Interview

If you have another question you’d like me to answer, just send it in the comment section at the end of the interview.

What’s the story behind your debut novel Private Offerings?

Given the impact of China on today’s world stage, I felt it only right that we try to understand what drives both the individuals and the government policies, both past and present. Private Offerings thrusts the reader into the world of Silicon Valley’s Holy Grail–the Initial Public Offering, or IPO. This is where the small entrepreneur hopefully makes his riches by selling shares of his company to the public via Wall Street and the stock market exchanges. Unfortunately, very few companies succeed at the levels dreamed about.

I sweated through the grueling process of bringing a company public as a marketing executive in a Silicon Valley start-up earlier in my career. The stories of the ones that don’t go public and why captured my interest, so I juxtaposed the motivations of the company founder with the motivations of others riding on the back of this 21st century’s money making machine. “Golden California” lives up to its name once again!

What intrigues you so much about Silicon Valley?

Creative or crazy, entrepreneur or sage advisor, there’s an opportunity for everyone here. The bounties of this valley have fed a world hungry for mercury, fruits, military technologies and modern gadgets, and is still going strong. Representatives of governments and business investors, in awe of the power of free enterprise, are eager to replicate its success after witnessing proof that individuals with skin in the game succeed beyond belief and contribute to the entire world’s economic growth. So what happens in Silicon Valley does NOT stay in Silicon Valley–just the opposite. Many regions around the world imitate to the best of their ability what was done right, and try to avoid what was done wrong. In many respects Silicon Valley is a microcosm of the future.

What is the premise of the next in the Silicon Valley Series, Rare Mettle?

My next book, Rare Mettle, picks up where Private Offerings leaves off, with the focus on Kay Chiang and Paul Freeman. In this story the stakes between the US and China are greater, focusing on the importance of a limited supply of Rare Earth Elements. These rare metals are used in the most sophisticated military equipment as well as our solar and flat-panel technologies, which are becoming part of our day-to-day lives. Unknown to many, China controls virtually all of the world’s supply of these metals. How the US negotiates with this rising superpower, and what the implications are in terms of political will and the political freedom of the Chinese people, is what I tackle in this story, set in Silicon Valley, Washington D.C., and many parts of China.

What drove you to write Kit’s Mine?

I was appalled to discover how poorly the Chinese immigrants flooding San Francisco in the nineteenth century were treated. Not only were the women imported as slaves well after the Civil War and Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, but the men who came here were refused citizenship, taxed at higher rates on any gold they mined, and persecuted literally to death. Concurrently, the Spanish-Mexican residents of California, before it became part of the United States in 1848, were stripped of their property rights as Americans flocked west during the Gold Rush, and spent decades fighting for land that was part of their family’s heritage.

Marrying the two situations seemed a perfect vehicle for a historical romance. The lovers in Kit’s Mine come from two very different cultural backgrounds, but find common ground in their search for justice within the American legal and political system. That drive compelling so many of our immigrants has a place in our thriving culture as long as there is always the sanctuary of freedom and opportunity.

What motivated you to get published?

I studied the established publishing industry simultaneous to the launch of Kindle and eBooks, and soon realized that if I wanted to write a different kind of story, my best bet was to self-publish. Too many of the publishing houses, like Hollywood, want a formulaic story that appeals to a known group of readers. But to grow readership, you have to offer more variety. The competition of eBooks initially threatened the core business model of the publishers, and for the next few years they clung to their old ways, sticking to the tried and true authors rather than taking risks on new ones, selling through their established retailers to their existing fans.

So I happened to time it just wrong–or right, as it turned out–to have a reasonable chance of success through the traditional process. Self-publishing through eBooks allowed me to write what I wanted, when I wanted, to niche readers who may not like the current genres and are looking for something more. I always enjoy learning new things when I read–”edu-tainment”–and presume there are more like me who are stuck in the middle between the dark, heavy themes of much of literary fiction and the fantasy world that drives so much of the publishers today.

When I signed a contract for my novels with Balcony 7 Media and Publishing in 2014, we both were willing to take a risk on a new business model, one that included new authors with a fresh take, and new platforms to reach different readers. Unfortunately, like so many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, their vision of what was possible was unable to sustain long enough. They closed their doors in early 2017, and reverted publishing rights back to their authors. Many lessons learned for all of us, mostly that Amazon created a formidable presence in the publishing industry that one can’t take lightly.

Who are your favorite authors?

I love Michael Crichton’s novels and the way he gets to the essence of the ethical questions raised by adventurers, scientists and technologists. Ayn Rand captured my attention in college for her ability to show the positive impact of business and the driving force of the creative individual. And finally, for good suspense with intelligent, cross-cultural “edu-tainment”, I’ll always grab an Elizabeth Lowell novel.

When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?

I take daily walks in my neighborhood so I can hike weekly and backpack in the summer in this wonderful California weather. Herb and vegetable gardening year-round reminds me that I can only control so much of the world–natural forces always win over the best-laid plans! And I spend as much time as I can with close friends discussing people, relationships, and the impact of today’s changes on our future.

Do you remember the first novel that had an impact it had on you?

One snowy afternoon when I was ten years old growing up in a Chicago suburb, I picked up Gone with the Wind, and didn’t put it down for three days until I had read every line. Of course, I didn’t understand all the nuances of the story–what ten-year old can grasp the full concepts of the Ku Klux Klan and prostitution? But the epic sweep of the story behind the war, the inner strength of the women, and the unresolved romance between Scarlett and Rhett captured my imagination. (I hereby confess that I read the unofficial sequel, Scarlett, and heaved a sigh of satisfaction for finally reaching closure on their romance.)

Every decade since I re-read it, mostly to marvel at the details that Margaret Mitchell was able to depict, but lately to appreciate the broader themes of dreams and disillusionment, hard work and politics, family ties and forbidden love. But I can’t deny that it lit a fire under me to devour as much fiction as I could, to explore and appreciate the romance genre for putting the human side of stories first in easily digestible hunks, and eventually to try my hand at writing about pieces of history from a non-traditional perspective. The stories about the losers in any conflict didn’t get published or broad distribution–until recently. And that’s what I explore in all my novels.

When did you first start writing?

I happened to be reading about the history of property rights in California, and stumbled across two items that changed my world. The first, that slavery was still commonplace on the streets of San Francisco well after the Civil War had been fought and won–even though California was part of the Union. The second, that quicksilver (mercury) mines in San Jose, the second largest deposits in the world, were critical to the success of the Gold Rush and the strength of the Union during the Civil War. Without California’s very first corporation’s very capitalistic push to mine that metal and get it to the gold miners, the history of America would be very different.

I realized then that most people’s knowledge of the San Francisco Bay Area was wrapped around mainly two eras: the Gold Rush and Transcontinental Railroad construction from 1849-1870, and the rise of Silicon Valley from 1980’s through today, seen only through the eyes of personal computers and technology gadgets. Both eras promised wealth to the average man…not women. Both eras represented a risk-taking mentality that pervades the mind-set of the area even today.

But both eras also are full of untold stories of people and situations that break out of the normal understanding. Whether those stories are of our ethnic minorities who came to California in search of their own wealth and opportunities, or of the secrets behind the accumulation of property and assets aided and sometimes hampered by the government, they provide a richer understanding of the search for freedom and fairness that every newcomer to this area seeks.

Galvanized to share my unique perspective as a businesswoman in this highly male-dominated technology industry, I started framing the stories that became my first and second novels. Except for standard writing exercises in my English classes and a stint on the school newspaper, most of my writing had been boring memorandums, proposals, and press releases. Having the freedom to create characters and conflicts, dangers and escapes, provides a thrill that I haven’t been able to give up since.