Wesley Chu, author of the amazing geeky book The Lives of Tao, is currently on tour promoting his newest book, The Time Salvager. Luckily for us, one of his stops was in Portland.

After stopping by the downtown flagship store, where he signed some books as well as the famous post, Wesley Chu headed to Powell’s Bookstore’s Cedar Hills Crossing location for his author event.

Casually chatting with the audience before the event start, the discussion included proper bookstore size, Portland sports teams, and the beards sported by male SFF writers. Chu then attempted to read his own intro, until a Powell’s employee intervened.

“Step aside, Sir.” No fair skipping over the embarrassing parts, after all (something about Hanes underwear commercials? I dunno.)

Chu chats with the audience during his author event at Powell's books.

Chu is a two-time Campbell Award nominee and as a writer of one of my favorite series, I was happy to see he started by reading an excerpt from his first book, The Lives of Tao.

The hilarious and exciting scene is set early in the book. Hapless computer programmer Roen Tan runs into a would-be mugger.. until, for the first time, an alien in his head who is determined to turn him into a superspy intervenes.

It turns out the scene, where Roen attempts to smash and then threaten the thug with a pair of wine bottles is based on a real experience that happened to Wesley Chu.

Chu joked, “The one time in my life I could actually stab somebody, and I blew it.”

Time Salvager Book Cover
Time Salvager was released on July 7th.

The premise of the Time Salvager, on the other hand, was inspired by a dream.

In the novel, salvagers, guided by strict rules, travel back in time to recover lost objects and treasures. After all, “the best use of time travel is to grab all the stuff before disaster,” said Chu.

Personally, I’m excited to read it. There’s been a lot of buzz and it was reportedly picked up for a movie as well.

Chu actually read an awesome excerpt from the forthcoming sequel to Time Salvager, not out until next year.

In addition, Rise of Io, a new book set in the Tao universe, is also scheduled to be released in 2016.

The Rebirths of Tao Book Cover
Rebirths, the final book in the Tao trilogy, came out earlier this year.

Unlike in the Tao books, where alien Tao serves as a wise mentor for Roen, Rise of Io purposely flips that paradigm. Io happens to be “one of the most incompetent Quasings, most incompetent alien you’ll ever meet.”

With three books scheduled to come out in 2016, Wesley Chu is a full-time writer but didn’t start out that way. Roen Tan, whose story in Lives of Tao is “kind of a late coming-of-age story,” is modeled in part after Chu himself. Although originally considering an English major, but “I did the computer thing, the consulting thing,” said Chu. After a while, he wanted to get back into writing.

Writing while working a full time job is difficult, Chu admits. As a dedicated martial arts student who spent most of his free time practicing, Chu once studied Wushu, and then later Bagua Zhang and Tai Chi. “I had to sacrifice my martial arts for my writing.”

Even at that point, the path to becoming a full-time writer wasn’t straightforward.

“I wrote a trunk novel, it was really bad,” Chu admitted. Trunk novel is a term authors use to describe an unsellable piece of work. “I wrote Lives of Tao… then I started playing World of Warcraft,” Chu said. “So I lost three years. We were the number one guild on the server or something.”

If you want to be a writer, time is important, especially when working full-time. Chu suggests writers set out an hour chunk or two hours of time aside for writing and then “guard that time like gold.” Make writing as important as any other kind of work.

Despite the challenges, “work your day job as long as you can until you can’t do it anymore,” Chu advises aspiring writers, “Honestly, I went full-time writing a year or two early but thank god it worked out okay.”

Wesley Chu reading
Wesley Chu reads an excerpt from an upcoming book.

With the benefit of more time, his writing day is now quite different than it was.

He plans his day with a lot of small activities in order to avoid getting burned out on writing. Although he does draft out a plan, “I do not edit as I go or I would never finish.”

The goal is to get that draft done and then start editing.

“You’ve seen me on Twitter. I’m in my bathrobe all day,” Chu laughs. “If it weren’t for my dog, I would never see the sun.” Nattily dressed for the author event in a grey blazer and striking red leather shoes, this was almost hard to believe.

Upon asking if there were any last questions for him and hearing none, Chu warned “Are you sure? I’m never coming back… unless I’m invited.”

Judging from the applause, the audience is certainly hoping for his return to Portland. In the meantime, I plan on picking up my copy of Time Salvager while I wait for the release of The Lives of Io.

Time Salvager was released on July 7 from Tor and is available online through Powell’s Books (our local favorite) and Amazon