Meet the Author: Sam Ferrer
The Bookworm spoke with Sam Ferrer, the author of The Last Gods of Indochine and a professional double bassist, member of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, about his recently published novel and his life as a writer. Sam will speak at The Bookworm on October 27th.
The BW: We know that as a musician, you are used to writing songs, but what first inspired you to write novels?
Sam: I had a long-held dream to write a novel, but never expected it to happen until much later in life. After a trip to Cambodia, I was blindsided by a premise I thought would be fascinating for a story, so one night I made a decision to go for it. That was the beginning of a 12 year journey of writing and editing a novel. Although writing fiction has little in common with writing songs, there are some important mindsets that proved essential: faith in small steps, embracing criticism (which can easily be mistaken for failure), and long-term vision are all disciplines I already had as a musician, so I didn’t buckle when the going got rough.
The BW: The book focuses on Indochina. Where did your interest in this topic come from?
Sam:During that trip I was struck by a photograph of well-dressed promenaders and vintage cars at the footsteps of a full-scale reconstruction of the top level of Angkor Wat at the 1922 Colonial Exposition in Marseille. I was taken by the exploration and imagination of La Belle Époque and how the French fixation on the East captured perhaps the most exotic time during the colonial age. But even more so, I was inspired by the life of explorer Henri Mouhot, who was credited for “discovering” the temples in 1860.
The BW: What aspects of writing the novel did you enjoy? Were there any aspects you found particularly challenging?
Sam: Prose. From the start it was always my priority to write a beautiful novel, and both the most challenging and rewarding part during over one hundred passes of editing was creating fluid, smooth, and hopefully beautiful, prose. If successful, readers will enjoy the writing for its own sake.
The BW:For anyone who is interested in the topic, but may not yet have had time to read/finish your book, what further insights can we expect from your book talk?
Sam: We can talk about history as a source of inspiration. There is a great deal of historical setting that both enriches and drives the plot. I’ve created a fictitious granddaughter of Mouhot and grafted excerpts from his actual journal into the story (published posthumously in France soon after he died in the jungles of Laos).
The BW:Do you have any plans to bring out new novels in the future?
Sam: I’ve started another work of historical fiction that, in fact, is Chinese in context—with a major twist of setting. However, I’ve had to put it on hold as I’ve recently hosted a very successful crowdfunding campaign to record another CD for my band, Shaolin Fez. As the producer, this will keep me very busy until mid-2017 at which time I hope to dive back into my second novel.
The BW: What is your biggest dream for your writing career?
Sam: My aspirations as a writer are not to churn out one novel after another. I’m far more interested in letting plots, characters, settings, and prose distill for a good while before taking the lid off. By the end of my life, I would be content if I have a few novels published that have the same sweat and patience it took to create The Last Gods of Indochine.