Bali Wave Ghost: a short self interview

Video Interview with Stephen Black about Bali Wave Ghost An excerpt from Bali Wave Ghost  is here. Bali Wave Ghost is now available on Amazon and, at times I print out digital copies. Let me know if you'd like one. HERE is a summary  of Bali Wave Ghost, as well as a few reviews. The interview below  can be copied freely by bloggers or any other media, but please mention Book Merah. If you require photos of me or Bali, drop a line. And, if you would like to receive news about when Bali Wave Ghost is ready, send an email to bookmerah AT gmail.(DOT) com. If you like free ebooks, read this. Introduce yourself... My journey through art, photography, writing and video began in Toledo, Ohio and has included lengthy stops in Manhattan, Paris, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Singapore. More information about me can be found here. Bali Wave Ghost. Can you explain the title? While writing rough drafts, I used titles that seemed to always refer to Bali, waves and/or ghosts. Eventually I just used these three words. There was no conscious attempt to copy the title of Eat, Pray, Love. However, I should mention that Snow. Wolf. Lake., the title of a 1997 Hong Kong musical is one of my favorite titles. It's factual, mysterious and evocative. What do you think of EPL? Eat Pray Love is a masterpiece of chick lit. A woman living in New York gets divorced, then goes to Italy to eat. Then, off to an ashram in India. Finally, Bali, where she finds a husband. Obviously, it connected with a large readership. And some of that book's success has been shared with Bali. Great! How does BWG compare with EPL? In many ways the books are opposites. EPL is a woman's travel memoir, constructed like a three act play. BWG is something like a fictional memoir full of factual history. EPL is connected to New York, Italy, India and Ubud. BWG is connected to Ubud, Kuta, Sanur and places in Bali that are little known. The Bali I write about is not always a paradise. Both books contemplate relationships and the search for identity. Elizabeth Gilbert is a New York Times bestselling author and Eat Pray Love has sold ten million copies. Obviously our experiences as writers are different. I am an artist/independent writer who has yet to do any serious marketing. I am fortunate to be connected to BooksActually in Singapore. They are one of the best bookshops in the world. (They are now being forced to move which is a problem looking for a solution.) Finally, I am quite serious when I say that Sanur has pizza that is the equivalent to that eaten in Naples by Elizabeth Gilbert/Julia Roberts. For many reasons, I would like the pizza scene in Bali Wave Ghost to be as delightful and multifaceted as the pizza scene in Eat Pray Love. If Bali Wave Ghost were made into a movie....? First, I need to finish it! Then it needs to find readers! But OK, a little dreaming can't hurt... Maybe somebody like Robert Downey Jr. as the lead actor... Female lead? Difficult to say. As for a director, it would be interesting to see what Lars van Trier would do. Michel Gondry? Sophia Coppola? Steven Soderbergh? Why is BWG set in the year 2017? One part of the book is based on the 15 year remembrance of the 2002 Bali bombing. I must be respectful of those whose lives were changed because of that blast. At the same time, remembrances are not always 100 % sorrow. By setting the remembrance in the future, it is clear that I am not depicting any actual individuals or events. Setting BWG in 2017 also allows me to be a little bit futuristic. In a couple of scenes SeeCups are used. SeeCups are my own invention; that is to say that I think in 2017 someone will copy Google Glass technology, make them cheaper and call them SeeCups. Many things are the same in 2017, like surfing, food and tourism. What do you think of Bali? I am writing about Bali, but also using the island as a symbol for Asia. The effects of Dutch and Japanese colonialism interest me, as do the present day Russian and Chinese tourists. I will never understand Bali, but I can write about what I have seen as well as create fictional characters that represent certain situations. Actually, BWG is more about people than anything else. Relationships, dreams, funny situations...things like that. And I should say that I rarely get out of Sanur. The warungs and shops in my neighborhood provide the excitement in my life; most of the time I am inside, writing. Click here to see images of Sanur. I think you should make your covers less boring... Thank you for your honesty. As you may know I do visual art, including photography. I have done promotion for companies like Cartoon Network and Fuji TV. I'm lucky to know many world class designers. It would be easy for Bali Wave Ghost to have a stunning cover, like the cover Debbie Ding created for Contact With Shadow. I use this minimal style as I want to challenge readers. And, according to statistics, most people buy a book because of a recommendation. Not because of the cover. Later, when I have eight books, I will do marketing. When I do marketing I will give things a lot of thought and create a series of all new covers. For now I am happy slowly getting a few adventurous readers. Those who have gotten past the "ugliest cover" on Amazon seemed to have enjoyed Furikake. bali wave ghost   An extract from Bali Wave Ghost,a work in progress; shyly posted as a response to the August issue of The Victorian Writer, a publication of Writers Victoria. Thanks for sharing, Pavle! OCEANUS PROCELLARUM              Ocean of Storms Mary’s Furry Legs, written in ballpoint, on Bile’s forehead. A light  starts moving  across a glass surface. Bile’s lips kiss the glass. The copying machine ejaculates an image. The image becomes the cover of Bile's first book. That bookcover and seven others have been enlarged and suspended from a thin black frame covered with lights.The frame forms something like an open room; I am inside with seven other authors and a video crew. Outside is the reflecting pool of a luxurious resort on a mountainside in Bali. Good evening, ladies and gentleman. My name is Bile. I stand here in great admiration for you all, humbled that I have been deemed worthy to join your ranks. The organizers of this wondrous event have, as you know, asked us to propose a topic for discussion. Mine is rather simple. I propose a discussion inspired by the relationship between painting and the written word. I enthusiastically confess that this topic would, perhaps, allow us to listen to Mr. Dasgupta talk about one of the masterpieces of contemporary literature, the still life described in Powdered Rice, his magnificent novel. A signed hardcover edition of Powdered Rice has pride of place in my home and a paperback version is my constant touring companion. I’ve often given copies of Powdered Rice as gifts. It is truly an inspiring of art. Within Powdered Rice is a description of eight pieces of fruit on a plate. The description requires six pages in paperback, five pages in hardcover. Truly remarkable! To this day – after countless readings --I still become tearful the moment the knife appears in the final sentence. Genius. Pure genius. Forgive another slight disgression: the movie fails to do the book justice. The still life scene is, most unfortunately, comparable to an American orange juice commercial directed by a Kieślowski wannabe. The music was a shameful choice. Back to topic: it would be a honor to hear your thoughts on the relationships between the art of the canvas and the art of the page. Thank you, thank you very much indeed. Alps Bethneck waits a moment, then raises his hands. He mouths the word ‘cut.’ Immediately, two black-clad cameramen scuttle  to premarked positions. They nod. The hovercam operator nods. Bethneck checks his bank of  monitors and gets an OK from the soundman. He raises a finger, and, without looking up, points to the young woman standing across from me. “Thank you, thank you. I am Bo Zhou. I am happy to meet you. I was born in Guangzhou, China. My book  is English name Small Talk. I am not so strong in English. Thank you. Thank you. I now read my topic idea which was writing helped by Michael Lee, Singaporean artist. Thank you. Thank  you. The Mystery of Ancient Chinese Postmodernism is my topic.  I am fascinated by traditional Chinese detective stories. I will briefly list their characteristics. I hope to learn your thoughts on how they compare and contrast with postmodern literature, or for that matter, any other literary style. In traditional Chinese detective stories the relationship between the author and the reader is a paradigm unto itself. The reading experience is not subjected  to the tyranny of the linear narrative. This literary idea, developed in China centuries ago, is considered to be a central concern of Western postmodern literature. For example, the guilty party is almost always revealed on the first page. This stylistic device allows  the author  to engage the reader in a variety of ways. Very postmodern! But we Chinese do not use snarky words nor insult the reader with profanity.. Second, traditional Chinese detective stories often contain exact reproductions of  official documents and laws. In postmodern theory, this is called appropriation. She reads the words carefully yet with the faintest hint of mischief. She looks into the eyes of her audience. Her makeup is simple and understated. The sleeves of her pale blue silk blouse, her long black hair and her hands; everything about her is radiant in the golden light of this late afternoon. Her small mouth forms words beautifully. “In Ming Dynasty detective stories, the local judge is  the central figure. He doesn’t try to solve just one case, but several. He studies all of the cases simultaneously  by making visual diagrams that closely resemble what the postmodernists  call mindmaps. Although there are many other examples of how ancient Chinese writing has influenced Western culture’s idea of postmodernism, I will conclude with just one more. By allowing the ghosts of murdered people to speak, the book renders the “unseen other” in a tangible form. These literary techniques from China’s history have been “borrowed” by Western postmodern writers such as David Foster Wallace, Ishmael Reed, Juan Carlos Chirinos and Thomas Pynchon. “ As Bo said 'borrowed', she subtly paused and manueuvred her fingers to signify quotation marks. “I would like to propose these traditional Chinese literary devices as our topic. Thank you, thank you.” Bo's book cover features a watercolor of a young woman with the body of a train. Her calm smile contrasts with the Chinese city around her, a swirling place where the buildings are shaped like hearts, knives and food. The video team is soon ready. Bethneck points at the large Indian man in a suit. “Distinguished guests. My name is Upamanyu Dasgupta. I now find myself in the stuff of dreams. The stunning panorama around us, full of primal energies, exemplifies the cycles of the cosmos. The gathering of minds around this table is most impressive, you men and women who have demonstrated your ability to transform words into worlds. I am humbled and most thankful. In response to the organizers' request, I have prepared a topic that I hope will have relevance to all writers, regardless of genre. However, it may best for all that my topic is not discussed tonight.” Bile listens with eyes closed. Everyone else focuses upon Dasgupta as though he were a god. “My topic...? Murder She Tweeted. This reference to Agatha Christie symbolizes the speed of communication in our present day. However, this is neither the time nor the place for me to share my thoughts on social media. I have, however, prepared a document comprised of philosophical observations and technical facts  which I believe hold great relevance for the future of the written word. If  this delightful group does decide that a discussion of my proposed topic is in order, I shall be most happy to read what I have prepared. However, the nature of my topic is ideally suited for online discussion. Thus, I have also prepared an invitation-only website for us to discuss the relationship between social media and the written word. I am looking forward to exchanging ideas and opinions with all of you tonight, regardless of the topic chosen. Thank you.” Bo taps Dasgupta's hand as he sits down. He glows with paternal dignity.  This afternoon, however, he’d  repeatedly jabbed his finger against his taxi driver’s chest, like a sumo wrestler poking holes in a scarecrow. A technician pops out to adjust one of the three lightstands surrounding the woman at one end of the table. Two cameraman and a hovercam are devoted to her. Bethneck points and the woman rises, her blocky body covered with bright batiks, sequins and jewelry; part Bali, part Mardi Gras. “As you must know, I am Aisha-Inathe Godeliva, one of Indonesia’s most celebrated authors. You may address me as Aisha. Although my husband Philip has dual nationalities, being both British and Spanish, I am 100% Indonesian and it is a great pleasure to have you in my country. I hope you find your stay here as comfortable and inspiring as I do. I am sure you will find my proposed topic to be fascinating. I believe it holds relevance to our work as bearers of culture. My proposed topic is: What is the role of the writer in today’s society? I look forward to discussing this most important topic. Thank you.” She smiles, lowers herself and theatrically points her round head at each person at the table. Her smile flashes on and off.   “Good evening, folks. I'm Woody Schembechler and I am absolutely shocked at finding myself here tonight. You are all truly creative and talented artists and I'm just a joker who got very lucky. What started out as a few gags to fill up our American Legion Post bimonthly newsletter somehow caught the eye of an agent from New York City. The next thing you know, I've got a bestseller on my hands. Honestly, I do not deserve to be sitting here among you well-respected authors. But I promised Alps and Ishiki-san I would do my best. So, here goes.... My proposed topic is simple. Since this new millenium began, the world seems to move faster than ever. Perhaps tonight we can slow down and take a few minutes to share our strongest impressions of this century. Thank you and I look forward to an interesting discussion.” Behind Woody is the cover of his book: Eat, Par, Drink. The letters are made of bacon strips, golf balls and ice cubes. One man's search for the perfect 19th hole. Aisha gives Woody a cool smile and he gives her a friendly wave. Behind Aisha’s big hair is the cover of her book,  An Environment for Romance, featuring a shirtless hunk carrying  a woman away from a big city and into the jungle. Timothy Lee’s bookcover is direct: black text on white: The Metaphysical Courtroom. Alps points at the short, bearded  Malaysian-Chinese. With a serious expression he looks around the table. He breaks into a big smile and brings his fingertips together. "Ladies and gentleman... How are writers and prisoners alike? Their lives depend upon their sentences." He had expected laughter. His disappointment is obvious. “Om Swastiastu! Rahajeng wengi! Salutations and a very pleasant evening to you all. I’m Timothy Lee, PhD. I hope you’ll excuse me for that self-penned bit of gallows humor. As some of you may know, I am now concluding a novel about a young man confined to a solitary cell on death row. I am in Bali for a self-imposed writing marathon, which includes visits to Kerobokan Prison. A lawyer, my career path has oft taken me far from Singapore, the isle of my birth. My vocation has enabled me to gain knowledge from across a broad spectrum of the human experience. My legal and oratorial skills have shaped environments in which acts of suspected possible misconduct have been logically  analyzed without prejudice. I have been compensated well. However, about two years ago,  a song challenged, and ultimately changed, my professional focus. Yes, a song... Ladies and gentleman, imagine a young man being led across death row. After 107 magnificently sad and useless steps, the center of the prison yard is reached. The condemned man's loved ones, the government officials and the employees of the prison system; all endure the crawl of time. We wait for even the thinnest ray of hope to lift the soulcrushing weight of the moment. Hope does not arrive. We watch as he closes his eyes and fills his lungs with air for the final time. Then, the efficient sounds of state-sanctioned murder and... my poor fool is hanged. Throughout this wretched occurrence there has been music. The victim’s  death row neighbors, mourning their brother  with a heartbreakingly beautiful version of Amazing Grace. I do not imagine this scene. I witnessed it. I am doomed to remember it, to remember it til my own final breath." Aisha dabs her eyes. The cameraman moves in. "In 1913 the British Home Office published The Official Table of Drops. I find it terribly incongruous that a group with that name created a book solely about the proper length of rope for hangings. My upcoming book will, I hope, encourage debate on the death penalty, an act that, to appropriate the words of Pope Innocent X, is "null, void, invalid, iniquitous, unjust, damnable, reprobate, inane, and empty of meaning and effect for all time.” Timothy Lee lowers his head solemnly for a moment, then continues. "Without further ado, my proposed topic is this: Just before dying, what scene would flash before the eyes of a character that you, or any author, created? My hope is that our fruitful discussion will result in an impressive variety of truly memorable scenes that showcase  both great literature and  the glory of being alive. Thank you.” The video crew quickly adjusts  the lights aimed at the woman at the other end of the table, N .C. Wynn. Nicolette Carol Wynn. During the discussion should I call her N.C., Nicolette or Ms. Wynn? I’m still not sure, though I’d thought about this question since I'd received the invitation. I had, however, constantly thought about  how this evening would change my life. I miss Amy and Andy, but I am doing  the best thing. The window of opportunity only opens once. The expense will be worth it. I am sitting among the most successful writers in the world! I am at the legendary Kutat Lestari Writers Festival! I am appearing in a Japanese television show about successful writers! I looked at the cover of my book, big, clean and simple against the green and blue of the mountainside. The white background. My name on the bottom in that elegant font, the lovely redbreasted robin and the title: Turdus. After I managed to buy my ticket, I began wondering what this would be like. I’d imagined  a hybrid of eastern and western grandeur; a Balinese Mt. Olympus. We’d be seated beneath magnificent chandeliers in a large marble room full of silk carpets, teak furniture, bamboo things and huge bouquets of tropical flowers. Two or three fountains.  At least one huge wall would be a bookcase. Attractive attendants of both sexes wearing Balinese silks of muted colors would  discretely predict and respond to our needs and desires. We authors, wearing togas or smoking jackets, would hold conversations and move ideas around as though we were playing group chess. Small silver domes slowly lifted by white gloved hands  would punctuate our dinner conversations. Goblets filled with nectar would be hoisted and brandy snifters would be thoughtfully swirled. We would discuss fox-skins, Hegel, probability, lightning bolts, royalties, the fates of mortals and other godlike author-related stuff. The reality of the evening is far better than what I imagined. Mount  Abung is nearly covered with clouds. The blueviolet sky, more clouds, the valley. Jungle, rice terraces, a river white with rapids. The fresh cool air is perfumed with hints of cloves, mint  and lilies.before me is an oval of glass surrounded by a collection of some of the world’s most successful authors. The Japanese producer wanted a dynamic mix, a broad demographic as they say. I’m very comfortable being the token “indie”. Wowjdowjowjfnfnfjofudhfhfnnvhvvrru///....the following takes place later in the event...SB “My friend, let me ask you a question. Did you receive your invitation by email a month ago?” “Yes.” “Your agent allowed you to sign it?” “ I don't have an agent.” “And you don't have a contract...” Timothy Lee’s face is 95% disgust, 5% sympathy. “I aint cheap...” "Why do I need you...." “You don't need me... unless you want a solid career as a writer” “Did anyone tell you at Cannes they presold this to ten major markets? Did they tell you that this will premier online two months before Wynn's next book is released? The TV premiere is on Indonesian national TV five days before Aisha's  book launch. Little Bo Peep's speech? You think it was her idea to hire Michael Lee to write an homage to the greatness of Chinese Literature? Newsflash, my friend: the Chinese government is on the deal. My speech lasted exactly two minute thirty seconds.....you think that was an accident? And you? Depending on what the video editor eats for lunch you may not even be in the final cut. Mr. Taaarrrddus...has anyone asked you what you’re going to say?  Nope. No one cares. You're here, but you're not. You're  the warm up band that plays to empty seats. The festival pays lip service to being indy and your book made some noise. Your blog gets read. But this is a big boys' game. Millions of viewers and a shelf life for decades. Those aren't writers out there, those are brands. Industries. You want in, let’s talk. Now.”   Wowjdowjowjfnfnfjofudhfhfnnvhvvrru///....the following takes place later in the dinner/video documentation...SB “To utilize a linguistic construction our American colleagues tend to favor, I’d like to share something. Something rather profound, actually. The occurrence which I witnessed earlier today undoubtedly was on of the most memorable events of my life, this century or last. This morning, a heavenly vision revealed itself before my very eyes. An image the size of my two outstretched hands appeared on the bathroom wall before me. As I watched  in amazement, the wall slowly began to glow. This glow then took the form of clouds, which soon began to part. The sun was revealed! The entire room brightened!  I rose slowly, fully expecting an angelic conversation, perhaps a glimpse of a seraphic trumpeter. I feared my sins would be as obvious as those clouds before me.“ The director barely smiles as he checks on his technicians. Bile is Richard Burton aflame with the madness of King Lear; Joan of Arc before her soldiers. “My state of awed amazement deepened. I turned and the mystery became an understanding. The small window was functioning as a lens, converting the bathroom into a camera obscura. I wondered if this amazing occurrence was a characteristic of Balinese architecture. I was reminded of Plato’s cave.  The achievements of the Aztecs came to mind, as did the five thousand year old tomb at Newgrange. The Great Pyramids of course and the X,Y, Z axes of three-dimensional geometry. Forgive me , but even flushing the toilet made me aware of gravity and how the the water circles clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and and the opposite here. I wondered what happens when a toilet exactly on the equator is flushed. What I had thought to be a ray of light was a fresh strand of  spider’s web. This was far beyond psychedelia and undoubtedly one of the most profound moments of my life. This was a gesamtkunst far beyond the offerings of even the most spiritual of art galleries. Religious, spiritually enlightening... I hesitate to utilize such verbosity. This morning I perceived myself as a being made of Light. The Balinese sunrise projected on my body. My shower  was far beyond psychedelia. This morning the air was filled with the outbursts of Balinese songbirds as the cosmos delivered a sacrament unto me; a theatrical dance of physics, astronomy and soap. I became universal.” “Bile, we  thought your drug days were over.“ Everyone chuckled or smiled, Bile most of all. The ice was broken. There was camradery.  Writers share a certain spirit with orphans, prisoners, the poor and war veterans. The internalized fear.   The horror of words disappearing because of technical propblems. The terror of the wrong words. We‘d all given birth to books. Gamblers betting every single thing they have with the odds impossibly against them. A nap because 100 words a day is like carrying a 1000 bricks. “My shower was miserable,” Aisha says. “ The water pressure was inconsistent and never reached the temperature I prefer.”

5 Responses to Bali Wave Ghost: a short self interview

  1. Pingback: Island Recap: Life in Bali - December 16 Edition

  2. Pingback: I Am a Muddy Path With No Banana Leaves | blacksteps

  3. Pingback: Surfing a 200 foot wave (from Bali Wave Ghost) | blacksteps

  4. Hi Mr. Black,
    I made a request earlier concerning your book. Somebow I got my email address wrong. Here is the right one “yuenfoong@yahoo.com.sg”.
    Thank you.
    Raymond Fong

    • Raymond,

      Hello… I will happily send you an ebook, at no cost. Also, there are printed copies available at Naiise. Do you know about my experiment with glasses that say i ate tiong bahru.. Some glasses are available. Also, I am looking for a way to get i ate tiong bahru translated into Chinese.(Mandarin, Hokkien, Cantonese.. not sure which. Any ideas?) Finally, if you know of any companies, organizations or inividuals that could sponsor a reprinting of the book, and/or a translation, please let me know. It would be very helpful, especially as I am working on the second tiong bahru book. Thank you…

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