Author Q&A with Debut Eddy Boudel Tan!

Happy Monday, book folks!

Well, you’re in for a treat today! I’m thrilled to be hosting Eddy Boudel Tan on the blog, author of the touching novel, After Elias. I met Eddy through 2020 Debuts and was delighted to connect with another Canadian writer. I hope you find the interview below as inspiring as I have. Enjoy learning more about Eddy and his book, which released in Canada earlier this month, and is set to hit the shelves in the US and UK very soon. I’m so proud to have this story on my shelf. And while you check out Eddy’s website (details below), remember to sign up for his newsletter, it’s always a great read.

Thanks so much for taking the time, Eddy, and congratulations on your wonderful debut!

AK: Tell us a little about yourself.

EBT: My ultimate goal as a writer is to move people. I want them to feel things that are explosive and unexpected, to find new ways of seeing the familiar. For this reason, my work often features unrealized expectations and a distorted sense of truth. My heroes, who are always deeply flawed, find themselves in the most extraordinary situations, and we see what they discover through it all. I love surprises, and I hope my readers do too!

As a queer Asian Canadian, it’s important to me that my work reflects the diversity and richness of the world. My parents immigrated to Canada from Brunei, instilling in me qualities that remain fundamental to my identity today — ambition and the belief in a better future, tempered by a nebulous sense of otherness and vigilance.

When I’m not writing, I’m often thinking about what to write next while running beside the ocean, hiking through the wilderness, dining on good food, and exploring the world. All of these things tend to influence my writing. My husband is my number one fan and most honest critic. He’s the best beta reader because I can always trust him to be brutally, unrelentingly honest. We run a community initiative called the Sidewalk Supper Project that serves home-cooked meals to those living on the streets of Vancouver.

AK: What’s the premise of your book?

EBT: After Elias is the story of a pilot’s last words before he flies an airplane into the sea one week before his wedding day. It follows the fiancé left behind, Coen, as he struggles to make sense of his new reality and this final message. Coen takes refuge on the Mexican island that was meant to host their wedding, insisting on proceeding with the event as a celebration of Elias’s life, sparking concern among his family and friends. But as fragments of the past come to the surface as the event nears, he begins to question everything he thought he knew about Elias and their life together. The truth is within reach, if only he can find the courage to face it.

It explores how we’re shaped by the past and the guilt we carry. It’s a story about doubt, regret, and the fear of losing everything.

AK: What inspired you to write it?

EBT: I wanted to write a modern queer tragedy. Despite how much I accomplish or progress in life, I will always have this lingering fear of being one misstep from losing everything. I think it’s a fear that’s shared with many people from marginalized backgrounds, including the LGBTQ+ community. I wanted to bring this fear to life, revealing what it looks like to lose it all in the most heartbreaking and spectacular way — then discovering what happens next.

The circumstances of the story were inspired in part by a true event. In 2015, Germanwings flight 9525 crashed in the French Alps while on its way from Barcelona to Düsseldorf. The details that emerged from the investigation were disturbing. The co-pilot had locked the captain out of the cockpit before flying the plane into a mountainside. I remember obsessing over this story as it unfolded, unable to comprehend what could have driven a man to do something so horrific. But most of all, I couldn’t stop thinking about the people in his life who must have loved him. Would they be any closer to understanding?

This is one of the questions I try to answer in After Elias, which follows people in the wake of a similar tragedy.

AK: What are you most looking forward to this debut year? And conversely, what are you most nervous about?

EBT: There’s so much that I’m looking forward to! I can’t wait to walk into a store and see my book on the shelves (or, better yet, on the features table *wink wink, booksellers*). Most of all, though, I’m excited to talk to readers about my book. I’m at the stage now when early reviews are coming in from advance readers, and it’s been so interesting to see how different people are receiving the book. The things they connected with, the ways the book made them feel, their varying interpretations of the themes. I look forward to discussing these types of things live with readers.

I think my answer would be exactly the same for what I’m most nervous about!

AK: What authors do you admire and/or have influenced your development as a writer? Please feel free to add specific books, we love recommendations!

EBT: This is a tough one. In terms of admiration, I would say Audrey Niffenegger and Madeline Miller are two writers who possess a special, inimitable talent. Their books have moved and dazzled me. Their care and attention to every word is undeniable, yet so natural.

I’d have to say Stephen King, Yann Martel, and Haruki Murakami have influenced my writing. They are very different writers, but they share an ability to tell very human stories amid outlandish, often bizarre, circumstances. Their work crosses the edge of what’s believable, often taking great leaps past the edge or redefining that edge entirely, yet they never lose sight of the human at the centre. They have different methods — King uses freakishness and fear, Martel uses whimsy, Murakami sets his stories in a dream-like dimension of reality — but their characters feel the same things we all feel — insecurity, desire, complacency, ambition — and their stories are rooted in these feelings.

My work is grounded in a more solid sense of reality, but I also like to dance along that edge.  

If you’re looking for a book recommendation, one of my favourite reads in recent years has been Tin Man by Sarah Winman. It’s such a spare and unflinching story of the fear that keeps us from grabbing hold of happiness. When I finished reading it, I lamented everything I’ve regretted not doing and revelled in the prospect of everything that lay ahead.

AK: What are you working on now?

EBT: I’m working on revisions for my second novel, The Rebellious Tide, which will be published by Dundurn in 2021. It’s about Sebastien Goh, who poses as a ship’s crew member to find answers from the father he’s never met, only to become entangled in a revolt against oppression. It’s a story of blame and obsession on the Mediterranean Sea. I’m very excited about it. 

AK: Describe your perfect writing environment.

EBT: If I’m allowed to dream, it would probably be on the rooftop of a hillside villa in the Mexican town of San Miguel de Allende, surrounded by hummingbirds, flowering vines, and the sound of bells chiming from the cathedral in the distance. It’s one of my favourite places, and it also inspired the setting of After Elias.

BOOK INFO:

Release dates by country: September 12 (Canada) and October 6 (US and UK)

Synopsis:

When the airplane piloted by Elias Santos crashes one week before their wedding day, Coen Caraway loses the man he loves and the illusion of happiness he has worked so hard to create. The only thing Elias leaves behind is a recording of his final words, and even Coen is baffled by the cryptic message.

Numb with grief, he takes refuge on the Mexican island that was meant to host their wedding. But as fragments of the past come to the surface in the aftermath of the tragedy, Coen is forced to question everything he thought he knew about Elias and their life together. Beneath his flawed memory lies the truth about Elias — and himself.

From the damp concrete of Vancouver to the spoiled shores of Mexico, After Elias weaves the past with the present to tell a story of doubt, regret, and the fear of losing everything.

Where To Get Your Copy:

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