How are you doing?
I'm doing fine.
So, 'The Assassin's Essence'—the third part in your 'Assassin's' series, correct? What inspired that trilogy?
Well, Hong Wu us a major character in the Slash Trilogy fanons. In fact, he's the most recurring antagonist and one of my favorite characters. I wanted to do a story showing his origins, so I did 'The Assassin's Legend'. Then I decided that wasn't enough so I continued it with 'The Assassin's Sorrow', which was meant to be the last one. Since I wasn't really pleased with how that ended, I did 'The Assassin's Essence', and it became a trilogy.
Do you think people need to read the other two before they read this one?
Yes, they probably should. Otherwise they would be pretty lost as there are references to past events from the previous two stories.
Are you going to write any more now that this story is over?
This particular trilogy is over, but Book 3 of 'Avatar: Into the Light' will be coming soon.
Will that be the last book? And, how do you feel about the 'Assassin's' trilogy coming to an end?
No, there will be four books of 'Into the Light'. As for the 'Assassin's' trilogy ending, I'm really all that sad about it. I feel like I've told Hong Wu's story well and I am finally satisfied with where I've left things in terms of his past.
Will you keep writing after that's over?
Yes, I already have another story in the works.
Ooh, do tell...
It's basically a noir mob story about a girl with a special bending ability who gets involved with Republic City's criminal underworld.
Ahh, well I won't ask you to elaborate on that here. But, back to 'The Assassin's Essence'; why only four chapters?
Well, with a short story, you can only have so many. I chose to go with four because I couldn't drag out this particular quest of Hong Wu's anymore. Whenever I write these short series, I always have Hong Wu and whoever he is with doing something each chapter that involves getting closer to the end of his mission, and four chapters was as far as I could go.
How did you create the character of Hong Wu?
That's actually a funny story. In my first ever fanon, The Adventures of Team Avatar, there was a team of villains led by the main antagonist named Jun. Originally, it was just going to be him and Azula, but a couple of chapters in, I realized they needed another companion, and so I created Hong Wu as a sort of third member of their villainous entourage and Jun's lackey. So, basically, he was never even meant to exist originally! As I kept writing, I gave him more and more depth and personality and he evolved into the villain he is today.
We saw several characters whom we met in canon, but really didn't get much development for, like Mongke. Why did you choose to use those characters?
Honestly, I don't think the Rough Rhinos got enough screen time in A:TLA. I mean, here you have this super-cool group of mercenaries who were described by Iroh himself as legendary, and they only show up twice and get beaten both times. I'm trying to show them more and sort of give them more character.
Was it hard to get into their heads?
Not really, considering they didn't have that much development in the show. I just sort of took Mongke and expanded on what personality he already had.
Why did you give Hong Wu a job at a candle factory?
No special reason. He just needed a place to work, so I thought, 'why not?'.
I saw a lot of references to Lord of the Rings; what else inspires your writing?
Something else that has inspired my writing many times before is Metal Gear Solid, since I'm a huge fan of it.
How do you write? And, how do you plan?
I can't write until I plan. If, say, I'm writing a larger series, I have to plan out the entire book, write it, then move on to the next book. If it's a smaller story like this, I pretty much do the same. I just think of every possible thing that could happen and ask myself if I can make it into a full chapter. If so, then I make it a chapter.
Did you have a favourite chapter to write?
The Summit was my favorite chapter in this series. I particularly liked the scene where Hong Wu weeps after he's completed his task.
What about a favourite character?
Hong Wu, of course. Of all my original characters, I think he is probably my favorite. If not, it's a tie between him and Jun from TAoTA.
How did you think of his name? What does it mean?
Normally, my characters' names are chosen because they mean something, but in this case, I don't think it really means anything.
Where did the idea for the Separatists come from?
I was partially inspired by the separatists from the Star Wars prequels. I thought, 'that would be cool to have a group of people like that in a story'. However, these separatists obviously aren't evil.
Where do all of your ideas come from?
Usually they just come to me. I'll be sitting, listening to music or whatever, and an idea will sort of just come to me. However, I don't make it into a story unless I know it will work.
Why did you give him a sister? Especially one we haven't met yet.
Well, Hong Wu needed to have a reason to work for Azulon, so I gave him a sister that had been captured. I also thought it would be pretty cool if Hong Wu had an equally badass sister who was also an assassin.
What are Hong Wu's most redemptive qualities, in your opinion? He is a villain, after all.
As time goes by, Hong Wu has fewer and fewer redemptive qualities. At the start of the Assassin's Trilogy, he was a hero. During the middle, he cared about those close to him. By the end, he has close to none. He still cares about those close to him, but he is much more villainous by this point. And that's pretty much how it stays all the way until his supposed death in Suki's Story. I think that is his most redemptive quality. He cares about those close to him.
Why did you want to write a story from a villains' perspective?
Villains are just as interesting, sometimes even more interesting, than heroes. They have a backstory just like everybody else. I also really wanted to share Hong Wu's past. I find him to be a very fascinating character, but then again, I'm biased.
How did you come up with the chapter titles?
I usually have to sit and ponder the chapter titles. It takes me a few minutes to think them up.
How do you combat writers block?
If I have writer's block, I do one of two things: a) I stop writing completely and come back to it later when I'm feeling inspired, and b) I stop writing and watch a couple episodes of A:TLA or LoK, then come back and see if that helped.
Are you happy where you ended it? Do you wish you could keep telling the story of Hong Wu?
I am very happy with where I ended it. The reason I made this third installment in the Assassin's Trilogy is because I wasn't satisfied with where the second one left off at all. So my goal was to successfully wrap everything up and show Hong Wu become the man he is in TAoTA and I feel I couldn't have done that better.
Anything you wanna tell any fans or lurkers?
To all fans, I hope you enjoyed reading Hong Wu's story. Be sure to keep watching out for Book 3 of Avatar: Into the Light and a Rough Rhinos story coming soon.