My interview this week is with Author Eichin Chang-Lim.
Hi Eichin, thanks for doing this interview!
When your book, THE LOVELOCK came out, you immediately grabbed my attention with the cover and then drew me in with your book description. THE LOVELOCK is such a captivating, deeply touching story that I found myself doing something I’ve never done. I found myself relating so quickly to your characters that before the initial part of the story was over, I was crying. Wow, so intense!
If you don’t mind my asking, Eichin, where did the idea for this story come from? And how does one go from being a model to an optometrist and then an author of inspiring, uplifting, romantic stories?
Where did the idea for this story come from?
The subtitle of The LoveLock is A Romantic Suspense Novel. The idea of writing a book pertinent to depression and mental illness has been germinating within me for a long time—I would say since even before my first book, Love, A Tangled Knot (the first edition was titled Tough Scratch-Love, the Tangled Knot). I put this book project on a back burner because I was not ready to toil on such a vexing subject at the time.
You might have noticed that romance and inspirational are my niche genres. I write romance because I find it to be an intriguing genre; I find that relationships are quite involved in real life. Therefore, I use romance to depict the intricacies of relationships. Ultimately, it evolves into an inspirational and thought-provoking tale.
Readers will discover that I tend to tell love stories beyond the confines of romance. I strive to convey the kind of love that is much broader and more profound than romantic or physical love. It’s my conviction; love is more than a four-letter word. It’s multi-dimensional; it involves sacrifice, forgiveness, trust, demoting one’s ego, or even “letting it go” at times. I also like to encompass the love of friendship, family, and even little pets in my story.
Although The LoveLock is still within the genre of romance and inspiration, it’s much grittier than my previous three books. It’s dark because the story revolves around the aspects of mourning of death, the anguish of loss, disappointment of being rejected, and torments of mental illness with a touch of the spiritual and supernatural. A portion of the book, I would say even right from Part 1, is engulfed with a deep sense of melancholy, which is uneasy and challenging for some readers to accept and digest.
If you ask whether I’ve injected personal experience into the storyline, the answer is yes. Mental pain is no stranger to me. For years, I blamed myself for my son’s genetic disorders and his deafness (as illogical as it may sound, I was drawn in that whirl of remorse for quite a few years.) With that, I experienced a couple of episodes of depression. Moreover, through the years as a health care provider, I’ve encountered an increasing number of patients who are taking an anti-depressant and enduring other kinds of mental stresses. In order to write this story with credibility, I read relevant books and did research. In addition, I consulted with a clinical psychiatrist about PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) symptoms. Mental illness is a silent yet devastating condition. It hurts immensely, yet the wound is invisible. The pain is palpable; however, it’s indescribable verbally most of the time. Many times, people feel ashamed and uncomfortable revealing their inner torment to others for fear of being misjudged.
At the beginning of the book, I quoted two talented writers and poets who are eminent in the literature arena. Please allow me to reiterate here.
“The world wavered and quivered and threatened to burst into flames.” —Virginia Woolf.
“I wanted to tell her that if only something were wrong with my body, it would be fine, I would rather have anything wrong with my body than something wrong with my head, but the idea seemed so involved and wearisome that I didn’t say anything. I only burrowed down further in the bed.” —Sylvia Plath
Both Woolf and Plath eventually dismissed their own lives. What a tragedy!
It’s my desire to write a story about the affliction of mental illness and how to find hope and strength to defeat the haunting inner strife and long lamented pain. A triumph after a long struggle is comparable to a small larva wrapped in a dark cocoon, which undergoes a gruesome metamorphosis, breaks through the chrysalis, and transforms into a majestic butterfly spreading its wings and flying.
I would also like to clarify a concern; some readers find it to be confusing and question my view on sexuality. The main character, Violet, becomes close friends with the strip club bouncer, who is gay. I feel obligated to explain that particular plot detail to my readers.
First of all, I am a Christian and straight. I have no particular political or religious agenda. This inclusion is just an honest reflection of my real life. I have a few good friends and co-workers who have different stances and preferences in terms of sexuality. It has never occurred to me that these differences could cause any conflicts in my friendships or work relationships with them. Wouldn’t it be nice if all of society could tear down all the unnecessary walls and build genuine friendships amongst one and other?
How does one go from being a model to an optometrist and then an author of inspiring, uplifting, romantic stories?
It’s an interesting journey, I would say.
I wanted to be a writer when I was in elementary school. I even submitted several short stories and essays to youth magazines, and they were accepted and published. Of course, they were written in Chinese back home. In junior high, I submitted some more articles and stories; they were ruthlessly rejected. My confidence shattered; I started to doubt my writing ability. At the same time, I found interests in other areas of study. So, the idea of being a writer faded, and I gradually evolved my studies in science and healthcare.
After years as an optometrist, I realized that every person is a unique individual, and every soul is precious. I know this sounds clichéd. However, that’s my conviction. I really appreciate that my patients allow me to look into their eyes, “the windows to the soul.” (Again, a cliché!) I believe that there are stories in every single person. Listening to my patients fuels the inspiration for my stories.
The urge to tell stories prompted me to become an author eight years ago. My novels are a collection of stories I have heard and about people I have met. Of course, I inject them with personal experience and research for certain plots to make the story real.
Regarding modeling and acting, they are for personal enrichment. I was in several short films and one feature movie, with a few IMDb credits. I savor the experiences and incorporate them into my plot; however, I have no intention of making them my career.
BY Ingrid Foster, Author of My Father’s Magic and Revenge of the Dark Queen