Monday, March 28, 2011

Blog Tour + Cafe Chit Chat: Bitter Melon By: Cara Chow

Bitter Melon is a novel by Cara Chow that tells the story of Frances a girl of Chinese decent whose one goal in life is to get into UC Berkley (Well, actually it's her mother's goal for her.) Everything was going the way it should until a scheduling mixup that caused her to be put into speech instead of AP Calculus. At first, Frances thinks her life is going to end if she doesn't change her class, but she soon finds out that Speech gives her a chance to speak out in a way she never thought possible, in the classroom, in her home, in her life.
I have reviewed Bitter Melon HERE, and now, without further ado is an interview with the author Cara Chow.
Wdebo: Please describe yourself in three adjectives.
Cara Chow:
(This wouldn't look very sexy on, would it?)

W: Please describe a typical day

CC: WARNING: it’s not glamorous.

7:20am: Roll out of bed.
7:45am: Warm up milk, feed son, change diaper.
8:10am: Wrestle son into stroller, walk around neighborhood.
8:50am: Make breakfast.
9:00-1:00pm: Nanny is here! Time to write/work.
1:00-3:00pm: Eat lunch. Pray that son stays asleep so I can work some more.
3:00pm: Warm up milk, feed son, change diaper. Then we go outside to play: playground, beach, parks, etc.
6:00pm: Feed son, make dinner.
7:00pm: Dinner, wash dishes.
8:00pm: Give son a bath. Then play with son, sing songs, teach new words. OR, if I have a deadline, pass son to husband like football, then lock self in office to work.
9:45pm: Read to son, sing songs, then put son to bed.
10:00pm: Prepare son’s food and diaper bag for the next day.
10:15: Shower, then some TV, then read 2 sentences in bed before falling asleep. OR, if I have a deadline, work until 11:30pm.

Not too exciting, huh? That’s why I write fiction, not autobiography!

W: What is your favorite color?

CC: Honestly, I don’t have one! What makes a color beautiful is how it looks next to another color. Think about this the next time you gaze at a sunset or the highlights in someone’s hair.

W: In Bitter Melon Frances was put into speech class through a scheduling mistake. I know that you competed in speech during high school, how were you introduced to speech class? What was speech like for you?

CC: I don’t remember how I got introduced to speech class. (I still talk to my speech coach, who is now retired, and we both marvel at how memory deteriorates with age.) As for how speech was for me, it was fun but very stressful, so stressful that is was necessary to wear an extra coat of deodorant as insurance. There are different categories of speech competition. I was good at original oratory because I could take my time writing, rehearsing, and memorizing my speech before reciting it to an audience. But I was horrible at impromptu, in which they gave you a topic, and then you had two minutes to prepare a speech before delivering it. I don’t think fast on my feet, and when I’m under pressure, I freeze up and start sounding like a clip from The King’s Speech. In fact, the one and only time I did impromptu, I stood in front of my competitors and the judge for several seconds, frozen in terror. One of my competitors was this tall blond kid who wore a nice suit and a long black coat. He could see that I was struggling, so he nodded at me and gave me this “you can do it” look. Because of his encouragement, I was able to relax and deliver my speech. Afterwards, he applauded warmly, which was rather charitable, considering my mediocre performance. When it was his turn to speak, my jaw dropped. He delivered his speech like he had been preparing it for weeks! Of course, he won that competition. I was eliminated before the semi-final round. Anyway, that blonde kid became the inspiration for the character of Derek Collins in Bitter Melon.

W: What inspired you to write Bitter Melon?

CC: Though I have a very positive relationship with my mother today, we struggled a lot when I was a teen. My mother wanted me to be the best, and her way of motivating me was by being very hard on me. Unfortunately, I was a very sensitive kid, so I took my mother’s words and actions personally. This not only strained our relationship for many years, but it also affected my confidence and self-image well into my twenties. As I got older, I felt compelled to understand how we became the people we became and how our relationship had gotten so bad in my teens. Bitter Melon, in part, reflects that journey of understanding.

W: What is one important message you want your readers to get from your book?

CC: For readers who identify with Frances, the message is: “You’re not alone.” For all my readers, I hope this book will show the psychological and cultural factors that influence Frances’s and Gracie’s attitudes and behaviors. I hope that readers can apply this understanding to themselves and others.

W: If you were stranded on an island and could only bring five items what would they be?

CC: First of all, I insist on choosing my island because I don’t want to be like Tom Hanks in Castaway. So I choose Maui, and here are my top 5:

1. Husband (my son would be with a sitter—now I get a second honeymoon!)
2. Reservation for a nice B&B.
3. A gift certificate to eat at Roy’s. Make that 5 gift certificates.
4. Tour reservation to swim with dolphins and turtles.
5. My camera, plus extra batteries and memory chips.

W: Are you working on any projects now? And if so, can you tell us a bit about them?

CC: The only project I’m working on now is Project Bitter Melon Blog Tour. After this is done, I will work on Project Rest and Recuperation. Then I’ll get to work on Project Book #2.

W: Who are some of your FAVORITE authors?

CC: Everyone asks me this, and it is a hard question to answer because there are so many authors I enjoy. It is also hard to answer because I usually think in terms of favorite books rather than favorite authors.

Here are some favorite authors I haven’t mentioned in previous blog posts. Non-fiction: Temple Grandin, who has written many books on animals and autism. Fiction: I really love and recommend Talking to the Moon, which was written by Noel Alumnit.

W: What are some books that you would recommended to readers who are of Chinese heritage or enjoy reading books like Bitter Melon?

CC: Bitter Melon has been compared most often to The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan and Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua because all three are Chinese-American, mother-daughter stories. Joy Luck is an awesome book—I’ve read it at least twice. Though I’ve read the excerpt from Battle Hymn in the WSJ, I haven’t read the entire book yet so I’ll have to get back to you on that one.

W: Do you have anything you would like to add?

CC: Thanks for inviting me to participate in your blog!

W: Thank you for letting me interview you!
Wdebo :)

1 comment:

  1. Loved reading this interview!
    I really wanna read Bitter Melon now.
    I can't really relate to the main character, I dropped Speech in was way too terrifying for me!


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