Interview with ‘Edmonton: Unbound’ Author Hai Doan

Today, the Edmonton Writers’ Group is happy to announce that ‘Edmonton: Unbound’ is now available on Amazon.ca.

Edmonton: Unbound’ contains fourteen stories by twelve local authors, unified only by the common theme of their current hometown, Edmonton, AB. Ranging from simple domestic interactions, to futuristic sci-fi adventures, to deep psychological introspections, these stories take a look at Edmonton from viewpoints as different as the writers themselves. This anthology is a love letter to our hometown, and demonstrates our incredibly varied approaches to literature, and to life.

As a gesture of our gratitude, all proceeds from the sales of this book will be donated to the Edmonton Public Library, which has been gracious enough to host our humble group at the Capilano branch for over a decade and a half.

Click the Image to buy ‘Edmonton: Unbound

To celebrate this release, we have an interview with one of the ‘Edmonton: Unbound’ authors, Hai Doan.

1. What was your initial inspiration for the story you included in this anthology, and how the story changed from its original conception?

Hai Doan: My goal was to write a story that was based in Edmonton and since I love riding on the LRT, it seemed natural that I would include our transit system. Plenty of people take the LRT, all from different walks of life, so I wanted to share a story from a viewpoint of one of those passengers. I enjoy light hearted comedies so it is surprising that the plot ended up being rather dark but the ideas flowed well and I just went with it.

2. What events in your background led you to want to write?

Hai Doan: When I was a child, I loved to take books out of the library and read them (and I still do). Two of my favorite authors were Roald Dahl and Gordon Korman. I especially enjoyed the books from the “McDonald Hall” series; I found the stories to be hilarious! This made me want to become an author too because then I could try to make people laugh as well.

3. What difficulties did you encounter while writing this story, other than finding the time to do it?

Hai Doan: I think the most difficult thing was probably getting started and putting some writing on the paper (or computer screen to be more accurate). Once I got started, the writing became easier. For this short story, I didn’t plan the plot out as much as I normally do and just wrote down the ideas as they came to me.

4. Are you writer that plots out all the different angles, or are you more free-form. Why do you think you write this way?

Hai Doan: I tend to plan out my stories. Actually, I would say I plan so much that I often don’t complete the story! I like to jot down notes about the plot, daydreaming about what could happen next but I have a hard time putting all these ideas into a completed work. I remember starting a fantasy genre story and I had all the main points of the plot figured out; I even had drawn maps of the world I had built. I never finished the story though. I think this could be due to the fact that I find world building and plot creation so much fun and actually writing the story can be “hard work”. I think I should take the advice of some authors and just write since the first draft is never perfect anyways.

5. What is your typical response to “writers’ block”?

Hai Doan: My response to “writers’ block” is similar to my approach for working on homework assignments. If I find myself wracking my brain for a long time with no success then I would temporary stop working on the task; I would either take a break or work on something else. I find that allowing my mind to focus on something else for awhile that once I do return to the original task that sometimes I somehow “magically” have an epiphany which makes the solution very clear.

Hai Doan’s story, “LRT Ride”, is featured in ‘Edmonton: Unbound’, which you can purchase now on Amazon.ca.

-Brad OH Inc.

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“Edmonton: Unbound- Another Anthology by Edmonton Writers”

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Here at Brad OH Inc., we are thrilled to announce the impending release of another anthology by the Edmonton Writers’ Group. Like our previous anthology, ‘Between the Shelves’, ‘Edmonton: Unbound’ features stories from twelve different local writers, this time unified by the theme of their hometown, Edmonton, AB.

Through fourteen short stories, these writers take us to places as wildly different as the writers themselves. Further, all profits from ‘Edmonton: Unbound’ will be donated to support the Edmonton Public Library (EPL), who have been gracious enough to house our humble group for over a decade and a half.

Once again, the book will be available through Amazon as both a paperback and an e-book, and will be sold by contributing members of the Edmonton Writers’ Group at live signings and events—to be announced soon.

So, stay tuned to us here at Brad OH Inc. for all the information you need. The final proofs are currently in our hands, so the full release will be upon us soon. We hope you enjoy reading this book as much as we’ve enjoyed creating it!

-Brad OH Inc.

‘Between the Shelves’ at ‘Words in the Park’ and Interview with Author/ Editor Hal J. Friesen

cropped-cropped-blogbanner13.jpgToday, we’re happy to formally announce that the sales of ‘Between the Shelves: A Tribute to Libraries by Edmonton Writers’ have led to the donation of over $700.00 to the Edmonton Public Library System We at Brad OH Inc. think that’s awesome—and we couldn’t have done it without all of you!

Many of the Authors (and both Editors) will also be set up at ‘Words in the Park’ this Saturday, September 26th from 10:00am-4:00pm in the Sherwood Park Community Centre. We’ll be selling and autographing copies of ‘Between the Shelves’!

In celebration of these accomplishments, we have an interview with Editor and Author Hal J. Friesen, who appears in ‘Between the Shelves’, which you can now purchase here in either Kindle ($2.99) or Paperback ($12.50) copies. All proceeds are to be donated to the Edmonton Public Library System.

BetweenTheShelvesCoverThis interview was conducted by a variety of Authors featured in ‘Between the Shelves’ in anticipation of the anthology’s release:

  1. Brian Clark: What is the biggest thing you have learned from this self-publishing experience?

HF: I learned how achievable it is to put out a product of professional quality using readily-available tools. There were some frustrating moments getting the book formatted properly and tweaking cover blurbs, but on the whole it felt great to see a self-published book that could easily have come from a professional publishing house.

I also need to mention how pleasantly surprised I was at the scope and variety of stories submitted to the anthology. I thought I had a pretty good idea what I was going to get from the EWG group members, but they surprised me in a very good way.

  1. Vivian Zenari: What is your educational background, and how has that influenced your writing?

HF: I got my Bachelor’s Degree in Science from UNBC with a Joint Major in Chemistry and Physics, and a Minor in Mathematics. Basically for my undergraduate degree I was trying to refuse specialization, which in hindsight might not have been a good approach in terms of employability. I had knowledge in many fields but was missing snippets from each to prevent me from being completely proficient. My Master’s Degree in Science, focusing on Plasmas and Photonics, helped me tune my abilities and knowledge toward more practical applications – as ridiculous as that might sound after working on laser fusion experiments.

The breadth of theoretical and experimental science experience I’ve gleaned through the years helps me to appreciate how certain science fiction ideas might be implemented, the realities both pleasant and unpleasant of logistics that really help make a fantastical proposition seem real. When I wrote in high school I was thinking of sci-fi notions in a more detached and academic way. After academia, ironically, I think about them more in terms of what’s happening on the ground, what’s happening to the little guy who has to pull the levers, which helps make science fiction more meaningful to readers.

  1. Brad OH Inc.: Hal, your story is about a man (Albert Einstein), gaining great knowledge from libraries, but also experiencing stunning existential terror. Do you consider libraries to be places of hidden danger, or is learning in general a threat to our sense of being?

HF: I used to read these time machine choose-your-own-adventure books, and they were like puzzles where you got stuck in time loops until you figured out the correct sequence of events to escape a grisly fate. There was one particular instance where I was trying to avoid being guillotined, but kept getting sent back over and over again, being chased, being caught, having the blade fall – to the extent that I fell asleep and had nightmares about it. Libraries taught me to be utterly terrified of the Spanish Inquisition.

I think in our age of ubiquitous fear-mongering, it’s important to recognize libraries and their potential role in contributing to the general fright that fits so well in a terror-state. In this story I wanted to show that even a brilliant Einstein can’t escape the spine-tingling horror of a nameless source of danger. His existential cataclysm in a place of learning draws close parallels to the dread during the discovery of a newly-christened terrorist cell, or the announcement of the construction of yet another totally-necessary prison. I felt that the role of books and libraries in general has been undervalued in terms of their capacity to inspire totally irrational fear, and wanted to emphasize how deeply they can touch our being versus other forms of media.

  1. Brad OH Inc.: Why did you choose Einstein as your character? Do you have some arcane knowledge of his life the rest of us aren’t privy to? Is there any biographical truth to this tale?

HF: I have a copy of Einstein’s original manuscript on Special Relativity, and if you go to the trouble of reading it you find very strange references in the margins, almost as if he was placating some unseen observer. With extensive and advanced calligraphic decoding I was able to parse some of the scribbles he had tried to hide after the fact, after whatever it was had stopped peering over him threateningly. It was clear he had communion with a library spirit, or as he named it, Wilfred, though exactly which library was unclear – I used artistic liberty in that aspect.

It’s amazing how much you can discover when you read the source material rather than just taking secondary sources at face value.

  1. Brad OH Inc.: Your passion for libraries is clear in this story. Share with us some of your most formative memories of being in the library. Is there any encounter in particular that stands out as a moment where knowledge was so startlingly thrust upon you?

HF:  Guillotines were startlingly thrust upon my unsuspecting neck in that traumatizing time machine book…

When I was a child, there were summer reading challenges where you got to move your pawn along footsteps lining the library walls, taking a step for every book you read. The path took a circuitous route around the two-story Prince George Public Library, and I would take out piles of books in order to get to the end. And I did.

My prize? PTSD from an impossible and horrific Spanish Inquisition time machine loop. And a ribbon.

The library used to have person-shaped chairs in bright colors, and I would sit near the large windows and browse through Goosebumps books, Tintin comics, and fantasy books. I would sway back and forth in the S-shaped chairs, knocking them flat onto the back, or upright again with a satisfying thunk. The trips to the library were a fairly regular occasion – my mother would tiptoe off to the romance section, and my brothers and I would spin the carousels housing adventure and horror novels.

Getting my first library card was actually one of my happiest childhood experiences, because I felt like I had graduated from this semi-weekly family ritual and had become an adult. It was a lot better than any actual graduation, that’s for sure.

  1. Brad OH Inc.: Your writing has historically been focused on some pretty heavy scientific concepts. What do you consider to be one of the most interesting unanswered questions in modern science? Do you have any possible ‘dream scenario’ solution to this quandary that strikes you as the most appealing?

HF: Not to avoid the question, but I guess the more interesting questions are ones we haven’t thought of yet. The untapped potential and dark corners of our understanding are very exciting places, which is why I enjoy good hard science fiction so much. One recent discovery was that the brain might have a lymphatic system, which opens the door to all sorts of medical progress and better development of humanity.

The unanswered question of life beyond Earth is a continually fascinating one for me, and my dream scenario is that I live long enough to see contact happen. That would be a great privilege.

The unification of gravity and the other fundamental forces is another issue that fascinates me. I remember the exact place where I first read Maxwell’s derivation of electromagnetism and the intimate relationship between them. I literally got up and wanted to run around (but couldn’t in my cramped dorm-room) because I was so excited by the beauty of something so connected and intertwined. Connectedness, for lack of a better term, is something I explore a lot in my writing, and it interests me equally in the natural world.

Similarly, the unification of quantum mechanics and general relativity – the small with the very large – is also quite an interesting unanswered question. I’ve read a proposal that suggests the answer might be in our interpretation of time itself, which sent my head spinning in beautiful pirouettes.

I think some of the deeper philosophical-physics questions might go unanswered for a long time, but can make you experience some of the same existential schism Einstein does in the story. Questions like: what exactly is charge? What exactly is mass? We have equations that describe what they do but that’s different from knowing what something is. There’s a joke that if you want to drive a physicist crazy, ask him what charge is. Try it sometime.

  1. Brad OH Inc.: As a follow-up to the former question, of the myriad scientific discoveries throughout history, which would you most like to have been a part of, and why?

HF: I’ve developed an unlikely fondness for light and optics, so I think I would have loved to have been a part of Maxwell’s discoveries unifying electricity and magnetism. Any of the so-called Maxwell’s equations. Ampere, Gauss – to have been around any of those guys would have been gnarly and radical, and I’m sure my language wouldn’t drive them crazy. Gauss was a genius.

I would say quantum mechanics, but the results aren’t as easy to put your hands on or see with the eye. The laser would have been pretty amazing to discover. I got the chance to hear Charles Townes, one of the co-inventors of the laser, speak, and it was surreal to see him use a laser pointer to point at a slide of his original laser conception. He made lasers originally for astronomical purposes, and at the time of his talk (age over 90) he was still doing that. There’s a raw enthusiasm and electricity some scientists exude and I think to have been around any of those remarkable individuals would have been illuminating and inspiring outside of the discoveries themselves.

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Remember to catch the authors of ‘Between the Shelves’ at ‘Words in the Park’ this Saturday, September 26th from 10:00am-4:00pm in the Sherwood Park Community Centre!

Finally, be sure to visit Hal J. Friesen at his blog right here, and check out his story “Reading After Hours” in ‘Between the Shelves’. You can purchase it now on Amazon.

-Brad OH Inc.

“Between the Shelves: A Tribute to Libraries by Edmonton Writers”

cropped-cropped-blogbanner13.jpgToday, we’re happy to announce the impending release of a new anthology edited by Brad OH Inc. and Hal J. Friesen, ‘Between the Shelves: A Tribute to Libraries by Edmonton Writers’. This anthology, like our former release ‘Don’t Chew on the Sharp End of the Pencil’, is a collection of stories by writers from the ‘Edmonton Writer’s Group’, including one by Brad OH Inc.

BetweenTheShelvesCoverThe theme of this collection is our shared appreciation of libraries and all they offer to readers in Edmonton and beyond. The anthology will be available on March 14th via CreateSpace in both digital ($2.99) and hard copy ($12.50) versions. All proceeds will be donated to the Edmonton Public Library System.

Stay tuned to Brad OH Inc. for future updates on this release, as well as details on how to order your own copy!

-Brad Oates