On the Far Shore: Interview with Crystal Koo

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On September - 16 - 2009

“On the Far Shore” is what I’m calling this series of interviews with the authors/editors of “The Farthest Shore” an anthology of secondary world fantasy from Filipino writers. The anthology is available here. Today we speak with Crystal Koo, author of  “Wildwater.”

Tell us a bit about your story “Wildwater”:

As far as theme goes, it’s about an emigre who returns to his homeland with an misdirected sense of responsibility and an inferiority complex regarding his own people which goes too far.

How did you hear about the Farthest Shore anthology?

I check on Dean Alfar and Joey Nacino’s blogs and they had posted calls for submissions.

Prior to that, had you ever written a secondary world story before?

Plenty of them. The first serious one I had written was way back in high school, in sword-and-sorcery, Middle-Earth fashion complete with mythologies and family trees and kingdoms that rose and fell; that was the only kind of fantasy I knew how to write then and I wrote those kinds of stories in a series. Since then I’ve been focusing on other kinds of fantasy writing as well but I still regularly write secondary-world stories, though I’ve moved away from the sword-and-sorcery genre.

I think we read the same kinds of books/series when we were young then. Do you think you’ll ever revisit those earlier works, spruce them up with your knew writer-ly skills and send them out? I’d love to read a Filipino made sword and sorcery series myself.

Haha, if I ever do revisit them, I’d have to do a complete overhaul. They were all very derivative of Lord of the Rings and Greek mythology.

How long did it take you to write the story?

It took me around a week to write and edit the story into a first “final” draft. Then I left it alone for a few months and tinkered with it here and there afterward.

What aspect of the writing did you enjoy the most?

Lots, actually. One is that the story is structured as a letter addressed to members in a court of law and is clearly meant to be
persuasive, which made the story easier to write because of the clear direction. The other is that the protagonist comes from a race of “gilled” humans – like the sort that pops up once in a while in provincial gossip back home in the Philippines, along with babies born with webbed feet. I also enjoyed writing about the orinu, which I imagined to be scaly killer whales, and the orinu trade.

How in-depth do you develop a secondary world before you tell a story in it? Do you flesh out a history and a culture first before you start on characters and plot, or does the world grow from what you need to tell a particular story?

It grows from what I need to tell the story. Otherwise I get too caught up in inventing histories and cultures that the plot finds itself all of a sudden in the backseat, which I try to avoid.

What aspect did you find most difficult?

Cooking up a credible way [Ed. Note: spoiler deleted for your safety dear reader] without making it overly melodramatic.

Were there any particular sources of inspiration for your story?

I wrote the story in 2007, when I was still studying in Sydney, and the concept of studying abroad as a first step to immigration was a constant preoccupation for me because Australia is such a hotspot for Asians who are looking to do that sort of thing, particularly in my university, hence the theme. Stylistically, I’d say maybe Ursula K. Le Guin.

Are you working on any new stories or projects now?

Yes. I’m in the middle of revising a short story called “The Startbox” for the Usok e-zine [Ed. Note: Watch for it this October folks, here at Rocket Kapre], and also a short story called “The Likeness of God” which I’ll be sending out to the market soon in hopes of a possible publication. I’m also working on a collaboration for a second play to be performed onstage in Hong Kong.

If you could write in a secondary world created by another (literary, television etc.), which world would that be? What kind of story would you write? (‘cors if you’ve actually written secondary world fanfic, feel free to plug it here ^_^)

As a teenager, I wrote Lord of the Rings fanfics and a boatload of anime fanfics that included the secondary worlds of Vandread, Gensoumaden Saiyuki, and (I’m clearly not holding back here) Akazukin Chacha, as well as stories that were blatant rip-offs of Star Wars. I haven’t written fanfics for a while, but I’d probably enjoy writing in Neil Gaiman’s The Dreaming from the Sandman series, if that can count as secondary despite its connections with the primary world.

Vandread! OK, I totally need to search out your fanfics now. One final, very important question then: Dita, Meia or Jura (If you answer Misty I shall be forced to kill you)?*

So unfair, that’s not a very representative range of choices! Very well, Meia then, though I still think she broods more than necessary.

Thanks for agreeing to do the interview Crystal! You can find a list of Crystal’s published works, including some that are available online, on her Author’s page here at Rocket Kapre.

*Ed. Note: These are the lead female characters of the Vandread anime. Sorry guys, I just had to ask.*

7 Responses to “On the Far Shore: Interview with Crystal Koo”

  1. eliza says:


    That made me happy. *glee* Lovely interview. :)

  2. [...] up at The Farthest Shore! There’s a corresponding interview with me regarding the story at RocketKapre’s On the Far Shore. Charles Tan and Rick Kleffel have reviewed the [...]

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Rocket Kapre is an imprint of Eight Ray Sun Publishing Inc. (a new Philippine-based publisher), dedicated to bringing the very best of Philippine Speculative Fiction in English to a worldwide audience by means of digital distribution. More info can be found at our About section at the top of the page.