During pandemic lockdown, I was unable to serve my city with my hands. So, I began writing novels — to tell stories that will bring joy and hope during difficult times.

It turns out to be tons and tons of fun.

How do I try to bring joy and hope through my novels? Read more below.


When do I find time to write? Let me tell you a little story.

Between 2022/06/23 and 07/02, I locked myself in my home office to write a grant for 16-18 hour/day. On Day 6, I wonder aloud to Lyra, my cat (yes, that happens, but only when I am writing NIH grants), “How have I not crashed yet? It’s been 6 days.”

Then I jumped out of my chair (yes, that also happens when you lock yourself in a room for too long), realising that I had been working long days like that for 16 months — writing novels after full research days.

Representation Matters

After becoming a Christian, I find myself identifying more and more as a Christian than an American, a Chinese person, or an immigrant from Hong Kong. Basically, I have “assimilated” as well as can be expected for someone who emigrated as a late-teenager, and have achieved a measure of success in societal terms.

Still, something in me came to life when I first saw, in the past few years, faces like mine showing up on the big screen — not as “the kung-fu foreigner with a funny accent” but as normal people — empathetically portrayed as protagonists or antagonists who “belong” in the society in which they lived.

. . . Even in Epic Fantasy?

Yes. If something is important in the real world, it must be important in worlds dreamt up.

Inclusion and Belonging. All of my viewpoint characters are people who “don’t belong” in some meaningful way. These are not just the traditional portraits of mavericks and “bad boys.” My characters experienced exclusion in ways that significantly slow their success, impede their lives, cause emotional pain or physical danger. Some are based on my own experience (who hasn’t heard “go back to where you come from” now and then?), other I learnt from dear friends.

I write from these viewpoints with three goals:

  1. Empathy: to illustrate what it is like to be excluded or considered “less than” for things beyond one’s own control — appearance, race, gender, faith (remember, being a Christian is considered an intellectual disability in many an academic area), and how it can affect even people who are strong, intelligent, and beautifully made in the image of God.
  2. Hope: the characters modelled some of the self-talk (or in Christian understanding, “preaching God’s word to oneself”) and social support structure that has helped me/my friends grow indestructible through the difficult experiences.
  3. Joy and Faith: to illustrate how “small kindness” to those who are excluded and marginalised can change their entire outlook in a cruel situation. It builds confidence and resilience. It develops enduring friendships. It saves lives.

Meaningful and empathetic diversity that reflects our world and the Church. I strived to paint diversity into the world I build with vibrancy, synthesising cultural interactions with depth. It permeates the series at the societal and individual levels.

Societally, I experimented with drawing cultural lines along geography rather than races. Each culture has its own distinctive place/people names, norms, architecture, and cuisine (yes, many delicious meals are faithfully depicted in details).

Really enjoyed your blending of cultures — this was the first high fantasy novel I’ve ever read where people aren’t basically all British. . . . My mouth truly did water at your descriptions of their feasting.

— Ellen Gravesmill, one of the best beta readers in the world

Representation at the individual level
(Minor characters unless specified: MC = Main Character, VPC = Viewpoint Character)

  • Minor characters, MC, and VPCs with various skin colours (from porcelain to ebony, from shades of gems to fur in patterns of various animals), hair colours, styles, with and without horns (of various shapes, colours, and sizes).
  • People with serious financial struggles, people who are wealthy and flant their wealth, and those who “merely” forgets how important financial stability is for life.
  • Medical / health issues: mobility issues, vision acuity challenges, scars of war, etc
  • Mental health or cognitive struggles: truama (VPC, MCs), anxiety (VPCs), attentional/executive function issues (VPC), gambling and substance dependence, suicidal ideations/attempts, obsessive-compulsive thoughts (VPC), etc.
  • Various body shapes: a female considered by her society to be “too plump” (VPC), a male who is considered too short to be attractive (MC), etc.
  • Interracial individuals: an elf-human hybrid considered “in every way, not human enough” by her majority-human city (VPC), a pair of siblings considered “too mixed for my taste” by a human trafficker (definitely a good thing for once, VPC and MC), etc.
  • Interracial and intercultural marriages and friendships: nearly all major romance threads (both romances and friendships) crosses racial and/or cultural lines so that the characters have the joy to learn to understand one another deeply after shedding some hindering assumptions.

Novel races. I explored what New Heavens and New Earth would “feel” like to the saints by imagining a race called the unnamed, Shazzwick and Cath’s people, whom creation rejoices in aiding.

Also developed in depth are

  • Daemons: a fallen people against the unnamed
  • Nox: elves corrupted by a daemonic scheme, now achromic (their skin, eyes, and hair are various shades of grey). Some make appearances in Shazzwick of Land, while their society and culture are studied in depth in the sequel, Cath of Land. (VPCs, MCs)
  • Kerasis: a horned people with skin the colours of gems (VPCs, MCs)

Other reimagined races include

  • Satyrs
  • Dryads
  • Dwarfs
  • Intelligent magical copper dragons (oh these guys are so, so much fun to write)

Since I am making these fun lists, let’s talk about animals, too!

Animals with meaningful presences are: Horses (4 distinctive breeds), wolves, and beastly feathered dragons.

Other animals that also played roles are sparrows, cats, rats, snakes, bats, doves, a seagull (well, sort of. You will see), and more.

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