Only One Man Can Save the Planet - But He Just Died.
Mysterious but silent objects have been found buried deep in the murky depths of the ocean. Dormant for decades, they are now awake and sending messages to outer space. Mike, pulled back into a clandestine world to finish a job he started as a young Navy Ensign and help decipher these strange messages, is attacked by gangs of ordinary Americans and must fight for his very life.
As he struggles through these challenges, Mike also learns that a revered friend has died. With the death of this friend, is mankind's last hope for understanding the signals lost forever in the silt and muck of the ocean bottom?
From the deepest reaches of the abyssal plains to the arid but mystically beautiful deserts of the American Southwest, Falling Star takes you on a journey through the darkest aspects of human existence to enlightenment of mankind's soul. It is a realistically written novel and contains scenes of graphic violence and strong language.
Enjoy our interview with Philip. He is an entertaining man who has a habit of making all of us on Kindleboards and Facebook smile.
BB: Philip, Tell us what made you decide to write this particular story.
PC: Over an extended period in 1990, I suffered through a series of terrifying nightmares. These nightmares would wake me up and even then they continued playing out in the darkness of my room, as if I were watching some violent movie. During these sequences gangs of what looked like ordinary Americans wreaked apocalyptic havoc on their fellow citizens and destroyed buildings. I saw skyscrapers crash to the ground in flames. During that same period of time, I was traveling overseas on a weekly basis and carrying what was one of the first lightweight laptops manufactured. On the long flights and over weekends at home, I started typing out the nightmares. When I finished in about one and one half months, the nightmares disappeared. It was as if a terrible burden had been lifted from my soul. For twenty years, I tried to get literary agents and publishers interested in this story about how foreign agents were living in America for decades hiding in plain view. No one was interested. I would work on it at various periods and then would let it sit on my shelf for weeks and even months as life got in the way. It seemed that the literary community considered my tale to be ridiculous; after all, foreign spies could never live in the open, marry innocent Americans, raise children, hold down mundane jobs, buy houses, and steal the identities of dead babies. I could hear them laughing about how preposterous the story was. Things like that couldn't happen here; not in America! Not until it did in June 2010 when Russian spies were found to have been doing exactly what my fictional spies had been doing for twenty years. The only difference between the Russians and my fictional spies was that my spies didn't grow hydrangeas. One of my spies was even a gorgeous female posing as a financial consultant. That is when I decided to self-publish in August 2010 before any more of my story got played out in real-time news. And I am glad that I did, because subsequently other real events started coming out that seemed to be lifted right from my book. For example, Swedish explorers found a huge (60 meters) round object sitting on the floor of the Baltic Sea. My novel is also about the discovery of huge, mysterious objects discovered deep in the ocean and what happens when they wake up and start sending signals to outer space. Interestingly, my objects are described as being ovoids the size of a football field (roughly 100 meters). Then recently, it was disclosed that the United States had a large, secret civilian/military force (around 23,000 strong) with broad powers to act and even assassinate targets without judicial or congressional approval. Its secret name is JSOC. Readers of my novel will instantly see parallels to a large civilian/military force that is written about in my novel that also has extraordinary powers with its military drawn from the most elite units of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard. Its name? CSAC. Coincidence? You tell me. There is another aspect of this story that continues to haunt me. You see, I now believe that the skyscrapers that I saw crash to the ground in flames were the towers of the World Trade Center. I have suppressed this aspect of those dreams because I did not want people to think that I was trying to profit off that tragedy. In fact, when I switched on my television that crisp September morning, I was shocked to see a video of a plane crash at Two World Trade. At first, I thought it was a trailer for some movie, and then I thought that it was a small tourist plane. When I saw the second plane hit One World Trade Center, I knew that we were under attack. As I stood speechless, I saw the towers crash to the ground in flames. When I later learned that the terrorists who had hijacked the planes had lived in the United States, some for decades, as they plotted this attack, I was shattered. My first reaction was to take my principal character out of his office which I had set on the 100th floor of One World Trade Center and put him into a nondescript office tower in downtown Manhattan. My description of Mike's office is intricately detailed and was easy for me to write. Why? The reason that Mike's office was so easy to describe was because I was painting a picture of my own office as a managing director of Lehman Brothers in the late eighties and early nineties. The location of the office? It was somewhere between the 100th and 106th floor of Two World Trade. I left Lehman in 1992, but if I had stayed there and my office had continued to be at that location, I most likely would not be here today. I copyrighted my novel in 1991. For those who would like to investigate my claims themselves, they should refer to my Scribd.com account where I started posting excerpts of Falling Star in May 2009. http://scribd.com/PhilC68 In the slightly more than one year since its release Falling Star has sold almost 4,400 copies on Amazon and elsewhere. It has received close to 60 four and five star reviews in the many places where it has been listed, including 47 in Amazon US and UK. A noted book critic, Alan Caruba, has given it an extraordinary recommendation. It is also available in print.
BB: Was it difficult to write your story, or did it all come to you at once?
PC: Surprisingly, for someone who had never written a novel, Falling Star flowed easily. It was as though my characters had lined up one by one to tell their side of the story. The initial draft took only one and one-half months and was 560 pages long.
BB: How did you come up with your character names?
PC: I had once heard that if you write a novel, you should choose characters and places that are familiar to you. Since I had been an ocean research engineer and an investment banker, it was logical for me to make my principal character both. I made him Asian for obvious reasons. By doing so, I was able to get into the character's head and see the action through his eyes at both stages of his life. I gave him a clumsy name, Aloysius Liu, because, frankly, that is how many immigrant Chinese-Americans named their children. I nicknamed him "Mike" to mainstream his character. For my principal female character, I wanted to give her an old-fashioned name, because she had joined the agency in the fifties and was from northwestern Minnesota, where you seldom found names like Tiffany in those days. Her name is Mildred. I wanted to use another name, but my wife objected because that was her grandmother's name. One reviewer commented that she found my use of old-fashion names off-putting. So there! My other characters were assigned names in a similar fashion.
BB: Do you prefer to write one genre or do you like to bounce around genres?
PC: Falling Star is a genre cutting story. It is science fiction, techno-thriller, thriller, military, etc. Interestingly, few reviewers have picked up on what I believe it fundamentally is: a coming of age novel in the sense that what happens to you in your youth can form the basis for actions in adult life. It is this element that holds the key to solving this story. My daughter, who is a fabulous natural writer, but who refuses to write professionally, thinks that another novel about growing up in America as a Chinese-American is one that I should polish up and release.
BB: Do you write the same genre that you prefer to read? If not, why?
PC: I have a very eclectic appetite and read anything from scientific and engineering journals to comics. I like techno-thrillers and hard science fiction, particularly where the story can actually be real. In reviewing Peter Salisbury's Passengers to Zeta Nine, I commented that good science fiction describes worlds that you cannot possibly get to; great science fiction tells you how to get there. Peter's novel about interplanetary travel is of the latter sort. Check it out at http://amzn.to/ZetaNine
BB: How does your family feel about your writing? Friends?
PC: My family considered it Dad's odd hobby and had serious doubts that it could succeed. I truly think they were trying to cushion what they thought was a fragile psyche. They are coming around however, but only my daughter has actually read the story and she loved it. Now you have to know that my daughter is not someone who suffers fools lightly, be they her parents or not. Although a sweet and kind person, who is a marvelous parent of my two lovely granddaughters, she is can cut your heart out and hand it to you without any remorse. I know as I have been on the receiving end many times. For her to say she really liked the book, especially as she is a great natural writer was something I never expected and of which I am immensely proud.
I think that people who know me prior to finding out that I have written this book are similarly skeptical about my ability to be successful.
BB: What is the craziest thing you've done to promote your book? Did it work?
PC: Throw the book at POTUS? No, I am too middle class and timid to do this. I think that the craziest thing that I did was to send it to a serious book critic, Alan Caruba, a charter member of the prestigious National Book Critics Circle, who did not ordinarily review self-published books. His review:
"It is rare when a novelist makes his debut with as powerful a novel as Philip Chen's Falling Star ($15.25, available from Amazon.com, softcover and on Kindle). It begins in 1967 and concludes in the Oval Office in 1993. In between Chen introduces you to an array of characters, all of whom have unique talents, some of whom are U.S. Navy officers, some with the FBI, all devoted to the protection of their nation. They are a handful of people who know about mysterious entities far beneath the surface of the waters surrounding the U.S. Others are members of a rogue KGB unit, moles who lived among us, but whose mission ended when the former Soviet Union collapsed. This novel stands out for the way you are introduced not just to the characters, but the physical reality in which they live, the sights and even the smells. Slowly and then with increasing intensity, the mysteries are unraveled, the enemies identified, as life and death often hangs in the balance. Drawing on his own life as an ocean research engineer, attorney and banker, Chen brings an authenticity to the novel that provides a heart-pounding reality that forces you to ask "What if?" What if Earth was under observation by those from another planet that is circling a dying sun? What if they intended to colonize it? What if the year for this was 2013? If you read just one novel in 2011, make it Falling Star."
BB: Have you been compared to any other authors? Do you agree with the comparison?
PC: The two authors that I have most frequently been compared to are Arthur C. Clarke and Tom Clancy. As one reviewer said,
"This is a great technothriller with a science fiction edge. The oceanic science in this is first rate and even though I felt like I came to the book with a better than average understanding of ocean science, Chen weaved in so much information that I felt like I was learning about the deep ocean environment even as I was swept along in a page-turning plot. Some of the science/naval aspects, combined with the Cold War setting, reminded me of the best of classic Tom Clancy, but it quickly becomes clear that is not simply a Russian submarine lurking under the water."
"With the political/military intrigue of a Tom Clancy novel and the Sci-Fi feel of the 2001/2010/2061 Arthur C. Clarke novels coupled with the page turner, fast paced plot of a Dan Brown novel how could you go wrong."
BB: Do you enjoy fanmail? If so, where do you prefer to get your fanmail? What is the best fanmail you've ever received?
PC: I have received some fanmail and enjoy the interchange. The best one was from the mother of a soldier serving in Afghanistan who appreciated the fact that I participate in Operation Ebook Drop, the brainchild of author Edward C. Patterson. OEBD gives free eCopies of your books to deployed troops in war zones and has been highly successful delivering over one million books to the troops.
BB: Why should we read your book?
PC: Good question. If you enjoy a book that is not a cookie cutter, genre specific science fiction thriller, please consider reading this. But please beware that it is not something that you will feel comfortable in being able to guess the ending. Reviews from readers can help in this regards:
"Mr. Chen's writing style is precise, almost military and chock full of information that makes the reader wonder if this story might not be fiction at all, but something very real and very disturbing."
"A good gem here, another excellent example of the power of alternative publishing tracks."
"If you are into the non-fantasy type scifi and a Tom Clancey [sic] like plot, this is the book for you. It is not a cookie cutter style book. It takes the Roswell conspiracy story to a new level."
"I'll probably want to read [it] again in a few years when I've forgotten the basic plot. Not an easy matter in itself, since this is one of those stories that are unforgettable."
"I will never see the ocean in the same light again."
This book actually describes events which eventually became true in chilling detail such as the 2010 Russian spy ring in the United States, the recent discovery of a mysterious object in the Baltic Sea, and now the super secret military force called JSOC among other events. Get it before it becomes nonfiction or disappears in the hands of men in black. It must be of some interest as it has sold almost 4,400 copies since its release.
BB: We want to know more about you! Tell us a little about yourself.
PC: I was born in China in 1944 and immigrated to the United States in 1949. Growing up in Washington, D.C., during the 1950s and 1960s, I learned both the pains and triumphs of American society at a crucial turning point in America's history. In the fifties and sixties, Washington stood at the crossroads of southern institutionalized racism and northern false hope; a point not lost on this young Chinese immigrant. After receiving a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering with Distinction from the University of Virginia and a Master of Science from Stanford University, I worked as an ocean research engineer in the development of deep submergence systems. Part of my work dealt with vehicles that could freely dive to 20,000 feet of water depth. I also participated as a hyperbaric chamber operator for manned dives inside a pressure chamber to 1,500 feet. I have one U.S. Patent for an underwater mooring system. After my stint as an ocean research engineer, I was an environmental and energy engineer, a trial attorney, a public securities attorney, an investment banker, a corporate executive, a private equity manager (in Africa), a strategic consultant, a cartoonist, an illustrator, a website manager, and author. My law degree is from the University of Minnesota. One of my mentors once said that it wasn't that I couldn't hold down a job; I couldn't even hold down a career! My biography has been included in Who's Who in America and in Who's Who in the World for many years.
I have been married for over forty years and have two adult children. My son is an anesthesiology fellow in New York City, as is his wife. He picked that profession because he knew that it would be hard for his old dad to spell. My daughter who has her MBA is currently a full-time mother to two gorgeous girls who are the light of my life. Her husband has his PhD in Marketing and teaches at the Ivey School of Business in London, Ontario. My youngest granddaughter, age nine months, loves to dance with her grandpa and hums the tunes as we dance around the floor. My more sophisticated older granddaughter is 2 and 1/2 years old, has an impish grin, and is into everything. I mean everything.
At the end of their last visit, my older granddaughter told her mom that she was going to stay with grandpa and stood calmly at the front door waving goodbye as her mom loaded the car. When her mom waved her final goodbye, my granddaughter quietly told her grandma that she missed her mommy and climbed into the car. Melted my heart!
Author: I have a very eclectic taste when it comes to authors. Chief amongst them are Ernest Hemingway, Arthur C. Clarke, Franz Kafka, Tom Clancy, and John McPhee to name only a few.
Book: Again, there are so many books that it is hard to pick one. Childhood's End by Clarke stands out, as do For Whom the Bells Toll by Hemingway and The Trial by Kafka.
TV Show: Star Trek (the original series), Twilight Zone with Rod Serling, and The Outer Limits
Vacation Spot: Too many places that I have been and would like to go to be able to fairly list them.
Activity or Sport: Fishing.
Season: Spring or fall, the changing season bring so many varied colors
BB: Feel free to add anything you like.
PC: In addition to my writing, I am a cartoonist. The story of how I got into cartooning is sort of interesting. In 2007 at age 63, I was ordered by my cardiologist to sit quietly over a weekend and not pick up anything heavier than a pencil as he scrambled to arrange an angiogram. As I sat in my attic office bored to tears, I amused myself by surfing the web. In the course of doing this, I chanced upon a theory that was being espoused by two Australian astronomers (why must they always be Australian?) that a parallel universe filled with strange matter had to exist in order for our own fragile cosmos to maintain its balance.
I started to wonder exactly what kind of life could live in such a universe. Would leaves worry about their autumnal demise? Would elephants sue to get their limbs back? Just what do those stone statutes on Easter Island think about as they gaze over the Pacific Ocean? So with no formal training in art or cartooning, I started "There is Strangeness in the Universe." My first cartoons were posted on a local message board and then I was asked by the New York Times to contribute them to their experiment with local journalism called, "The Local." One of my cartoons even made it into the print edition of the newspaper. The cartoons have a small, but loyal following. They have been compared to Gary Larson's "Far Side" because of their wry look into the state of our affairs. In May of this year, I released the inaugural collection of cartoons from There is Strangeness in the Universe.
Thank you for that wonderful interview Philip! (and btw, I am also a big Star Trek fan. I actually like every series they did) We hope to hear more from you in the future. Readers, if you haven't already read Falling Star, check it out today!
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