Vincent Chu may hold back on calling himself a writer, but we’re not shying away from this claim. His fiction has appeared in several literary magazines including FORTH Magazine, PANK Magazine, East Bay Review, Pithead Chapel, and more—making him well deserving of the title. Chu’s recent debut story collection, Like A Champion, soulfully and honestly scopes the lives of multiple narrators that are trying, like all of us, to overcome their inner strifes. There is a story in here for everyone.
Read on to discover more about Vincent Chu and how this piece came together.
AT: When did you realize you wanted to become a writer?
VC: I always wanted to be a writer as a kid, but I also wanted to be a pro wrestler, paleontologist, Nike sneaker designer. It wasn’t until college when writing really took over as my primary hobby and it wasn’t until my late twenties when I thought maybe my fiction writing could turn into something. That’s around the time I started submitting stories. But to be honest, it’s hard to call myself a writer. I write, wholeheartedly, but I don’t know if I’ll ever have the guts to proclaim myself a writer. Maybe other people who write face this dilemma. Perhaps I just need more scarves or pipes.
AT: What are some writers that have influenced your work?
VC: I read a lot of classic authors, stuff you’re probably supposed to read earlier in life. Kurt Vonnegut, Charles Bukowski, Flannery O’Connor, George Saunders. I know these authors influence many, many other writers. Unfortunately, I’m not a naturally voracious reader. But actually, sometimes I’m glad about that because I think it can help your writing, not reading too much.
AT: What inspired you to write this particular novel?
VC: I used to write stories for my friends, and they liked them. I knew that the subject matter in these stories did not seem to be commonly found in fiction, at least not the books that found me or my friends, who are also not super voracious or hip readers, so I knew these stories could have an audience. When you tell stories with friends, stories jump effortlessly between twenty years ago or twenty minutes ago. So, I wanted to write a collection of stories that ranged various time periods in life, from childhood to adolescence to young adulthood to working life to dating to parents and family, touching on a handful of themes that don’t seem to go away no matter how old you get, at least for me.
AT: How long have you been working on Like a Champion?
VC: The oldest story in Like a Champion is over five years old, the newest story was added after my collection had been accepted by 7.13 Books. So, I guess over five years, off and on.
AT: Do you incorporate elements of your own life in your work?
VC: Sure, but it’s still fiction, of course. I guess people often think of autobiographical work in terms of setting or characters or plot, but inner thoughts, fantasies, intimate ideas you really had, those are autobiographical, too. Like probably most writers, you always take some real element of your life, but then twist, stretch, exaggerate it. But maybe by the time you get there, it’s no longer recognizable as an element from your own life.
AT: Did you have a special writing routine?
VC: Not really. Though I lived in Germany the past five years, working a full-time office job there, as I’ve done my whole life as a writer, and I used to start writing at the end of the day, before packing up. Then I would take the train home, the KVB U-Bahn, linea 1 to Weiden West, and continue editing or writing on the train. Writing on a train, the people and voices and city and nature, is pretty great. Now that I’m back in California, I drive a car to work. I really miss that train.
AT: Were there scenes in your book that you found hard to write?
VC: One story is an email from a mother to her son. It was obviously influenced by my own mother, who writes beautiful emails to me. They’re actually like poems, really funny, offensive but sweet poems. I used her real emails as inspiration, but it felt too personal so I had to change things around a bit.
AT: What are some words of advice for young writers?
VC: For me, defining specific projects, goals, deadlines helps. You can then put all your energy toward that. Otherwise, your creativity can just spin in circles, go all over the place. Define something, whether it’s submitting a story to a contest, making a submission deadline, writing a book.
Like A Champion comes out February 28 and is available to pre-order now.
Vincent Chu was born in Oakland, California. His fiction has appeared in Forth Magazine, PANK, East Bay Review, Pithead Chapel, Fjords Review, Cooper Street, Stockholm Review, Chicago Literati, The Collapsar, WhiskeyPaper and elsewhere. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Sundress Publications Best of the Net. Like a Champion is his debut collection. He lives in San Francisco and can be found online at @herrchu and www.vincentchuwriter.com.