This has been coming for a while, and I can’t believe it has arrived. July 15th will mark five years since the release of my debut novel, A Moment’s Worth. It has been half a decade since the release of this very experimental novel about the interconnections among the human race, the fine line between what is real and what could be a dream, and the value of moments in time.
Because it’s the fifth anniversary, I wanted to do something special for it. While the release of a hard copy version of the novel never came through, I instead decided to do something interesting. A few weeks ago, I went through and read my own novel from cover to cover, and took notes on my memories, impressions, and reactions to each of the chapters. It’s been quite a while since I have worked with these characters and the chapters they appear in, and I’ve grown and evolved as a writer since then. It was quite an interesting experience, as you’ll see as I break it down for you, chapter by chapter:
Chapter 1: Roommates
The novel begins with this very optimistically-driven chapter; probably the most optimistic out of this generally optimistic book. It plays with a scenario that is so unrealistic, and yet hits on a message that I don’t see enough of in other stories: the message being about finding similarities in the differences. I like how it shows how far we’ve progressed in how mixed race people identify and how LGBTQ+ people are viewed in the public eye.
Chapter 2: Hero
I remember how I came up with the idea for this one. It was from an article I read one time about students at UC Berkeley practicing parkour around the campus at night. What I also find interesting is that Takoda and Dante are the first characters named and that this chapter explores the idea of a hero, coming about at the time when we were barely into Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The negative: I really do not like the fact that I made the one female character a damsel in distress. I get what I was going for, but now… ugh!
Chapter 3: Final Questions
As someone who’s had minimal experience with relationships, I find this to be a very interesting exploration of a very mature breakup. This is the first of many chapters that are clearly influenced by the works of Wong Fu Productions. It’s fascinating how this chapter gives a glimpse at experiences that I would eventually experience myself; particularly that I would also find myself struggling with the job hunt and that it is set in Seattle – a city I visited for the first time just a few years ago. I also like how this is the last establishing chapter, before the connections begin.
Chapter 4: Blind Spot
The connections start to emerge with Dan playing a role in this chapter. This also marks the first chapter with Jenna Yamada. She was quite a character to write. The way that she stood up to Gene Marley definitely hints at the wave of feminism that is happening currently – although I obviously did not foresee it at the time. Also, I can’t help but admire the scenario I set up for the case of Gene. He is an embodiment of the one too many obnoxious white male late night talk show hosts; qualities that get him called out for.
Chapter 5: Three Little Similes
I’m not used to writing such young characters, so writing this one was quite an experience. It just goes to show how children can be smarter than what we give them credit for, and that for educators, borrowing a lyric from Phil Collins’ “Son of Man,” “in learning you will teach and in teaching you will learn.” I feel that this chapter does a good job at shining a light on a profession that those working in it aren’t paid enough for, for their work is so very valuable indeed.
Chapter 6: How to Save a Life
The structure for this one is definitely different, for it reads kind of like a transcript. Style-wise, the idea came from the last section of David Mitchell’s debut novel, Ghostwritten. This chapter also seems to show how I touched on another topic that would become more relevant a few years later, for I made an attempt on exploring mental health issues. While this chapter could have been better in some areas, I otherwise consider it a brave attempt from younger me.
Chapter 7: The “Jackie” Reunion
Right away, I like how Serena is the antithesis of Gene. She’s an ambitious Filipino American journalist who’s intelligent and thoughtful and gets work done, even if she doesn’t always have that big of a support system. Ultimately, this chapter is very self-serving, for I used this one as an excuse to project my own thoughts on what it would be like, if I had the chance to interview the cast and crew from a TV show of my youth. Turns out that this chapter also has some foreshadowing, for little did I expect to do what Serena did a few years later…
Chapter 8: Poetry and Boba Tea
Here is another one of the Wong Fu-influenced chapters. It also goes back in time; quietly indicating the beginning of a pattern. While this chapter is sweet in nature, I now see Dante being way too upfront when first meeting Kira. The way he sat down at her table and tried prying information out of her about her poem she was writing, that behavior would be considered very problematic nowadays. On the bright side, my unconscious foreshadowing continued by featuring boba tea in this chapter; well before boba entered the U.S. mainstream.
Chapter 9: The Game of Seeing
I wonder if you can make a drinking game out of how many chapters were influence by Wong Fu, for this one here is yet another one. This was the most memorable one for me, for this was adapted into a one-act play by my late family friend, Cheryl Morris, about a month before A Moment’s Worth was released. This was clearly written at a time when I knew very little of San Francisco as a city. I liked how Yvonne makes an appearance in both the first and last chapters of Part 1 of this novel.
Chapter 10: More Than Stars
This was the first story/chapter I wrote for this novel; back in 2012 might I add. It’s tonally one of the more optimistic chapters and is truly a standout. I think I made a wise decision by having this one be the kickoff for Part 2. This is where things start to get a little surreal.
Chapter 11: Humanhood
Here is where we start learning about the mysterious character of Baleia, as she finds herself in – what I call – a “reverse fairytale.” She is faced head to head with the “What are you?” question; a question that mixed race people dread hearing from people who don’t know better. It’s quite an incredible scenario she finds herself in, for while she’s being asked this in the context of her racial ambiguity, she’s at a panic for possibly not being human. It makes for an extraordinary take on the nature of humans and how we view and treat one another.
Chapter 12: Beyond the Darkness
This chapter, much like Chapter 5, makes for another standout, as I put another child as the central character. Having so many child characters for a book targeted for adults is something that is a bit unusual, and yet I’m impressed for including them anyway. I also wrote this as a way to show another side of Jenna; as a parent.
Chapter 13: Running After a North Star
Another chapter influenced by Wong- yeah, you know by now! I’ll be honest when I say that I’m generally not that good at writing romance, so the fact that this one came about at all is a damn miracle. It’s clearly an idealized romantic situation and I like that it gives another look at the stars.
Please come back tomorrow for my thoughts on the remaining chapters of A Moment’s Worth. In the mean time, A Moment’s Worth and its companion short story, “46,” are available for purchase as ebooks on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords, and other venues and outlets as well.