbing nightmares about gangs of what looked like ordinary Americans wreaking apocalyptic havoc on our country's institutions and people.  About the same time (1990-1991), I was traveling to Europe on business on a regular basis and carried one of the first lightweight laptops, a Compaq Aero.  On the long red-eye flights, I started typing out a story about mysterious objects and gangs of spies who had been in deep cover in America for decades in plain view.  These spies used false birth certificates based on dead baby names, married innocent Americans, worked at normal jobs, and raised children.

Within one and one-half months, I had completed a 560 page book by augmenting my red-eye drafting sessions with weekends.  It was as if someone were sitting by my side telling me what to write.  I know it sounds freaky, but my characters spoke to me and I typed their stories for them.

In 1993, I copyrighted the manuscript and sent a copy to the Library of Congress establishing a time point.  In June 2009, I started posting excerpts on including excerpts about these deep undercover spies.  If anyone cares to, they can check out my excerpts at

Did you query agents or traditional publishers before publishing on Amazon?
My standard response to this is: "I have suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous rejection by righteous literary agents and publishers for far too long."  I continually heard back that my book was "not strong enough" which I took to mean that the agents and publishers thought my story was preposterous.  After all, spies living in plain view for decades?  Something like that just couldn't happen in America; not here!  Not until June 2010, of course, when ten Russian spies were caught doing just that.  My book even has a beautiful spy who posed as a financial consultant; way too freaky to have been true.

What factors influenced your decision to self-publish?
The discovery of a Russian spy ring doing exactly what I wrote about twenty-years ago was the moment that I decided to self-publish; just in case other elements of my novel, Falling Star, were to suddenly burst forth on prime time news.  In fact, the United Nations recently created an Office of Outer Space Affairs, ostensibly to deal with comets crashing into our planet.  Read my novel if you want to know the real reason; just keep in mind these words were first written in 1990-1991.

Will you try to garner a traditional publishing contract for any future books?
If any traditional publisher wants to speak with me, I would be pleased to talk to them for this or any future works.  I am currently back to work on the sequel to Falling Star.  I also have a novel about growing up in America in the 1950s-1960s, but it needs a lot of work before I would be satisfied with releasing it.

Did you design your cover art?  If not, would you care to share your graphic designer’s information?
I tried to do a cover for Falling Star, but was concerned about the use of copyrighted images etc.  I used a photograph that my wife had taken of me in my original cover design.  However, I regularly post on a community message board in my hometown where my book cover was roundly booed by everyone.  In an instant, the board's global moderator chimed in with a design that I knew was the right cover.  His name is David Ross and his day job is as a corporate branding designer at

If you used a graphic designer, how involved were you during the creative process for your cover?
Other than to put an amateurish cover on Maplewood On-Line; very little.  It was all David's work and creativity.

How did you feel when you got your first sale?  Are you pleased with sales so far?
I was excited when I got my first sale on Amazon.  The book has been out for two months now and has had 74 sales, which I am told is not bad for a first time author.  I realize that it will take time, but I need to get the word out about Falling Star to bring in significant sales.

What kinds of social media [twitter, facebook, webpage, blog, writing forums] are you involved with trying to garner attention for your book(s)?
I have a website for my novel, a blog on Goodreads, a page on Facebook, a YouTube book trailer, and I participate on the Kindle Boards.  I have not established a Twitter account for Falling Star.  The problem with Twitter and, to a lesser extent, Facebook is that very few people are actually listening; they are too busy tweeting.  As I write this I am listening to Dangling Conversation by Simon & Garfunkel: the anthem of our age.

My sites are:

If anyone is interested, I posted my thoughts on "Originalism and the Constitution" on my Goodreads blog.  People might enjoy my particular take on how Originalism might actually work.