My Little Pocketbooks: Interview & Giveaway: The Concubine Saga   

Monday, June 4, 2012

Interview & Giveaway: The Concubine Saga

Welcome Author Lloyd Lofthouse

Lloyd Lofthouse is the author of My Splendid Concubine and Our Hart [combined in this single volume], which earned honorable mentions in general fiction at the 2008 London Book Festival, 2009 San Francisco Book Festival, 2009 Hollywood Book Festival, 2009 Los Angeles Book Festival, 2009 Nashville Book Festival and was a finalist in historical fiction for the National Best Books 2010 Awards. Lloyd Lofthouse grew up in Southern California, served in the Vietnam War as a U.S. Marine and lives near San Francisco with his wife and family with a second home in Shanghai, China.
Author's Website

Me:  Tell us about your book
LL:  "The Concubine Saga" covers the first decade of Robert Hart's fifty-four years in China, which is a bitter-sweet love story of a man struggling with his moral Victorian compass in an alien culture while the bloodiest rebellion in human history rages around him at the same time that the Opium Wars were ravaging China with Western drugs. China's last imperial empire and its culture were under attack from several directions.
Before the novel ends, Hart leaves the British consulate where he was an interpreter and goes to work for the Emperor of China and soon becomes the only foreigner the emperor trusts. The foundation of Hart's success in China is his live in dictionary and lover, Ayaou, his Chinese concubine. That interracial romance and love story is the foundation of "The Concubine Saga".
Me:  What was the inspiration for this book?
LL:  In 1999, when my wife and I were dating (we married in December of that year), she mentioned I might be interested in an Irishman named Robert Hart that went to China in 1854 at age 19.  I Googled Hart and discovered that Harvard University Press had published his journals and letters, which I bought and read.
His story fascinated me—especially his love and admiration for Ayaou.  However, shortly before his death, he burned the journals that focused on his early years with Ayaou covering 2 years and nine months (July 29 1855 to 20 March 1858) and then another four and one half years (December 6, 1858 to 6 June 1863) and blacked out passages in the surviving journals in an attempt to erase his years with Ayaou from history even though it is obvious that he loved and missed her.  A surviving letter Hart wrote to his agent decades later established this fact.
Writing "The Concubine Saga" was my way to bring this bitter-sweet love story to life so it would not be forgotten. 
Me:  What were some of the obstacles you encountered with this book?
LL:  The biggest obstacle was the time it took to research, revise and write the novel, which I started in early 2000 and spent about a decade researching and writing.  Along the way, we made nine trips to China as part of the research besides reading about 40 books on China, it's culture and history.
Me:  What are you working on now? Can we get a sneak peak?
LL:  I am currently revising and editing "Better a Dead Hero", a completed manuscript I wrote that is set in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War in the 1960s, and I plan to have it out in a few months. The heart (no pun intended) of this novel is another bitter-sweet romance between a US Marine and a Vietnamese woman, who is also a reluctant member of the National Liberation Front known to most in the West as the Viet Cong.
Here are the opening paragraphs of the manuscript on page one, chapter one, which is still a work in progress and it may change before publication:
Better a Dead Hero
His lover was his sworn enemy—trained to kill Americans. In fact, maybe she had already killed some of his own people, but that wasn't going to stop him from wanting more of her.
Ethan Card stared out through the sunken pit of a broken window at the grounds of the former French colonial rubber plantation, which the South Vietnamese jungle was reclaiming. He saw columns of struggling, ancient rubber trees marching away from the dying house as if they were soldiers still fighting a losing war. The sky was filling with an angry blanket of dark clouds and only a thin patch of blue was visible.
When the French ruled Vietnam, Ethan thought, this place must have been something.
He heard the distant popping of a firefight that signaled death and destruction and wondered who was dying: Viet Cong, North Vietnamese, Americans, South Koreans, ARVN, or Chinese communists?
Me: What are you reading now?
LL:  I'm reading "Country Driving" by Peter Hessler, which is a memoir of his travels through China. There are 424 pages and I'm currently on page 314.  The first section of the memoir is about Hessler driving the entire length of the Great Wall of China in a Chinese made Jeep Cherokee.  It's a fascinating book and although I've read and written much about China, I'm learning new things since Hessler takes us up-close and personal and into the lives of rural Chinese living in small out-of-the way villages.  "Country Driving" was named one of the New York Times Notable Books of the Year in 2011.
Me:  Who are some of your favorite authors?
LL:  Wow, there are so many.  I've read thousands of books, so I'll mention the first few that come to mind. J. R. R. Tolkien (I've read The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit three times); James Lee Burke (I especially enjoy his Dave Robicheaux series); Anne Rice (Interview With the Vampire changed my view of these monsters); C. S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower series (I've read the entire series twice); Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea trilogy, and Bernard Cornwell's historical fiction (I've read most of what he has written).  If I spent a few days on answering this question, I'm sure I could fill pages, so I better stop now.
Me:  How did your family react to your title of published author?
LL:  In our home, it was no big deal since my wife has published a memoir and several novels that have been translated into more than thirty languages and sold more than a million copies in English alone.  In fact, she sometimes questions why I want to be a writer since it is a tough profession with lots of competition for the attention of readers.  Every time she visits a bookstore, my wife thinks, "With so many books to read, why would anyone want to read what we write?"
Me:  If I had to do this all over again, 
LL:  I would probably do it all the same since this journey with Robert Hart and The Concubine Saga has been full of good memories and experiences. I've learned so much along the way and I'm still learning. In fact, I doubt that I will ever stop learning.
Me:  What do you do for fun?
LL:  This list isn't nearly as long as my favorite authors.  I enjoy downhill skiing (sometimes in blizzards), and hiking/trekking to the top of tall mountains (the tallest are usually over two miles above sea level).  I love to read books and watch movies on the big screen.  Yesterday, I went to see Battleship. Most evenings, I stop working about 8 PM and watch a DVD.  Currently I'm watching the Vampire Diaries for about an hour before I turn off the TV and read. 
Me: What’s your guilty pleasure?
LL:  Apple pie and buying more books and DVDs than I can read or watch. I have at least a supply of books and DVDs that would last me for several years if I didn't buy anymore.
Me:  Favorite line from a book
LL:  Well, it was from a book—the textbook I used with my students when I was still teaching English literature in high school.
The poem is "The Face in the Glass" and my favorite line in the poem is:
"For it isn’t your father or mother or wife
Whose judgment upon you must pass,
The person whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the one staring back from the glass
The poet's name was Dale Wimbrow (1895—1954)
I posted the poem on my Website and it may be reached through this link
Me:  When I was a kid I wanted to be a(n)...
LL:  explorer like the Viking Erik the Red (more than a thousand years ago) or a conqueror like Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, or a soldier like John Wayne in his movie "Horse Soldiers", which I paid a quarter to see in the local movie theater in 1959.  Now I own a VHS cassette of the movie and can watch it anytime I want.
Me:  5 years from now I plan 
LL:  to have written and published at least ten books that I wrote.
Me:  Favorite Holiday? Why?
LL:  I do not know if this counts as a favorite holiday, but I have two special favorite days. One is the anniversary of my marriage and the second is my wife's birthday.
Me:  2 things on your bucket list
LL:  To climb more mountains and ski down more slopes covered in powdered, fresh snow.

Book Description
No Westerner has ever achieved Robert Hart’s status and level of power in China. Driven by a passion for his adopted country, Hart became the “godfather of China’s modernism”, inspector general of China’s Customs Service, and the builder of China’s railroads, postal and telegraph systems and schools.
However, his first real love is Ayaou, a young concubine. Sterling Seagrave, in Dragon Lady, calls her Hart’s sleep-in dictionary and says she was wise beyond her years.
Soon after arriving in China in 1854, Hart falls in love with Ayaou, but his feelings for her sister go against the teachings of his Christian upbringing and almost break him emotionally. To survive he must learn how to live and think like the Chinese. He also finds himself thrust into the Opium Wars and the Taiping Rebellion, the bloodiest rebellion in human history, where he makes enemies of men such as the American soldier of fortune known as the Devil Soldier.
During his early years in China, Robert experiences a range of emotion from bliss to despair. Like Damascus steel, he learns to be both hard and flexible, which forges his character into the great man he becomes.
In time, an ancient empire will rely on him to survive, and he will become the only foreigner the Emperor of China trusts.
Full of humanity, passion, and moral honesty, The Concubine Saga is the deeply intimate story of Hart’s loyalty and love for his adopted land and the woman who captured his heart.
“My Splendid Concubine” was the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
In the sequel, “Our Hart, Elegy for a Concubine”, he was the only foreigner the Emperor of China trusted.  Both novels have come together as one in “The Concubine Saga”.

Lloyd Lofthouse is also holding a giveaway for a limited edition signed hard-cover copy of The Concubine Saga!
 Leave an approved comment on one or more Blog posts found at Lloyd or iLook
between May 30, 2012 and June 30, 2012
during "The Concubine Saga" Web Tour
and automatically be entered into a drawing
to win a limited edition, signed and numbered hard-cover copy of the novel.
(NOTE: only one limited-edition, hard-cover copy is available to give away)

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