VIEW THIS PAGE When he published his first short novel Language (語言) online in 1999, Jiu Ba-dao (九把刀) had no idea that one day he would become a best-selling writer and cultural pundit, adored by high school and college students alike. The free-spirited author, who crisscrosses genres such as fantasy, romance, thriller, black comedy, action and wuxia (武俠), or Chinese martial-art literature, is difficult to pin down.
His most talked-about achievements include writing 5,000 words a day and publishing 14 novels over a period of 14 months. At the age of 30, Jiu has more than 50 books under his belt, many of which have topped the best-seller chart, with others being adapted for television soap operas. The author’s ultimate wish is to become the next Jin Yong (金庸), one of the Chinese-speaking world’s top wuxia writers.
Jiu recently made a foray into film, directing a short movie that along with contributions from three other celebrities-turned-first-time directors form L-O-V-E (愛到底), which was released earlier this month. Starring pop idols Megan Lai (賴雅妍) and Van Fan (范逸臣), the story centers on a young man’s dying wish to look after the woman he loves, even when he’s gone.
Taipei Times: What does it feel like to be a first-time film director?
Jiu Ba-dao: I often felt clumsy. I am so used to being in complete control of my works as a writer. But in film, one’s sense of fulfillment is not pure as making a movie is a collective work. The danger of writing novels is that one can get way too cocky, believing that he can achieve things alone.
Being a director certainly exceeded all my expectations for my career. Filmmaking used to be a mystery to me. After the film, I know that it’s extremely difficult to make a movie, but it is no longer a mystery.
TT: How did you prepare for the project?
JB: Because I was totally clueless, I rented lots of DVDs and studied the behind-the-scene sections.
TT: Are you happy with the result?
JB: Yea, I quite like it. The pressure of making the film look good came from my fear of losing face. Lots of my book fans would go see the film, and I don’t want them to leave the theater, thinking “Jiu Ba-dao should go back to writing novels.”
TT: Speaking of your books, what propelled you to become a blog writer after Language?
JB: I was annoyed with sociology when I didn’t get admitted to National Tsing Hua University’s (清華大學, NTHU) graduate school, so I wrote stories during the whole time that I was supposed to be preparing to sit entrance exams for the next year. And I got addicted to it.
I put all my stories all online because I didn’t have a personal computer back then. That’s why I became a blog writer.
(After graduating from the National Chiao Tung University’s (國立交通大學) department of management science, Jiu didn’t settle down with a job at Hsinchu Science Park like many of his classmates did. He wrote Language, or what he called a fantasy novel laden with sociological awareness, for his graduate school application to NTCU’s sociology department. He didn’t get admitted, but instead found fame as a best-selling writer five years later after half a decade of sluggish sales.)
TT: Why did you choose Giddens as your blog name?
JB: It was because Marx and Habermas were already used (laughing). I found The Third Way [by Anthony Giddens] boring, but I wanted a cool name ... Lots of the reasons behind what I do aren’t really that cool.
TT: Have you ever experienced writer’s block?
JB: Hardly. I constantly look for ideas and inspirations, collect news, and take them down. One idea is enough to keep me writing for days. When there is no newspaper and magazines on the table when I eat, I think of ideas, plots and stories.
TT: What’s the most bizarre news story you have recently collected?
JB: I read somewhere that there is this girl found living on a toilet for two years. I don’t know when I will or if I will ever use it in my stories. There are all sorts of things saved in my computer.
TT: What is more important to a writer, talent or practice?
JB: I won’t talk crap about how a person who can’t sing can become a singer if [he or she] practices. Everybody has a talent for something. It takes practice, of course, if you want to be really, really good at your calling.
TT: In your eyes, what makes a high-quality movie or novel?
JB: To me, a good work makes people unable to stop reading it. There are excellent books that people can put down and read several days later. But I like them strong and intense. You feel the sense of time disappearing when totally immersed in reading.
TT: What would you do if one day you woke up to find you couldn’t write anymore?
JB: Couldn’t write anymore? It could only be an accident in which I lost both my hands.
TT: I mean if your muse does a midnight flit
JB: Then I would just be less of a great writer. Even if no one pays attention to me and my works, I can still keep doing what I like to do.
TT: Name one of the books you have been reading recently.
JB: Running With Scissors [by American best-selling author Augusten Burroughs]. But the rest of the stuff I read is manga. Reading manga makes me happy.
Hunter X Hunter [by Yoshihiro Togashi] is super good! I read it every day. I put Slam Dunk [by Inoue Takehiko], One Piece [by Eiichiro Oda] and Hunter X Hunter outside my bathroom, so that every time I take a leak, I can grab one book and read.
I would say that my ideas for storyboarding come from manga rather than films.
TT: Have you thought of adapting your novels to the big screen?
JB: Yes, it’s already in the works. I will start with a simple love story, though all my fans think that what I do best are hot-blooded action, thriller and wuxia novels.
Truth be told, there are plenty of romance writers already, and by joining them I would be unlikely to make a difference. I can probably make a difference, though, in the world of wuxia and thriller. But then again, I am not that great in the world of filmmaking. I need practice and to figure out how it works.
TT: What’s your plan for the near future?
JB: I am going to take a hot air balloon ride in Kenya in August and watch animals roaring on the savanna. VIEW THIS PAGE
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