Usually, about once or twice a year, I put together new chapters and spinoffs of a vampire saga that I wrote for the site called “Gone From Daylight”, and I invite any and all interested authors to do the same! The stuff that they come up with never ceases to truly amaze me, and they take their personal stories to places that I never would have imagined on my own. This month, our featured author, Hai Tran has skillfully crafted a story of his very own, and I am honored to share it with you guys this month! So please give a warm welcome to the newest writer of the Imagine family! And let’s get into how this story was created, and what you can expect in the future chapters!
Comicality: – Welcome aboard, Hai Tran! So, my first question, I think, would be what drew you to a story like “Gone From Daylight” in the first place, and what connected to you as both a reader and a writer?
Hai Tran: – I began reading Gone from Daylight in 2007, and what drew me to the story at first was the intense and intimate love between Justin and Taryn. I was a virgin back then with a huge crush on this beautiful boy, who later became my first love, and our romance resembled theirs in many ways (minus the vampires). The series inspired me to write for the first time, and thanks to my novel, I was able to score with my first love and became his boyfriend hehe. GFD also captured my interest in a second, equally significant way: the unbreakable family bond between Justin and everyone at the lot. I was 8500 miles away from home at the time, first member of my family to go to an American college. To see that beautiful bond between Justin and Bryson, between Bryson and his “kids”, how he would sacrifice his own life for them, and vice versa, really touched my heart. Whenever I felt homesick in the cold Midwest winter, I would read GFD, in my dorm room, underneath the blanket, wishing I could feel my family close to me, wishing I had someone to protect me like Bryson.
Fast forward 12 years later, I’ve graduated and had a job that I didn’t enjoy very much, living with a partner who didn’t make me feel very happy. In the most stressful point of my life, I decided to write again, to find myself, to rediscover that passion within me and that innocent soul I once had. I thought back to the novel that brought me the most joy, consolation, and excitement, and that’s how I began writing “Purple Rain”, a GFD spinoff from Rain’s point of view.
Comicality: – You chose the character of ‘Rain’ as your main focus for this story. An interesting choice. What is it about her character that inspired you to write this series?
Hai Tran: – Rain’s character resonates with me the most because she seems so misunderstood and so “avoided”. I’ve had problems connecting with and trusting people because of my past and childhood. Furthermore, Rain’s character also has the most to explore in my opinion. Most of the other characters in GFD have already had a backstory, whether long or short. But Rain is a character with the ability to turn physical wounds into emotional pain to heal herself: An awesome ability like hers must have a pretty kick-ass backstory behind it, right? And I made sure to give her backstory as much thought, adventure, romance, and heartbreak as possible.
Comicality: – I’m curious as to how you created the supporting characters for this particular story. From Rain’s father to Daemon to Peter and George…you’ve created another sense of family as a background for this series. Where did they come from?
Hai Tran: – I drew from my life experience to create the supporting characters, whether or not they are Rain’s family. I took from my friends their traits, personalities, physical appearance, and merged everything together to form one character. So no character truly resembles any one person in real life, but bits and pieces of all. The cool thing is once you have created a character, they take on a life of their own, and their development just feels natural given the circumstances. I try to put myself in the characters’ mind, and ask questions such as: Is this something the character would do? Does it feel natural or forced? Does it make sense rationally, psychologically, or both? Having genuine characters is not enough; they need to march toward a meaningful theme, something the readers care about and can identify with. Rain’s story is the story of love, doing whatever it takes to protect your family, the story of perseverance, keeping your hopes and passion intact despite all the hits and bruises from life, and the story of humanity, for every person who hurt you, there will be a kind soul to help you.
Comicality: – Very true, indeed. Now, there’s some disturbing imagery and some darker themes involved in your story, and I was wondering if these scenes were difficult for you to write, and if they have any hidden personal meaning to you, behind the fiction.
Hai Tran: – There are definitely dark themes in this story, especially the rape scenes, the gory fight scenes, and domestic violence. I did have to concentrate long and hard to write those scenes, partly because they are hurtful to write, since I went through some similar experience, but also because I wanted to describe the scenes as authentically as possible. At one point, I even got up and did some kick-boxing myself so I could nail the movements in the fight scenes! LOL!
As hard as it was for me to write those scenes, I also found writing extremely therapeutic. I put a part of my heart and soul into the characters. Some of them carry my personality, hopes, dreams, sufferings, and ambitions inside them. Many dialogues in the series are either tough conversations I have had in the past, or things I was too afraid to even tell myself. Writing let me expose the hidden thoughts and voices of my psyche, let me heal the wounds that I was too afraid to touch, and clear my mind in unexpected ways.
Comicality: – I agree that it can be a cleansing experience to put your true feelings out there for other people to read. But, when you’re wearing your heart on your sleeve like that, do you ever feel vulnerable in front of your audience or intimidated to the point of holding back? Or do you just go all out when you’re writing?
Hai Tran: – I think writing allows me to be braver. In real life, I hardly wear my heart on my sleeve like that, for fear of being judged, being criticized, or just plainly ignored. The delay and shield in writing, i.e. I write everything now and my readers can react later without me being there, empower me to be more forthright, less inhibited, and more precise. Furthermore, writing enables me to get all my thoughts and feelings out in one stroke without the distraction and interruption from others. Have you ever tried to confide in a friend and they keep making the conversation about them instead? Even with the best of intention, we humans are self-centered. Writing, for me, is the one universe in which I can harness the readers’ attention, but it also means I have the responsibility to make it worthwhile for them. And it means allowing them a direct peak into my soul that they would never get in real life. That raw connection is what we all crave and seek for when we read.
Comicality: – How do you put together an action scene? Choreographing a fight, adding detail…walk us through your process.
Hai Tran: – Oh geez, no process really. I took some kickboxing and karate classes in college, so I’ve always known some moves. When I write, I immerse myself in a trance, like Jun from GFD, and visualize all the moves my characters would make in a fight. Different environment, props, and number of people involved would dictate different moves. For instance, in a narrow alley, the characters would have to maneuver their body more efficiently, whereas in a big yard with many enemies rushing at you, you could afford more space to run, but also less precision. I also took crash-course anatomy as a part of my training, so I always pay attention to how the human body works to make the fight scenes logical and believable, e.g. how far your arms can reach, in what direction you can bend your joints or twist your hip, and so on. For complex fight scenes, such as multi-level and multi-terrain combat, group fight, etc…, I would ask my friends to act out the scene with me, or watch action movies in really slow motion to study the moves. Surprisingly, the processes are mutually reinforcing and complementary, i.e. the more action scenes I write and watch, the better my real-life fighting becomes, and vice versa.
Comicality: – I’d love to see some of those played out in real life some time! Hehehe! You mentioned to me that you were not only a writer, but an aspiring filmmaker as well! What kind of films would you like to make in the future, and what can your new readers look forward to in the future?
Hai Tran: – I am currently going to Film School in Dallas, Texas. I did a couple of film projects in Asia (one short film about a lesbian love story, and one sitcom similar to Friends). Neither one is in English. So I’m looking to start my first English project in Dallas, starting with a vampire gay-romance-action series, with potentially some scenes shot out of state. I’m an independent filmmaker with limited budget hehe. But I believe creativity and passion can overcome any constraints and elevate the idea to capture the audience’s heart and soul. If any of our beloved readers live in the DFW area and the vicinity, I would love to collaborate. And you can contribute your talent in any way possible. If you’ve watched “Hunting Season”, an independent series shot out of New York, you’ll have an idea of my next project. Add on to that a lot of exhilarating adventures, edge-of-your-seat action scenes, and a darker ambiance. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if interested.
Comicality: – What is your editing process like? Do you bounce your ideas off of other people and try them out before putting them into your story? Do you ever find yourself being your own worst critic?
Hai Tran: – First, I would get all my ideas and emotions out in one sitting because I have worse short-term memory than a chimpanzee LOL. Then, I go back and edit the story’s structure, logical flow, and general fit within the whole scheme of things. The details such as grammar and spelling I proofread simultaneously while writing. I tend to go with my intuition a lot. If it feels right, it feels right. And I’ve learned to not second-guess myself. Usually, the second version from my head turns out worse than the first one from my heart.
Most importantly, I try my best to be entertaining and not predictable, while also maintaining consistency in story-line and character development. As a writer, I think like a filmmaker, always ending each chapter with a cliffhanger, varying the rhythm of the story, alternating deep deliberation and heartfelt conversations with action-packed fight scenes. Every second of a reader’s attention is precious, and I’m fighting tooth and nail to keep it for as long as I can.
Comicality: – Without giving away any spoilers for future chapters of this story, what do you want readers to take away from such a tragic origin story, concerning one of their beloved “GFD” characters?
Hai Tran: – My biggest take-away after writing “Purple Rain” is the connection between the readers and writer. I fell in love with my characters and I hope my readers will too. There is an implicit yet unbreakable relationship between the readers and writer: the mutual emotional investment in the characters and their arcs. Have you ever started watching a series or reading a novel, fell in love with and became invested in the characters, only to have the series canceled / books stopped? Remember how frustrating that felt? I promise myself I would never do that to my readers / audience. When I start a series, I will follow it through to a satisfactory conclusion. I will let my characters live their fullest potential, and have their arcs explored in a most natural yet enticing way. You have my word. So, start reading! 🙂
Comicality: – There are many writers who would love to do this full time and write for a living, but obviously you’re going to film school and possibly working a steady job on top of that to make ends meet. How do you budget your time and keep yourself motivated when it comes to your writing?
Hai Tran: – I think mental health and physical well-being are very important to a writer. I write the best when I’m in a stable mood. So I’ve always tried to maintain a good routine (work, school, gym, and socialization). When you love doing something, it doesn’t feel like work. Luckily for me, I got a new job that I love, which does not pay as much as the previous, more intense job, but I enjoy doing it and the people I work with. And it gives me more time and mental peace to be with family and spend time on my passion and interests.
I’ve learned to not use the yardstick of society to measure myself, but instead focus on my own happiness. So you don’t need to make tons of money while being miserable to be considered a valuable person. You may start out poor doing what you love and following your heart, but if you stick with it, you will get better and eventually improve your status and condition. Thus, if you want to write full-time, just write full-time. Get a modest part-time job that helps you make ends meet. It’s much better to die trying, than to live without ever trying at all. And go hard or go home. Don’t half-ass your passion; you have to give it your all or it will never work. And before you know it, you’re on your death bed wondering “what if I had tried harder?”
Comicality: – Wow…words to live by! I’m feeling more inspired already!
Well, thank you SO very much for your time, your passion, and for this new series! I’m overjoyed to have it here, and you’ve got a spot with us for as long as you want to keep writing! Thanks a bunch! You guys have the email address above to send Hai Tran your thoughts, questions, and any feedback that you like! So give him some love when you get a chance! And keep coming back for more chapters of “Purple Rain” in future issues!