Lee J Mavin Author Interview

Novel: Li Bai’s Shadow

It appears I have undoubtedly been mysteriously transported to a young child’s bedroom, her name is Caitlin and she is of course very fond of my poetry. However despite this unusual occurrence I miss my homelands, dreadfully. This dry and scorching hot city, that she calls Sydney is beyond any distance I can comprehend, but I have always been a traveler, so I am contempt with the path I have stumbled upon. Her mother has faded into the shadow, so I must guide her, keep her safe and share a glass or two of good wine. It is rather odd that her father behaves like I don’t exist, it is at the very least disrespectful, doesn’t he know who I am? Why I am none other than the world’s greatest poet to have ever lived, Li Bai and my words have been etched in history and sang throughout the ages with the guzzling of wine. Yes indeed, I have informed and educated the girl on the most important pleasures of the world, to drink wine whenever one desires to, though she is still a youngling, it is rather amusing to watch her chant my poems in a drunken stupor. Together we will drink and recite my old rhymes and perhaps not long after I will figure out how to get home.

How did you come up with the idea behind your book? I was watching the film Beetlejuice (again) when I became interested in imaginary friends in fiction. I then discovered Li Bai, one of China’s most well-known poets and thought he would be great to characterize.

Where did the inspiration for your book come from? Li Bai’s poetry has inspired me all the way through the process of writing this novel. I want to generate an interest for him in the west. Considering the claim that Li Bai is China’s greatest poet, I developed an idea that he was an over-confident poet, who

How do you go about creating such vivid characters? All my characters are deeply flawed. My new novel: Li Bai’s Shadow is evenly divided into four narratives: Li Bai (Caitlin’s imaginary friend) Caitlin Marshel (a strong willed 19 year old who has learned to manage her OCD decides to go to Shanghai without telling her father) Steven Marshel (Caitlin’s father and single parent who has no idea how do deal with a teenaged daughter) Susan Windgate (Caitlin’s long term Teacher’s Aid who is dealing with a unsatisfactory relationship with her tradie boyfriend and constant academic obsession with gender politics and feminism. I feel the more inconsistent they are with each other and the more mistakes they make, like Steven being a real man burning his hand on the broken down bus motor, when they are stranding in the middle of rural China, trying to find his daughter.
What was the biggest difference or challenge you found writing YA? Not writing stereotypical characters that grow and learn. Caitlin does grow and develop from her experiences in Tang China, but in many ways she stays the same. I seriously edited many lessons learnt out in an attempt not to be too preachy.

What is your writing routine like? I write whenever I get the chance between teaching, parenting and being a husband. I write very quickly and then go back and edit. I wrote the first draft for Li Bai’s Shadow in about ten months and then edited it for two years.

What authors inspired you to start writing? Roald Dahl, RL Stine and Paul Jennings were my first real favourites when I started writing in primary school and then as a teenager I really got into the Dragonlance series, playing D&D. These days I read a mixture of YA, Fantasy, SCI-FI and poetry, mainly Stephen King, Jack Kerouac, Li Bai, Du Fu and Virginia Woolf

Who is your favorite author? And why do you write? Jack Kerouac is still my favourite. On The Road was a game changer for me because of how it was written in one big block and the travel story aspect, which has been a big influence on me.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books? Readers take chances on new authors, without knowing a thing about us. I thought I had to build a huge readership first, but the support from bloggers, other indie authors and readers has been great!

Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say? 

The feedback I have received has been very helpful and encouraging. I don’t mind negative feedback as everyone won’t like my novels and short stories, so I really appreciate an honest review. However most of the feedback I get is positive. One reviewer called my collection of short stories The Students Sold Us Secrets as “Deeply disturbing yet strangely addictive” another mentioned the “Raw and grittiness of the students and how they think about revenge, loyalty and friendship”. An early review of Li Bai’s Shadow posed the question “Is Li Bai real or a figment of Caitlin’s imagination?” which was great because I intended to leave it up to the reader to decide.