International Guest Author Interview – Iris Yang

Title: Wings of A Flying Tiger

Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis: World War Two. Japanese occupied China. One cousin’s courage, another’s determination to help a wounded American pilot.

In the summer of 1942, Danny Hardy bails out of his fighter plane into a remote region of western China. With multiple injuries, malaria, and Japanese troops searching for him, the American pilot’s odds of survival are slim.

Jasmine Bai, an art student who has been saved by Americans during the notorious Nanking Massacre, seems an unlikely heroine to rescue the wounded Flying Tiger. Daisy Bai, Jasmine’s younger cousin, also falls in love with the courageous American.

With the help of Daisy’s brother, an entire village opens its arms to heal a Flying Tiger with injured wings, but as a result of their charity the serenity of their community is forever shattered.

Love, sacrifice, kindness, and bravery all play a part in this heroic tale that takes place during one of the darkest hours of Chinese history.

CH: Today’s International Guest Author is Iris Yang. She was born and raised in China. She has loved reading and writing since she was a child, but in China creative writing was a dangerous career. Welcome to my blog, Iris.

CH: Please tell us why should we read this story about World War II in Japanese occupied China when two cousins decide to help an American pilot?

IY: Most Americans know what happened in WWII in Europe, but not many know what happened in Asia. My book provides readers with the insight of how the Chinese fought the Japanese and how the Americans, specifically the Flying Tigers, helped China to win the war against Japan. It also shows how much the Chinese people appreciated the Flying Tigers’ generosity and contribution. There was a great relationship between the U.S. and China.

It’s a story about love, sacrifice, kindness, and bravery during one of the darkest hours in Chinese history.

CH: How did you come up with the premise for this story?

IY: The Flying Tigers’ stories are fascinating. There are many history books about them. One particular fact inspired me to write Wings of the Flying Tiger.

One of the American pilots was rescued by a group of Chinese civilians after he bailed out. When he returned to the U.S., at a press conference, he named the village to thank the Chinese people for saving him. The Japanese intelligence in the U.S. picked up the information and sent troops to the village in China to retaliate. Everyone there—men, women, and children—was slaughtered.

Wings of a Flying Tiger was inspired by this tragedy. It is a heroic tale in which ordinary Chinese risked their lives to rescue and safeguard a downed American pilot.

CH: Are all of the situations and issues taken them from real life or did you add some fiction?

IY: Wings of a Flying Tiger is a historical novel, based on a particular time in WWII in China. The situations and issues are taken from real life, although the characters are primarily made up.

CH: Did you have to do a lot of special research to write this book?

IY: Yes, I had to read a lot of books about WWII in China, particularly about the Flying Tigers, The Rape of Nanking, and Bombing of Chungking.

CH: Which character was your favorite to write?

IY: Jasmine Bai is my favorite. She was a highly educated young woman who risked her life to save a wounded Flying Tiger.

The story starts in 1937 when Japan invaded Nanking, the capital of China. In six weeks, the Japanese soldiers killed 300,000 Chinese and raped over 20,000 women. On the verge of this massacre, Jasmine Bai, a college student, returned to Nanking, trying to convince her parents to leave the city. She was too late to save her parents, but in time to witness the horrors. She survived the massacre, thanks to a small group of Westerners, mostly Americans, who formed the International Safety Zone and saved 300,000 refugees. It’s because of this experience that Jasmine developed her hatred for the Japanese and her love for the Americans.

Later, when she found a wounded American pilot, she risked her own life to save him. Along with her two cousins, a whole village opened its arms to heal this American pilot. When his “wings” were damaged, Jasmine and the other Chinese people were the wings of this Flying Tiger.

Jasmine Bai was beautiful from inside out. She was an ordinary girl who gained her inner strength along the way of survival and became an unlikely hero.

CH: Which character was hardest to develop?

IY: Danny Hardy, the American pilot, was hard to write. He was a member of the American Volunteer Group, which was formed under President Roosevelt’s executive order. It was the spring of 1941. America wasn’t at war with Japan, yet. US military pilots were secretly recruited to join this group, and they traveled to Asia with fake passports. They were young and adventurous, but they had no combat experience and were not even trained to fly P40, the aircraft they would use.

With determination and courage, however, the American Volunteer Group destroyed nearly 300 Japanese airplanes and a half million tons of supplies in half a year. So, the Chinese people called the courageous American pilots the Flying Tiger, because “the tiger” has always been highly regarded in Chinese culture. It’s a symbol of bravery, strength, and power.

Danny was one of those courageous pilots. He’s a larger-than-life hero. To me, he was perfect. But he would be unreal to readers, if he were perfect. I had to come up with some “flaws” for him, which was hard. Also, as a female writer, writing from a male, especially a strong male protagonist’s point of view, was challenging.

CH: Did you run into any challenges while writing this book?

IY: Yes! Born and raised in China, I learned English as a foreign language in school. The learning was limited and sometimes even wrong. I came to the U.S. in my early twenties as a graduate student for a career in science.

My first English “teacher” in the U.S. was television. I didn’t even have the concept of the commercial. I thought I accidentally touched the remote control or there was something wrong with the TV when a program suddenly jumped to unrelated subjects. In China, at the time, there were two stations, broadcasting from 6 pm to 10 pm. There was no commercial. It took me a while to figure out what was going on.

I’ve always loved reading, but creative writing was a dangerous career in China, while I was growing up. As famous writers, my grandmother and aunt were wrongfully accused as counter-revolutionary Rightists. I had to choose science—a safer path. Fiction writing was only a faraway dream; writing it in English was beyond my wildest dream.

I learned fiction writing by reading lots of books. When I wrote my novels, I’m sure I spent more time than most people. I had to check two dictionaries—Chinese to English and English to Chinese. Even so, no matter how hard I tried, I still made grammatical mistakes. That frustrated me the most. There were plenty of times that I laughed and scolded myself for being so stubborn to embark on this journey that seemed almost impossible to succeed. Nowadays, so many people write; everyone has an advantage over me.

CH: Can you tell us a little about your family history and what made you decide to write this book?

IY: Wings of a Flying Tiger is a work of fiction. But to me, a Chinese-American, it is also personal. My mother and grandma had lived in Nanking and escaped from the city just days before the notorious Nanking Massacre when the Japanese soldiers slaughtered 300,000 innocent Chinese and raped 20,000 women in six weeks. My mom was eight-years-old. Both her family and my father’s family fled to Chungking, where Japanese frequently bombed the wartime capital. My father told me the sight, the sound, and the smell of the bombings. As a young boy, he had nightmares for several years. At one point, they lost all of their belongings.

CH: Where do you get your inspiration and ideas from when you write?

IY: China was an isolated country, while I was growing up. We were told that the Americans were “devils” and the American soldiers were crude and coward. I didn’t read anything about the Flying Tigers, until I came to the US, as a graduate student. I was touched once when I learned the truth. I wanted to thank the Flying Tigers. What would be a better way to show my gratitude than writing a book about them?

As a Chinese, I’m thankful for the Flying Tigers’ bravery and generosity; without their help, the course of the Chinese history might have been changed, my family might not have survived, and I might not have existed.

As a U.S. citizen, I’m honored to write a book about the American heroes. It’s a privilege—a duty.

My inspiration came from real life stories of the Flying Tigers and the victims of the Nanking Massacre.

CH: What is different and exciting that you bring to your readers through your writing style?

IY: Many readers commented that my book is fast-paced and it’s impossible to put down once they started reading. One reviewer said it’s a touching and heartfelt story that sticks with you, long after the last word has been read.” Others stated that the book is beautifully written—“simply stated, yet intricate in detail” and “it could be turned into a great movie.”

I think of my writing as direct and emotional.

CH: How long did to take you to write this book?

IY: It took me about three years (full-time) to write two books, Wings of a Flying Tiger and its sequel, Will of a Tiger.

CH: Is there a message in your novel that you want the readers to grasp?

IY: Although, the story happens in one of the darkest times of Chinese history, it has uplifting messages about love, sacrifice, kindness, and bravery. It shows human spirits.

CH: What kind of feedback are you getting from readers of this book?

IY: Since its publication is June 2018, Wings of a Flying Tiger has received glowing reviews. Also, it has received a lot of media coverage. It was featured in China Daily and Xinhua Net, the largest news agency in mainland China.

I cried when I read the first review, calling Wings of a Flying Tiger “a smashing historical account of China’s chilling bloodbath during WWII,” and the reviewer “recommend this heartfelt read with no hesitation to any admirer of historical fiction. ”I knew then that my characters would live not only in my heart, but also in someone else’s heart.

Here are a few examples:

Ms. Yang’s book is really fabulous. It’s a fast-paced, interesting and exciting read. It is a real eye-opener on the atrocities of war, but it is also a powerful story of love, sacrifice and courage. I highly recommend it.”

“We are blessed with a writer’s voice as grand as author Iris Yang…. Please, please, please – don’t let this masterpiece pass you by.”

“Very informative, interesting, and heartbreaking.”

“A swift and emotional read that you will not be able to put down. Take a day off and get ready for a tear-jerking ride.”

“A must-read.”

“Absolutely brilliant writing.”

CH: Will there be a follow-up to this book?

IY: Yes. Will of a Tiger is the sequel to Wings of a Flying Tiger.

In 1942, Birch Bai, a Chinese pilot, and Danny Hardy, a downed American pilot, become sworn brothers and best friends.

In the summer of 1945, both airmen’s planes go down in Yunnan Province of China during one of many daring missions. They are captured, imprisoned, and tortured by the Japanese for information about the atomic bomb. Just days before the end of WWII, Danny makes an irrevocable decision to save Birch’s life.

For Birch, surviving the war is only the beginning of the battle. He must deal with the dreadful reality in China—the civil war, the separation of the country, the death of one friend in the Communist-controlled Mainland and another under the Nationalist government, and his wrongful imprisonment in Taiwan.

From Chungking to Yunnan, and from Taiwan to San Francisco, the sequel to Wings of a Flying Tiger takes readers along on an epic journey.

It’s available for pre-order on the same publisher’s website: It should be available on Amazon by the end of 2018.

CH: What is your next writing project?

IY: I’m working on a story based on my grandmother. She was the first Chinese woman to receive a master degree in the UK. Returning to China, she became a professor and a famous writer/playwright. Her play was in production for years. However, in 1957, she was wrongfully accused as a counter-revolutionary Rightist. During Cultural Revolution, she was fired from her job and ordered to sweep streets. Later, she was kicked out of the house at the university. She died alone in a small village. As the political atmosphere changed in China, she was once again a celebrated writer/scholar. She was called one of the most gifted female playwrights in Writing Women in Modern China: An Anthology of Women’s Literature from the Early Twentieth Century published by Columbia University Press in 1998. There is a park opened in her name in her hometown.

CH: How to Find Iris Yang:

CH: Is there any additional information that you’d like to tell us about your journey in writing this book?

IY: My writing journey is unique. I started writing, not because I wanted to write a book, but because I needed help.

I was a very negative person in an unhappy marriage, and I tried hard to change the situation. One book I read said that if you keep writing down five positive things a day, in twenty-one days you can change your negative thoughts. Being desperate, I was willing to try anything.

So, I jotted down five positive things a day. It started with words or simple phrases. In time, words became sentences; sentences turned into paragraphs; paragraphs grew into pages. All positive. I didn’t change in twenty-one days. It took me two years. But the result is remarkable. I’m no longer a negative person.

The “side product” of this practice is that I started writing short stories, then novels.

Writing changed my life!

CH: Any closing remarks?

IY: My message to anyone who would like to write:

The writing of a novel is hard. If you don’t have a burning desire, don’t bother to start. But, if you are passionate about it, don’t let anything or anyone stop you.

Craft can be learned. Passion comes from one’s heart. Follow your heart.

Start today. Keep writing! Don’t give up. Persistence. Perseverance. Patience.

I’ll share several useful Chinese proverbs with you:

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

“Every step leaves its print.”

“If you work hard enough, you can grind even an iron rod down to a needle.”

Looking back, I’m amazed that I finished two novels (actually three—the very first one isn’t good enough to share with anyone), by writing down one word after another. If I can do it, anyone can.

Cheryl, many thanks for this opportunity and I appreciate it very much.

CH: Thank you so much, Iris Yang, for taking time out of your very busy writing schedule to join me and my blog followers. It has been a real pleasure discussing your book with my audience. And readers, if you’re like me and would enjoy this book. I suggest you pick up a copy at your earliest convenience.

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