Author: William F. Wu
Narrator: Anthony Lee
Length: 7 hours and 41 minutes
Publisher: Moira Nelligar
Released: July 6, 2018
A young guy named Jack Hong hitchhikes throughout America following the keilin, a mystical unicorn out of Chinese mythology. The keilin leads him to ten adventures with ghosts and other supernatural figures. These experiences reveal to him not only parts of American history he never knew, but also his own identity and the role he will choose for his life.
William F. Wu may be best known for his contemporary fantasy short stories, such as “Wong’s Lost and Found Emporium,” a multiple award nominee that was adapted into an episode of the Twilight Zone in 1985. When he started his career, he decided that he would write some stories on universal issues and some about Chinese American ethnic matters. All of his novels and short stories have a character of East Asian descent, usually the protagonist.
When he was young, he did some long-distance hitchhiking throughout the nation, though he makes no claim to experiencing the supernatural.
He has had thirteen novels, one short story collection, one book of literary criticism, and over sixty short stories published by traditional publishers and is in the process of bringing out much of his backlog through Boruma Publishing. Wu has spoken for over thirty years on panels at science fiction conventions, and he has also been guest of honor and toastmaster. He has participated in and hosted writers’ workshops frequently over the years and taught fiction at the college level.
A 5-time finalist (and a sixth time as part of the group of Wild Cards authors) for the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards, Wu is also a finalist for the Sidewise Award for alternate history and for Canada’s Aurora award. He’s the author of the six-volume young adult science fiction series titled Isaac Asimov’s Robots in Time, the first series in Asimov’s universe licensed by his estate after his death. His novel Hong on the Range was based on another Hugo and Nebula Award nominee, the short story “Hong’s Bluff.” Hong on the Range was chosen for the Wilson Library Bulletin’s list of science fiction “Books Too Good to Miss, 1980 – 1989,” and was a 1990 selection for the American Library Association list of Best Books for Young People, for the New York Public Library’s recommended Books for the Teen Age, and was a Young Adult Editor’s Choice by Booklist Magazine. Wu adapted the novel for a three-issue comic book series brought out by Image Comics and Flypaper Press in 1996.
He has upcoming stories in Texas Hold’em: A Wild Cards Novel, edited by George R.R. Martin, due out in the fall, and in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine.
Wu was born and raised in the Kansas City area, and educated at the University of Michigan, where as a student he represented the third generation in his family. He has an A.B. in East Asian Studies and an A.M. and Ph.D. in American Culture; his dissertation was published as The Yellow Peril: Chinese Americans in American Fiction, 1850 – 1940. He and his wife live in Southern California.
Anthony Lee has been told that his voice is deep, resonant, smooth, and clear. Yet, it would be years before he would finally embrace that gift and start using it artistically.
A native of California, Anthony grew up with an equal fascination for knowledge and leisure. He would enjoy studying various subjects in school as well as doing fun things in his spare time. His motivation for success and happiness helped him achieve a solid education, a successful job, and a new life to live as his reward for years of hard work.
His decision to try voice acting came after receiving plenty of compliments about his vocal quality over a short amount of time. Whether those words came from friends or strangers, he could no longer deny the possibility that there may be something special about his voice. Hence, from October 2015 to June 2016, Anthony enrolled in night and weekend classes at Elaine Clark’s Voice One academy in San Francisco, where he trained in the art of voiceover for narrations, commercials, and characters. He thoroughly enjoyed honing his voice for things like audiobooks, technical materials, corporate narrations, e-learning modules, documentaries, commercials, promos, animations, video games, and talking products. Overall, he considers his journey into voiceover to be very rewarding, not just for what he learned but also for the great instructors and classmates he met along the way.
Now with professional voice training, Anthony is stepping out into the world to lend his voice. He loves to take virtually any kind of script and work to deliver the message in a suitable way. His enthusiasm for voiceover makes him strive to be a versatile actor in the craft. Every time he is given an opportunity to provide a voice, he hopes to leave a lasting positive impact.
When he is not doing voice work, Anthony enjoys playing chess, ice hockey, pool, Sudoku, and video games, as well as watching movies, reading about random topics on the Internet, and traveling. He lives in Northern California.
So for me I really loved these because I enjoy other cultures and mythology! I especially am interested in Chinese culture 🙂 I loved that the author put a good amount of information in with the tales. However I do wish that there was more on the history behind things. 8 think it would have peaked my interest a whole bunch more than it already did. I give it a 4.5/5 stars!
The audio on the other hand for me was not my favorite. I was just bogged down. It felt pretty slow and not too much emotion was given. The narrator did a pretty good job with different voices and making some scenes feel spooky. Just wish they added more emotion and read at a fast pace. I give the audio a 3.75/5 stars.
I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Anthony Lee. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.
Q&A with Narrator Anthony Lee
- How did you wind up narrating audiobooks? Was it always your goal or was it something you stumbled into by chance?
- My story is probably not the typical audiobook narrator story. I am not someone who had listened to audiobooks for years, admired certain narrators, and then aspired to be an audiobook narrator like those idolized voices. If anything, I stumbled into it by chance.When I first decided to try out voice acting, I told myself from the beginning that I would specialize in narration because I could read technical material out loud fairly clearly. When I started taking some voice over classes at Voice One in San Francisco, I expanded my interest to commercial and character voice over, but I still avoided audiobooks because of the amount of time and effort involved. All of that changed when, just out of curiosity, I took one of Voice One’s audiobook classes, led by audiobook narrator Amy Rubinate.What happened was that each of us in the class was given a random excerpt to read out loud. I was given a passage from a story that sounded like it was a Western. It was a bit intimidating at first, but I was surprised to see how fun it was to provide a narrator voice and the voice of a man and a woman with subtle cowboy accents. Amy also gave feedback for each student about which genre would he or she be most suited for. You know what Amy told me? She said she couldn’t decide which genre was best for me, but she recommended that I definitely do fiction. That’s when I discovered that (a) I CAN be an audiobook narrator, and (b) I may be versatile at it.
- How do you manage to avoid burn-out? What do you do to maintain your enthusiasm for narrating?
- Easy. I just take a one- or two-day break from it, which is enough for me to recharge my batteries. During the break, I may watch a movie, which is something I love to do because it’s another fun way to experience a story. If the movie is good, it reminds me that the audiobook I am narrating ought to be done well, too, and that gets me motivated again.
- What are your favorite and least favorite parts of narrating an audiobook?
- My favorite part of narrating the audiobook is the recording itself. It’s when I am deeply invested in the words and the story being told. It’s also when I am taking on the roles of the various characters and bringing them to life. Recording always gets me feeling that I am in the zone, so to speak.As for my least favorite part of the job, it’s extensive editing. It’s not that I dislike every single moment of listening back, deleting outtakes, and ensuring the right interval length between sentences and phrases. What I dislike are the moments where I have to do extra work to fix one thing. This typically happens when, despite my best efforts, I still misread or mispronounce a word, or the word’s enunciation sounds unclear and jumbled. In such cases, re-recording becomes an irritating but necessary chore.
- What would you say are your strongest narration abilities?
- I can think of two off the top of my head.One is that I feel I read at the right pace. So far, I have not received a single complaint about me reading too fast, which is nice. I also have not gotten feedback about reading too slowly, which I attribute to my dislike of long awkward periods of silence. Also, whenever I read a book, I imagine a movie of the book playing in my head. I like to read a book at a pace similar to that of a movie so that it keeps moving along at just the right speed.The other is my ability to voice different characters and keeping them consistent and distinct. I do find it hard to know which character is speaking if no effort is made to distinguish the voices, especially when the dialogue has no “he said” or “she said” tags. Plus, doing different voices is more exciting than doing one voice all the way through.
- What about this title compelled you to audition as narrator?
- With any book, the first step I take to decide how each character is voiced is to review the text for descriptions that would determine the voice, such as gender, age, physical characteristics, and geographic location. Those are the boundaries that I would have to stay in. After that, then it’s fair game as to what other vocal characteristics I lay on top. Fortunately, there are plenty of options for vocal pitch, quality, and tempo I could choose from. That helps in producing vocal diversity, too.That said, Jack Hong’s voice was a no-brainer. I simply used my own normal voice, because he and I are both young Asian guys.
- Do you read reviews for your audiobooks?
- I read all reviews of my audiobooks, positive and negative. The positive ones are certainly rewarding and keep me inspired. The negative ones do sting, but I still read them and use them as a guide to work on my craft.I also recognize now that reviews are subjective. An audiobook that the majority of listeners dislike may still have people who love it. Likewise, an audiobook that receives the Audie Award for Audiobook of the Year can still have people who rate it one star out of five on Audible. Hence, my philosophy is to take everything with a grain of salt, but take it all nonetheless.
- What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or as inferior to “real reading”?
- I wouldn’t put any shame on audiobook listening. It’s simply another way to take in the text from a book.When you read a book yourself, you have to look at the printed words, understand the tone that would go with it, process it all, and repeat. Sometimes a book is hard to read because of the print size, or because of the difficulty in determining the underlying emotional message in the words. Also, coming across a word you don’t know the pronunciation of can already interrupt the flow of reading.By listening to audiobook, you are bypassing those difficulties and letting someone else take on those challenges for you, while still taking in the full text yourself, which is the same end result of reading a book yourself. What I would consider inferior to reading would be resorting to a summary of the book as a substitute for the full text of the original book.
- What’s next for you?
- I would love to continue doing audiobooks, while gaining more name recognition. So far, my biggest achievement is getting an audiobook reviewed in AudioFile magazine. I had submitted one of my previous audiobooks, a political thriller called The Repatriation of Henry Chin written by Asian-American author Isaac Ho, to AudioFile, and I was so amazed that they even agreed to review it, let alone review it positively. Knowing I could achieve something like this, my next goal is a challenging but inspiring one: having an audiobook win an award like an Audie, or at least be a finalist for one.Other than that, I would eventually like to be a voice actor who can do commercials and work in video games, animation, or the like, in addition to what I do as a narrator, for audiobooks and elsewhere. That will take years, but I love the idea.
- Bonus question: Any funny anecdotes from inside the recording studio?
- A Temple of Forgotten Spirits does contain some moments of humor. A few of them were so funny to me that I was laughing out loud while recording. But instead of waiting to stop laughing before reading the funny line, I read the funny line while still trying hard to stifle the laughter. So if you hear a humorous line in the audiobook where I, as the voice Jack Hong, am laughing as I am saying it, you now know why.
Reasons to Listen to A Temple of Forgotten Spirits
Guest Post by Anthony Lee
If I had to describe William F. Wu’s A Temple of Forgotten Spirits in just one word, I would say it’s unique.
For one thing, it’s Asian-American fiction but not the typical kind. People who think of Asian-American fiction tend to think of stories revolving heavily around traditional Asian culture and books by authors such as Amy Tan, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Chang-Rae Lee. But William F. Wu has done two things different here. One, he incorporates aspects of Chinese folklore and history that many people may not know about. Two, he features a protagonist who is an American of Asian descent, not an Asian immigrant in America. Ultimately, the author is broadening people’s perspective and understanding of the Asian experience, by highlighting the types of Asian people and historical events we hear less about.
This book also has a unique take on the supernatural. Stories about ghosts are typically intended to be suspenseful and frightening. A Temple of Forgotten Spirits does feature a few instances of this, but not all supernatural elements in this audiobook are designed to scare the listener. Some supernatural elements in this book are better described as mysterious, such that the audience is genuinely curious and wants to know more about the ghostly character. And there are a few friendly ghosts, too. Along those lines, there are a few stories in this book that can be said to feature the supernatural solely for the purpose of being uplifting, even triggering tears of joy for some people. I would say that, regardless of how each supernatural element is presented on the surface, there is a sense of heartfeltness underlying it all.
There is even a sense of uniqueness for each story compared to the others. It is true that each story centers on Jack Hong witnessing the keilin (mythical Chinese unicorn) and a moment of good fortune and salvation, but this formula entails very different situations throughout the story collection. They range from two characters having the same ghostly vision and finding that they can do no more for it, to an epic action-packed battle between two dueling characters, and various other things in between. I think you would be hard-pressed to identify a story in this collection that feels like a lazy rehash of one of the others.
When you put it all together, this book is about a young Asian guy’s journey across America as he discovers who he is. I think this is the kind of book that would appeal to the young adult audience, especially if they find it boring to read Asian-American fiction. The stories in this book are both entertaining and educational, the kind that young people, and older adults, could benefit from. William F. Wu has written something that will let you have fun, learn something, and feel great in the end.
Anyway, I hope this inspires you to listen to A Temple of Forgotten Spirits. If you do decide to check it out, I hope you enjoy hearing it as much as I enjoyed narrating it. <Make a thumbs-up sign, like hitchhiker Jack Hong on the cover>
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