Hi peeps, we have J.C. Long popping in with the tour for his new release A Matter of Duty, we have a brilliant guest post, a great excerpt and a fantastic giveaway, so check out the post and click that giveaway link! <3 ~Pixie~
A Matter of Duty
Noah Potter has come to Hong Kong to find his missing sister, Lianne, who disappeared after leaving him a voice mail pleading for his help. Unfortunately the Hong Kong police are unwilling to help him, so Noah has to find her himself.
Noah’s search for his sister brings him across Wei Tseng, leader of the Dragons, a group of dedicated men and women willing to do whatever it takes to keep their district safe from the violence and triads that plague the rest of the city’s underworld. Wei is a man of violence but also one of incredible compassion, and his history is one that resonates with Noah, igniting a passion neither man expects.
Together they search for Lianne, a search that will lead right into a conflict with the Dragons’ greatest rivals in the city.
Culture as a character
by J.C. Long
Hello, and thanks for sticking with me through my A Matter of Duty blog tour! Today I want to talk a little bit about the importance of culture and it’s role as another character in the story.
Culture is this magical, unquantifiable element that, when properly added, can make a story come to life. There are a couple of mistakes that people make when dealing with a setting where culture is important.
The first is inorganically info-dumping the culture. I have a hard time reading books that are set in Japan–particularly historical Japan–because they have a sort of mechanical nature to them, a sense that someone just threw together facts that they learned about Japan in their effort to lay out what looks like culture. But culture isn’t facts, it isn’t listing information or info-dumping on your reader. It can be hard to get it right, to make it real. This isn’t me saying I got it right, but I did my best to do so.
So how does an author make culture relevant to the story and the reader? It has to be organic, to be information that comes across as natural and relevant to the story. For example, there is a scene in A Matter of Duty where the American character Noah accompanies the Hong Konger Dragons to a dim sum restaurant. While most of us have no doubt become familiar with dim sum, there is a cultural difference when eating dim sum in Hong Kong versus in the states. These differences are explained and communicated through natural dialogue and interactions with the characters, which is much more natural for a story and for a reader.
A second mistake is using the culture in a way that just makes everything so outlandish, so foreign. This is something that can happen pretty easily when writing a novel set in a foreign country. This runs the risk of drifting into the stereotypical and can alienate the reader from the setting. I wanted to do everything I could with A Matter of Duty to make Hong Kong a place that both felt different to our main character, Noah Potter, while at the same time feeling comfortable and familiar. I did this by presenting the setting from both the point of view of Noah, the outsider, and Wei, who’s lived in Hong Kong all his life. I really wanted the dichotomy, the sense of normalcy and belonging, while also having a sense of “other”, of exploration and discovery.
Something that makes this easier in this story is that the culture of Hong Kong is an interesting mix of cultures, owing to the occupation by British forces and the change that underwent China during that occupation. This led to a group of people who are never fully involved with either culture. This mix makes it something unique and something easily portrayed in the book.
It is my great hope that A Matter of Duty feels vibrant and alive to you, and that through it you can come to understand a bit of the culture of this beautiful place.
Hong Kong International Airport sat on a small island all its own, like most airports in Asia that Noah had visited. To enter the city proper, one needed to take the metro system or hail a bus or a cab. Noah knew all this when he arrived; he’d prepped for this the moment two weeks ago when he’d tried to call his sister back and received no answer any of the one hundred seventy-two times he’d called over the course of two days. That made him realize he needed to come to Hong Kong and find his sister. He needed to bring her home, if he could.
No, no if—he would bring her home. He’d just stepped off the plane, there must be no doubt in his mind; if he did not have hope, he might as well give up right now.
The interior of the airport’s beauty matched its exterior. Skylights hovering high above his head cast afternoon sunlight down on him, bathing him in its warmth. The architecture was modern, all sleek glass and deceptive perspectives, but even here, surrounded by large numbers of tourists pouring into the city at the end of their summer vacation, hoping to enjoy Hong Kong’s best summer month, he could not mistake this for the West. Everything felt different; a foreign flavor filled the air, swirling in Noah’s lungs and coating his tongue. Announcements made over the airport’s intercoms came in Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and English. The signs read in those languages and more—German and French and Vietnamese as well.
There was a sort of magic to this place, magic he felt being in the airport, not even truly out in Hong Kong yet. The airport dominated a man-made island, and as he took it all in, Noah felt the strangest sense of anticipation. Part of Noah could not wait to see what the rest of Hong Kong felt like once he was out amongst its crowded streets, deep within the pulse of this city with the highest population density on the entire planet. He did his best to repress that part, though; this was no pleasure tour. He was not a tourist like those who passed him, whiling away their Septembers before slipping back to the mundane banality of their lives. He envied them that, wished he could explore the avenues of a new place before slinking back home, back under the thumb of his cold, uncaring father.
Noah had a task to do, though, so he would have to control the wanderlust that gripped him as tightly as it ever gripped Lianne.
He reached the escalator that would descend deep underground to the metro. As he waited, he dug into his backpack, seeking out the crumpled paper where he’d jotted down instructions on how to get where he needed to go, making sure he did not get lost. It was merely reflex, however; he’d committed that paper to memory a week ago.
Noah hadn’t spoken to Lianne right before she left. He’d been angry and made damn sure she knew it. He hadn’t known where in Hong Kong she went, what she’d do when she got there, or even how to contact her once she got there, other than the cell phone—and how reliable would a cell phone be? Hong Kong was basically China, right?
Before she left, though, she’d left information about her flight with their father, along with an address for a room she’d found online. It was in the Eastern District, so all he had to do was find it and see what was going on.
People and their luggage crowded the subway. Though the surface hadn’t seemed so bad, the subway car was stifling hot with so many bodies crammed close together. Noah felt the earlier claustrophobia’s nauseating grips on the corner of his mind and forced himself to focus on the different colorful advertisements all along the upper portion of the subway to distract himself. It was a forty-minute subway ride according to the app he’d downloaded on his phone, and he would have to transfer once he reached a place called Center. He needed to keep it together until he did.
Impulse driving him, he dug his iPhone out of his pocket and stared at it. His background picture was, as usual, a picture of himself and Lianne together. Though she was four years older than him, some people thought they must be fraternal twins since they looked so similar. Both had pale skin that tanned to a beautiful copper in the summer sun, similar brown-blond, almost ash-gray hair, and the same round blue-green eyes they’d inherited from Vivienne Maureen Potter, their beautiful mother.
According to the top of the phone’s screen, he had service—he’d made damned sure he’d be able to use the cell phone once he got here in order to contact his sister. Without consciously choosing to, his fingers hit the call button on his sister’s name. He watched as it said connecting, hoping she would answer the phone, explain that she’d gone off to visit some other place for a few weeks and was back now, safe, and the voice mail was some angry reaction to a breakup with the fifth boy she’d been dating since her arrival in Hong Kong. He prayed she’d pick up, like every other time he’d tried to call her in the last two weeks.
Hands shaking slightly, he brought the phone to his ear. Straight to voice mail, just like every time since he received her message. It didn’t even give him the benefit of hearing her voice, either; it was one of those generic “This number is not available. Please leave a message after the tone” messages. The hope that had been growing in his heart crumbled to dust, just as it had each time before.
It took every ounce of control he possessed not to redial the number immediately, but he managed. A man could only take so much disappointment at a time.
J. C. Long is an American expat living in Japan, though he’s also lived stints in Seoul, South Korea—no, he’s not an Army brat; he’s an English teacher. He is also quite passionate about Welsh corgis and is convinced that anyone who does not like them is evil incarnate. His dramatic streak comes from his lifelong involvement in theater. After living in several countries aside from the United States, J. C. is convinced that love is love, no matter where you are, and is determined to write stories that demonstrate exactly that.
His favorite things in the world are pictures of corgis, writing, and Korean food (not in that order… okay, in that order). J. C. spends his time not writing thinking about writing, coming up with new characters, attending Big Bang concerts, and wishing he were writing. The best way to get him to write faster is to motivate him with corgi pictures. Yes, that is a veiled hint.