One of my writing buddies in Chicago has a debut novel. Wesley Chu’s The Lives of Tao is sort of like Mission Impossible, if the team were possessed by hyper-intelligent aliens. You want action, conspiracy, and some humor? That’s what Wes is aiming to provide.
So what’s his Favorite bit?
Choosing My Favorite Bit is especially difficult for a first novel. After all, a debut is very special to an author, kind of like that first stuffed animal, first kiss, or that first Nintendo console. So for The Lives of Tao, I hemmed and hawed, trying to decide which of my precious tidbits to favor.
Do I choose the friendship that develops when Tao inhabits Roen and whips him into secret spy shape? Do I go with the humorous dialogue that is peppered throughout the book, or how about protagonist Roen Tan’s journey from overweight loser to suave super spy? The choice is like asking Michelle Duggar to pick which one of her nineteen (last time I checked) kids she likes best.
At the end of the day, I decided to choose one specific scene to be My Favorite Bit that I feel encompasses many of my other favorite parts of the book. It’s the scene where Roen got jumped by a team of Genjix at a nightclub and barely escaped with his life. Now, is this truly my favorite scene because I enjoy kicking my main character’s butt? I do admit to finding a perverse enjoyment writing him getting beaten up, but that’s not the reason why it’s my favorite scene.
See, you have to get to know Roen before he met Tao, the Prophus alien that inhabits him. Pre-Tao, Roen was an overweight loser who meandered his way through life. Life didn’t kick Roen down; he did that all by himself. He had many opportunities to succeed, but he simply thoughtlessly blew every single one of them. He had big dreams, but was too weak and lazy to realize them. He’s the guy sitting at the bar watching the world pass him by, thinking, “I coulda been someone. I coulda been a contenda.”
Well, he wasn’t a contender, and was just doing the minimum to scrape through life. Then Tao came along and put him to work. From months of dieting to daily morning workouts to combat training to forcing Roen to talk to the girl he was crushing, Tao pushed him to his limits and forced him to stand outside of his self-imposed comfortable bubble that had become his daily life. And of course Roen dragged his feet, whined, and pouted all the way. Roen and Tao got into their fair share of mental scuffles, which, of course, made it all the more traumatic when it took place in his head. It’s not like you could lock yourself in the bedroom, after all.
Eventually, Roen bought into Tao’s guidance. Slowly, his outlook on life changed. Little by little, Roen grew stronger, became healthier, and found confidence. He began to transform into that person he could have always been. Now, having an all-wise alien giving him advice might seem like cheating, but really, it’s all Roen. Tao just gave him directions. Roen earned his own successes.
So what does this have anything to do with Roen getting jumped at a nightclub and getting his butt kicked? Everything. Because Roen fought back. Because he didn’t crumple like wet tissue when the going got tough. The new Roen still pretty much came out beaten to a pulp, but he was able to keep his wits about him and find a way to escape. That scene was the one moment when Roen turned the corner to becoming a dynamic character. He proved to himself that he could change. That all that hard work paid off and that he did change. It was the moment that made everything else in the book possible.
There’s a belief in people who practice contact sports that a person’s mettle isn’t tested until the first time he takes a hit. Does he step back? Freeze? Cover up? Or does he fight back? In Roen’s case, he took a punch, and for the first time in his life, he stood up for himself and fought back. And that fighting back made all the difference in the world.
Wesley Chu was born in Taiwan and immigrated to Chicago, Illinois when he was just a pup. It was there he became a Kung Fu master and gymnast.
Wesley is an avid gamer and a contributing writer for the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland. A former stunt man and a member of SAG, he can also be seen in film and television playing roles such as “Banzai Chef” in Fred Claus and putting out Oscar worthy performances as a bank teller in Chicago Blackhawks commercials.
Besides working as an Associate Vice President at a bank, he spends his time writing and hanging out with his wife Paula Kim and their Airedale Terrier, Eva.