With Violet Light EXTRA

With Violet Light EXTRA

Nov 05

So let me tell you about my friend Tom Wong. He is a hilarious karaoke master who will carry your drunk ass home and watch Project Runway reruns with you until you sober up. He is a talented writer who has totally worked on actual TV shows. He is also a gigantic nerd who can blather for hours about Starcraft and immediately knew what I meant when I started ranting about D&D alignments mere moments after we first met.

Tom is one of the first people I send my writing to when I’m working on something and he gave tons of helpful feedback on One Con Glory. In fact, he was so willing to talk about OCG with me all the damn time that he eventually started suggesting “joke” alternative storylines involving “The Tom Character.” (Most of these storylines involved TTC getting naked with Jack Camden. In a totally believable and organic way, of course.) We laughed about it. But when I was working on “With Violet Light,” I started thinking: this story could absolutely use The Tom Character. Also, if I were to add TTC, maybe he would finally shut up about it. So I did. And this is the one and only time I will actually cop to basing a character completely on a real person. Yes, Evan Chang is Tom Wong.

Now that you’ve all read “With Violet Light” (and if you haven’t, all the parts are collected here), I thought it would be fun to interview Tom and get his impressions on how The Tom Character turned out. Warning: there are SPOILERS for the story in the following piece.

Oh, and the pic above is Tom doing his best Julie pose (based on Max Riffner’s illustration) with my husband Jeff. Perhaps someday he will have his own Evan illustration to emulate!


Tom: [Affecting high-pitched “girl” voice] “What was it like having a character based on you?” [Affecting smarmy “awards show” voice] “Oh, it was such an honor! I felt really touched that you think of me that way!”

Sarah: Yeah, everyone will know that’s not what you said. Or at least, everyone who knows you will. Can you tell the nice people reading—because they haven’t had the great privilege of listening to our many conversations—what your initial pitch was for The Tom Character?

Tom: I think basically all of my pitches were just to put me in the story—which means someone super-smart, really good-looking, and irresistible to everybody. Most comic bookish stories don’t have that hot gay guy who’s just gonna go and, like, wow everybody. Which is my basic life experience. But seriously: I was just joking. You didn’t have to include a Tom Character.

Sarah: You say you were just joking, but you seemed to have a lot of rather detailed thoughts about what The Tom Character would be doing in the story.

Tom: Well, it’s just always what I think that type of character should be doing, which is seducing all the hot guys. But I was very surprised when there actually was a Tom Character.

Sarah: You were a beta reader for “With Violet Light”—when did you realize you were reading about you?

Tom: As soon as there was an Asian male in the story, I was pretty sure it was based on me. And as I read, I sensed he was based on me. My initial reaction was, “Oh no, she better not.” And then you did.

Sarah: Um, excuse me, but there are other Asian males in my life. Including my husband. Why did you assume it was you?

Tom: Of course it’s gonna be based on me. It wouldn’t be based on [your husband] Jeff, because he wasn’t the romantic interest. And Julie’s based on you.

Sarah: SHE IS NOT.

Tom: Puh-leeze! [Makes patented “Girl, please” face.] My expression needs to make it into your transcript somehow…

Tom: Anyway, I figured I’d be the next choice, because who else would you want to write about? I know I’m coming off great here. Everyone reading will be like, “Who is this douchebag?!”

Sarah: You’re just…being you. I thought maybe the “I Hate The Battlestar Galactica Finale” bit is what tipped you off, that being one of your trademark speeches and all.

Tom: That was a complete confirmation that it was supposed to be me. But I had a feeling.

Sarah: Okay, so then you go, “Oh no, she better not.” What was your fear?

Tom: I didn’t want you to attach him to Braidbeard—the really annoying guy! The guy no one likes!

Sarah: But why did you think that was where it was going? Because he’s introduced very innocuously: he’s just the guy who works at the comic book shop.

Tom: Because if the character’s based on me, he’s going to have some sex at some point and there was only one option. And it wasn’t a good option. You’re an efficient writer, which is good—so you wouldn’t just introduce some random character, give this character a name, set up a relationship with your main character if he’s not gonna have a bigger role down the line.

Sarah: Thanks—I’ll take that as a compliment coated in indignation. I just want to say this for the record, though: you were also a beta reader on One Con Glory, and you kept saying, “Braidbeard sounds HOT.”

Tom: That was before you told me what he was really like. And also, I was just trying to get on your nerves, because you kept saying, “He’s so annoying!” I was like, “Oh, he seems hot.” And then you were like, “NO HE’S NOT HE’S NOT HOT.” So I was like, “Oh, that annoys Sarah. I’m feeling like I want to annoy her.”

Sarah: Alright, dear friend, setting that aside: now that you know the whole story and The Tom Character’s role in everything, how do you feel?

Tom: Well, I like The Tom Character. I like the name Evan. I like that he’s smart, a little spirited. Obviously adorable. What I don’t like is that his boyfriend’s so annoying. [“Girl, please” face.] I have to say, I wouldn’t put up with that. But then again, he’s not me.

Sarah: In Evan’s defense, I will say that he kind of doesn’t put up with it, and I think that’s why Braidbeard likes him. When Braidbeard is doing his usual annoying thing with Ghost World, Evan’s kind of like, “No, shut up.” And then he schools him, which I think is what you would do.

Tom: I would school him, then I would dump him.

Sarah: Okay, I can see that. I’m sure you’ve had many other characters inspired by you inserted into other works of fiction, but how weird was this particular instance?

Tom: I don’t think it’s weird. I will say this is the first time that I know of someone putting a character based on me in something. But the character’s minor, so you don’t have to go too far into his psyche: it’s not like you’re putting all of me on the page. So it’s not uncomfortable that way. And also, I think the character is pretty much positive all around. I don’t think anyone would dislike this character. It’s one thing if this character were, say, Braidbeard: “Guess what, Braidbeard’s based on you, Tom!” I’d be like, “Do I act like that?!” I would say Evan is a less annoying version of me. He’s not a complete asshole.

Sarah: You’ve talked about why you disapprove of Evan’s storyline here—I think you had an alternative, fanfic-y storyline in mind?

Tom: That’s a jokey alternative storyline. But yeah, I actually think Evan should’ve gotten Jack. For me, that would’ve been the happiest ending, the most suitable, and the most realistic.

Sarah: But that’s kind of unhappy for the protagonist, no?

Tom: I don’t know if it’s unhappy for her! I think she’d be like, “Whatever. I had my time with him, it was sweet.” She’s a realist. No, no, I would never deprive Jules of her true love.

Sarah: That’s very nice of you.

Tom: Also, it’s not Evan’s story. If I were to co-opt your character, I’d write a different story. It wouldn’t have to involve Jack! It would involve a different hot guy.

Sarah: Well, sometimes, supporting characters get their own stories. Would you want Evan to have his own, like, stand-alone spin-off or something?

Tom: I think that would be an interesting character to explore, but honestly, I kind of think Braidbeard would be more fun to write. The Adventures of Gay Braidbeard. I don’t think the premise could be that he and Evan are still dating. It would be that they are no longer dating, but they’re friends and Evan is trying to get him to go out and date.

Sarah: Like his Gay Fairy Godmother?

Tom: Yes!

Sarah: It’s interesting that you once again cast yourself as the supporting character in this story. Is that just because you’re so perfect, you have nothing left to learn?

Tom: Probably. No—Evan is, in a lot of ways, an idealized version of me. I’m kind of an ass. So he’s too grounded and pleasant and those characters are less interesting as the leads. Unless you want to give Evan some flaws, his journey’s not going to be as interesting. Braidbeard’s got a lot of flaws. Braidbeard is basically all flaws.

Sarah: Is there a flaw you’d give Evan, then?

Tom: Maybe an Evan flaw would play off a Braidbeard flaw. Like, Braidbeard’s really jaded: maybe Evan is just too innocent.

Sarah: But he still hates the finale of Battlestar Galactica, right?

Tom: He so does.


  1. After reading this interview, I am now an Evan/Jack shipper.

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