Friday, October 8, 2021

Travels with Tori--Sending Her Sleuth on A Journey

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: We’ve all had to stay close to home these days, and of course, doing most of our travel through books. This horrible pandemic has certainly changed book tours, that’s for sure, but at least now we can see our favorite authors on zoom. (And that’s pretty amazing, you have to admit.)

But safe on the pages of the book, of course, authors can take their characters anywhere. And the fabulous dear friend of Jungle Red, nationally best-selling author Tori Eldridge, knew it was time to take her Lily Wong on a trip!

So now, Lily has taken a journey on paper, and Tori has taken her book tour journey on zoom. And that’s where our story begins.

Taking an L.A. Sleuth to Hong Kong



TORI ELDRIDGE: Unless a book series protagonist is a roaming lone wolf or an action hero in an international thriller, they usually fight crime in their home-base city. Not so with Lily Wong. After establishing my ninja sleuth in Los Angeles with The Ninja Daughter and The Ninja’s Blade, the time had come for me to take Lily Wong across the world to exotic Hong Kong. And now I’m on tour for The Ninja Betrayed, and it’s funny that that same questions keep coming from readers!

Had I planned this in advance?

Was it harder to write about a location so far from my own?

Were there tricks for switching cities mid-series?

And I’ve realized that in answering those questions, I learned some valuable things!

Lay a Foundation


The key to switching locations, mid-series, is to lay a foundation in previous books that lead the readers to a justifiable and expected transition.

In the Lily Wong series that balances action thriller, intriguing mystery, and cultural family dynamics, Lily’s choices are driven by her love and concern for her family. No matter how demanding the case, she always makes the time to connect with her parents and grandparents. Therefore, the driving motivation for Lily to switch cities had to come from family.

Tori Eldridge in Hong Hong

In The Ninja Daughter, Lily’s grandparents exert their influence from Hong Kong by holding the deed to her parents’ home, pressuring Lily to fulfill her mother’s failed filial obligations, and sending Lily a gift via Daniel Kwok, the perfect Chinese son. In The Ninja’s Blade, Gung-Gung and Po-Po visit Los Angeles, meddle in Lily’s budding romance, and argue about Hong Kong’s pro-democracy struggle. When Gung-Gung summons Ma, who is also the Los Angeles director of his Hong Kong International Finance company, for an emergency meeting in Hong Kong, readers are prepared for a new destination in The Ninja Betrayed.

Establish Strong Motivation

In a home-based book series, the protagonist needs a strong motivation to travel.

While readers expect a roving character like Jack Reacher to travel around the USA, a Chicago private eye like Cass Raines would need a darn good reason to leave her windy city.

Lily’s motivation is family. She escorts her mother to Hong Kong because her Norwegian father—a Hong Kong cuisine restaurateur and chef—cannot. His head cook is visiting relatives in Shanghai and he must stay in Los Angeles to run his Chinese restaurant. Lily must go in his place to support her mother through family and corporate attack.

Make it Relevant

The most vibrant settings intertwine with characters and plot so thoroughly the book could not take place anywhere else. Sylvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic could only take place in 1950s Real del Monte, Mexico. Richard Chizmar anchored his remarkable metafiction, Chasing the Boogeyman, into his hometown of Edgewood, Maryland. J.T. Ellison wedded Her Dark Lies into a fictional island in Italy so vibrantly I wanted to book passage.

With The Ninja Betrayed, not only is Lily’s Hongkonger mother the Los Angeles director of Gung-Gung’s Hong Kong family business, but Lily and Ma arrive in the midst of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy struggle. During her visit, Lily copes with protest, riots, and black police while trying to protect an impressionable teen, the daughter of her grandfather’s driver, from ambitious political activists. My story could only be told in Hong Kong, and since it took place in September 2019, it had to revolve around H.K.’s pro-democracy struggle.

Personal Connection


Each of the afore-mentioned authors had a fascination or familiarity to their book’s location that added depth to their stories—Chizmar’s hometown, Moreno-Garcia’s home country, Ellison’s birthday trip to Lake Como and her vivid impressions of a tiny island called Comacina. Their personal connections came through in their writing and brought those places to life.

My connection to Hong Kong is bound by blood.

the new family!


In a serendipitous coincidence, our eldest son fell in love with a co-worker in Oregon while I was writing The Ninja Daughter. I had already established Lily Wong’s Hong Kong heritage, so imagine my surprise when I discovered that his future-wife was from also Hong Kong! Years later, I have a beautiful ten-month-old granddaughter with the same maternal roots as my protagonist.

My husband, younger son, and I celebrated their engagement by traveling to Shanghai, where they live, and on to Hong Kong to meet my daughter-in-law’s family. What a dream this was for me, as a mother and an author, to experience this wondrous city with people who knew it best.

Have you been to Hong Kong? What city intrigues you the most?

HANK: OH, I’ve never been to Hong Kong! Hmm. Where would I like to go? Whitbey’s Island. Or Venice. How about you, Reds and Readers?

****


Things get personal for Lily Wong in The Ninja Betrayed, named one of “Five Fall Mysteries You Shouldn’t Miss” by the Los Angeles Times!

Tori Eldridge is the Anthony, Lefty, and Macavity Awards-nominated nationally-bestselling author of the Lily Wong mystery thriller series—The Ninja Daughter, The Ninja’s Blade, The Ninja Betrayed—and the upcoming dark Brazilian fantasy, Dance Among the Flames (out May 24, 2022). Her shorter works appear in horror, dystopian, and other literary anthologies, including the inaugural reboot of Weird Tales magazine. Her screenplay The Gift was a Nicholl Fellowship semi-finalist. Tori holds a fifth-degree black belt in To-Shin Do ninja martial arts and has performed as an actress, singer, dancer on Broadway, television, and film.


39 comments:

  1. That’s pretty amazing about your son and daughter-in-law . . .life imitates fiction!
    “The Ninja Betrayed” sounds like an amazing story . . . I’m looking forward to reading Lily’s latest adventure.

    No, I’ve never been to Hong Kong . . . .
    The city that intrigues me the most? Rome.

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    1. Thanks, Joan. To have fiction reflect life then life to imitate fiction blew me away! Who could have guessed?

      I would love to visit Rome. The only place in Europe I've been is Dublin -- twice. LOL!

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    2. NEVER get tired of ROme, right? Oh, so amazing...you can't believe you are in such historic places...

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  2. Tori, Welcome to Jungle Reds! I met you briefly at the Left Coast Crime conference in San Diego before the lockdown. One question: Is the perfect Chinese son really perfect in your novel?

    Though I never visited Hong Kong, I visited Venice, Italy and loved it there. Venice was my favorite city in Italy because there were no cars. Perhaps some day I will visit Hong Kong. When I was a kid, a student teacher in my classroom was from Hong Kong and to us Hong Kong looked so tiny on the map.

    Congratulations on your new novel,
    Diana

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    1. Hi Diana. What a crazy adventure it was to have Left Coast Crime locked down at the end of the first day! Since my debut (The Ninja Daughter) was nominated, I had sooo many fun things planned. Alas... whatcha gonna do?

      "The perfect Chinese son" is definitely not perfect -- more like the ideal Lily's mother and grandparents would want. hahaha And, yes, Hong Kong is tiny, crammed with a mind-boggling population.

      Venice is on my bucket list to be sure. I would love to take a month and travel through Europe. Fingers crossed, maybe one day I will!

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    2. You will! ANd oh, that LCC event. What lore.

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  3. Tori, how wonderful to gain an international family!

    When I was living in Japan, I almost went to Hong Kong to meet my sister who had traveled overland nearly to there on an epic post-college two years. I was on a work visa in the Tokyo area and had a round trip ticket to Hong Kong, but at the airport they asked me if I had a re-entry permit. Nobody had told me I needed one! I could leave but I wouldn't have been able to get back in. I had to go home and spend a lonely Christmas while my family in California scrambled to wire my sister the money I was supposed to be bringing her. She eventually got to Japan and lived with me for several months.

    Long story! Best of luck with the new book and thanks for sharing how Lily got to Hong Kong.

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    1. Wow! That's quite an adventure, Edith. Sorry you had to return to Tokyo.

      Fun fact: My Chinese Hawaiian mother from Maui and my North Dakota Norwegian father met and married in Japan. Both of my older sisters were born in Tokyo! I came along much later and was born in Honolulu. I finally got to visit Tokyo, just for a night, on our way to Shanghai and Hong Kong. Really hope to return for a proper visit!

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    2. Wow, that's a story...maybe a good short story, too...

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  4. Love this story Tori! I'd love to see Hong Kong but I doubt it will happen, with all the political troubles. That country is heartbreaking right now and I bet it's hard for your daughter-in-law! Congrats on the grandbaby and new book!

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    1. I know what you mean, Lucy. I'm so thankful I was able to visit Hong Kong when I did. Who knows if I'll ever be able to visit again. Thankful that my son and daughter-in-law were able to take our little darling to meet her HK relatives. Although, the logistics and quarantines (especially to reenter Shanghai) were astounding.

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  5. Great family photo, Tori. And how curious that your granddaughter is Lily come to life, heritage-wise. Life takes epic turns sometimes, doesn't it?

    I'm not sure I'll get to Hong Kong at this point in my life. Crowded cosmopolitan cities are much less enticing to me than they used to be. It's more than one place, but I'd really like to finally take the trip my husband and I have talked about for years, driving across Canada, starting with the Maritimes and ending visiting friends in BC.

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    1. Hi Karen. It certainly is crazy epic turn!

      My parents took us on a road trip up the west coast to Jasper and Banff. Then I was able to visit Toronto for the film festival premier for The Equalizer (my producer hubby's film). I think a drive across the country would be breathtaking!

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    2. Yes, that sounds so lovely--I hope that staying home doesn't get us all into the habit of ignoring the rest of the world.

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  6. Tori, welcome to JRW. Life imitating art. What a terrific personal story! Congratulations on becoming a grandma!

    Your 3 Lily Wong mysteries have been on my TBR list for TOO long. I'm going to make sure the first one is on its way to my hands by the time I take the dog for a walk this morning. I know very little about Asian cultures. Anything that I learn about Chinese families in your books will be new to me.


    Cities, hmm. I have surely landed in some very interesting ones but choosing one for a deep dive is tough. First, like Joan, I thought Rome. Then I thought Jerusalem, but I could have done that and I didn't. So, I believe that I'll continue to explore cities I visit in the most perfunctory way, and read about places like Hong Kong in books.

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    1. Hi Judy. I'm so excited that you'll soon be reading THE NINJA DAUGHTER. I hope you enjoy the ride. :D

      Deep dives into cities can be more fun in fiction. Novels are marvelous for vicarious travel and insight!

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  7. Congratulations on your new release and grandchild!

    When we visited Venice, I chatted with a British couple on their annual month-long stay in the city. Why not rent an apartment, walk the city, and shop for dinner ingredients in the open markets? Maybe we will, someday.

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    1. Thanks, Margaret! Ooh... what a lovely idea to rent an apartment in Venice (or any cool city) and experience the life and culture for a month. Hmmm... I keep hoping one of my husbands movies will need or welcome him (and me!) on location. hahaha Fingers crossed. I could definitely write while living in Australia or Europe!

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    2. That has ALWAYS been my dream--to really live somewhere, for a month, total immersion. Such a different view of life!

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  8. A new book and a new granddaughter - it doesn't get much better than that! I think you undersold a part of laying the foundation - Lily's far-flung and extremely cool journeys start with the author's choice to give her a far-flung (and extremely cool) family. You could have the same compelling relationship dynamics if the whole clan lived in LA, but pre-loading the possibilities for something more exciting is the mark of a real pro.

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  9. Deepest thanks, Julia. I really appreciate this. I had to admit, the foundation was intentional from the start. I always knew Lily would travel to Hong Kong and beyond. ;)

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  10. I always wanted to go to Hong Kong. I have been fascinated with the island since I first read Clavell's books and love visiting vicariously through the works of other authors. Now I've got a Tori Eldrige book to take me there!

    The city that fascinates me the most is always the one I'm in. I love digging in and learning all the interesting bits. When I'm lucky, I even manage to learn the overview.

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    1. Oooh...I gobbled up all of Clavell's Asian-centric novels when I was teenager and reread several of them as an adult. (Shogun 4 times!) I had no idea at that time that I would one day paint that world in fiction.

      I love that you're in the moment and digging into to the city you're in. Mindful living for the win!

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    2. I have not read those at all, I confess...should I?

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    3. Oh, Hank, yes. They are beautifully written. Shogun, Taipan, Nobel House, Whirlwind. They all share characters and a storyline. Brother Rat does, too, but that is harder to take as it deals with a POW camp.

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  11. Hi, Tori! Remembering the panel we were both on ... was it Bouchercon? Such an intriguing series. Hong Kong, I'd love to go but haven't yet. Congratulations on your daughter-in-law and grandbaby! Pure joy!!

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    1. Hi Hallie. I remember! That was an awesome panel to a packed room at Bouchercon 2019 in Dallas! You brilliantly moderated "Interesting Ways to Kill People" and people ate it up. LOL! There was so much hype for The Ninja Daughter after that conversation, that the bookseller sold out all my copies fifteen minutes after we ended. What a mind-bender that was for a debut author. Thanks so much for moderating then and for your kind words today! <3

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  12. Hi Tori! What a fascinating story! I love the "life imitates art" and congratulations on your grandbaby! I'm starting with The Ninja Daughter (just ordered!) as I want to read Lily's story from the beginning. I haven't been to Hong Kong but my parents visited in the Sixties. My mom brought back a set of silver plate coffee spoons (imagine carrying those on an international flight in those days) which I still use every day. It's a nice little connection. I'd love to visit both Hong Kong and Tokyo but these days I so desperately want to get back to the UK that there's not much room in my head for anything else!

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    1. Hi Deborah. Thanks for the kind wishes. I'm so excited that you'll be reading The Ninja Daughter! I hope you enjoy her adventures.

      My mother used to collect silver tea spoons, as well. Must have been a generational trend. :) Fingers crossed you're able to return to the UK soon!

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    2. Oh, the tea spoons. Might you use those in a story, Debs????

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  13. Hi, Tori! It was so much fun to sign with you at the Poisoned Pen a few years ago. I love this series. Congrats on your latest! I’m a traveler so I’m all in!

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  14. Thanks, Jenn! Oh, my gosh... that Poisoned Pen event was a blast. And so great to share a stage with you!

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  15. SO LATE today! And welcome, Tori! (and hmmmm--don't you have something ELSE in the works? Tell us!)

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  16. I'm so glad I stopped by tonight. This is a new series for me and I can't wait to dig in!! It sounds wonderful. Favorite city? I can't get enough of London.

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