January 13 marked the release date of one of the more interesting titles for 2009. “The Tarot Cafe” published by TokyoPop is paranormal romance from a totally new dimension. Inspired by the Korean style of comic books called the manhwa, not to be mistaken with manga, and based on a successful and translated into English seven volume series, carrying the same title, Chandra Rooney presents her take on Park Sang-sun’s story and characters.
About the Author: “Chandra Rooney can’t remember exactly when she got her first Tarot deck, but she can remember she wrote her first short story in grade five. In the years since, she’s graduated from high school, been an English teacher in Japan, studied both fine arts and design, and worked as a freelance graphic designer in Los Angeles. Presently, she’s probably writing. When she has her cards read, she likes to use the Queen of Wands as her signifier.”
About “The Tarot Café: Wild Hunt”:
Based on the best-selling manga!…Bryn McCallister’s fiance, Jack, has gone missing. She has the nagging suspicion that something terrible–and otherworldly–has happened to him, a feeling that only increases when she has vivid visions of Jack being chased by a vicious hunter intent on owning Jack’s soul. Always one to consult psychics, Bryn finds herself at The Tarot Cafe seeking a way to aid Jack in his spiritual struggle. But when she discovers what has happened to him, Bryn finds herself with an impossible choice between a life without love or an eternity of pain by her soul mate’s side.
Harry: So Chandra, January 13, will mark debut in the writing. The synopsis above shows only as much for people who are already acquainted with the manga “The Tarot Cafe”. Can you add a bit more about the world and your own story?
Chandra: The Tarot Café is a seven volume dark paranormal romance manhwa (Korean comic) by Sang Sun Park. Pamela, a Scottish woman cursed with immortality, uses her psychic abilities to aid her customers. During the day, she helps humans. At night, she greets her Midnight Visitors—all sorts of paranormals who need her guidance. Each story unfolds along the frame of the Tarot card reading. Park does a fantastic job of weaving western fairy tales and mythology with her own take on dragons and devils to create a multilayered dark fantasy world. As the series unfolds, we learn more of Pamela and her tragic past… including how she became immortal and the bargain she’s made to end that immortality.
With the novel, we’re adding a fresh story to the collection. Bryn is a contemporary Londoner poised on stardom, but her happy moment is ruined by the disappearance of her fiancé. Through circumstance, or Fate if you like, she finds her way to Pamela. Pamela and Bryn have a lot in common, emotionally, and Bryn’s reading dredges up some of the nasty bits of Pamela’s past. By drawing events from the comic and blending them with this new vignette, I think we’ve managed to create something that rewards the fans of the comic without alienating new readers.
H: As a debut author, I can imagine that you feel pretty stressed and/or excited at the upcoming release date. What are your expectations at just one step before crossing the line and do you think it will be a debut to be reckoned with?
C: Mostly, I’m relieved. Which is not to say that I’m any less stressed and excited than any other debut author, but I’m just grateful to know the book has made it. TOKYOPOP has been on a bit of roller coaster this past year and I really want this book to do well for them and Park. We’ve all worked so hard on it, and it’s gratifying to be able to see that work pay off.
Now, that it’s available the true anticipation begins as we wait for the fandom’s response.
H: How did you strike a deal to do a sort of collaboration with the original manhwa creator Sang Sun Park? As far as I understand you are bringing new characters and situations in her world and the light novel itself features illustration by Sang. Can you reveal more behind working with the artist?
C: TOKYOPOP already owned the rights to produce The Tarot Café comics in English. From what I understand, Park was approached about the possibility of a prose tie-in series. She agreed, so they sought to hire a writer for the project. After that is when I was contacted by Jenna Winterberg, the Senior Prose Editor, who had found my blog. She asked if I was interested in working with TOKYOPOP, and if I had any writing samples she could look at. When she was confident that the samples displayed the narrative voice and style that would fit the project, TOKYOPOP made an offer.
As for bringing in new characters… when we discussed the concept for the novel, Jenna and I agreed that we did not want to do an adaptation of an existing story. We wanted to create a new story that could serve as a welcome to the world for readers who were unfamiliar with the comic.
Park’s involvement was to approve the outline and sample chapter of the novel and to create ten original illustrations to accompany the prose. All of my dealings with her were on a removed scale—our correspondence went through my editor, translators and Park’s representative.
H: As far as genres go I understand that this is a light novel, which is a special Japanese format, but on the other hand it has fit American genre standards. Is it safe to say that this is going to be Japanese approach to fantasy translated into current urban fantasy?
C: “Japanese” only in how the time I’ve lived and spent in Japan, added to my exposure of Japanese story-telling, has influenced the way I approach fantasy. Which is probably a great deal more than I realize.
One of the things that I admire about Park’s series is that it is so accessible to a Western reader. This a woman who knows her English folklore and fairy tales and has mastered the art of reworking them.
However, I wouldn’t say The Wild Hunt is an urban fantasy. I would classify it as a dark paranormal romance, because the relationships in the novel are what drive the plot. The spooky hunters and immortality and devils are background elements to the emotions of the characters.
H: Can you share a bit about the process of writing the novel? Which was the hardest moment for you to write and cope and where do you feel exceptionally proud of?
C: This was the first time I’d worked with a professional editor from concept to completion, so I wasn’t used to having the feedback or the collaboration that Jenna provided me. Through working with her, I came to understand how you need the right editor because she has an incredible influence on the quality of the final product. Jenna is perfect for this project.
The hardest moment in the process of writing The Wild Hunt was coming to terms with the fact that what I was writing didn’t belong to me. I was an invited guest in another author’s world. If I was writing Bryn’s story as a standalone young adult novel, it would have been different from what it is. Not “better” or “worse,” mind you, just different. Ergo, the flipside of the coin is when I realized this and ego ceased to matter. I could concentrate on just creating the best addition to Park world. Being able to remove myself from the writing and see it objectively doesn’t just benefit this work-for-hire project, it means I’ll be able to do that when comes time to work with an editor on my own manuscripts.
Proudest moment so far—aside from completing the contract—was finding the Sequential Tart review. It’s an incredible thing to see a fan of the source material respond so positively to what you’ve helped produce.
H: And as a finally, is “The Tarot Cafe” going to be the first novel within a series or is it a stand alone? What are your future plans? I mean you have agent Miriam behind your back. You can’t go wrong.
C: At this time, I’m unable to confirm either my involvement or any sort of release schedule for the rest of the volumes. However, I would suspect that so long as The Wild Hunt is well-received, TOKYOPOP will go ahead with their plans for a series.
Miriam sent my adult novel, THE TALE OF ARIAKE, out on submission a few months ago. We’re waiting to hear back from several houses, and it’s all very exciting. That’s the first of a proposed three book adult contemporary fantasy series that adapts Japanese fox lore and Western fae in a North American setting. Much like The Wild Hunt, it involved a great deal of research and care to get the details right and the setting realistic. I should imagine within a few months I’ll be starting to write the second book, THE BELOVED OF INARI.
I’m also working on a far-future young adult urban fantasy series. It’s something that’s captured me completely, and I’m so excited to be writing it. The influences are largely the manic tone and adventurous plots of the new Doctor Who series with various reoccurring fantasy and technological elements of anime and manga. Mirim and I have revised the first manuscript, FRAGMENTS, and I’m finishing the second, SHARDS.
Despite the common association most paranormal romances evoke in reader’s minds, this one promises to be something different and by the sound of it Chandra Rooney is a brand new name that in time will could be to look for eagerly. Be sure to check her blogs: Dreaming in Red and Good Karma Reviews. For those, who are really excited, you can order from AMAZON.