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I am a writer, editor, reviewer and dance teacher based in Perth, Western Australia.

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The first novel of my trilogy, The Talismans, is available as e-books from Smashwords, Amazon and other online sellers. I do have paperbacks of The Dagger of Dresnia at the low price of $AU25 including postage within Australia. I also have a short story, 'La Belle Dame', in print - see Mythic Resonance below. Book two of the trilogy, The Cloak of Challiver, will be available again shortly. The best way to contact me is via Facebook!

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Want a copy? Contact me at satimafn(at)gmail.com

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The Cloak of Challiver
Available again as an ebook soon!

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Mythic Resonance is an excellent anthology that includes my short story 'La Belle Dame', together with great stories from Alan Baxter, Donna Maree Hanson, Sue Burstynski, Nike Sulway and nine more fantastic authors! Just $US3.99 from Amazon. Got a Kindle? Check out Mythic Resonance.

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Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Interview: Steven Gilshenen


Steven Gilshenen is a fellow Satalyte author, one with an unusual mission or two! For years, he sought Wuxia (Kung Fu Fiction) in the English language but could find little to satisfy his thirst, so he began creating his own story of a Shaolin Warrior Monk and a Wudang Taoist Warrior. The result isThe Tigers of Wulin series, the culmination of old legends, talks with Shifu (teachers) and research into the Martial Arts in hopes of not only sharing Wuxia with the English speaking world but also of conveying the lessons within these legends. Book one, Mark of the Shaolin, is available from Satalyte and other online booksellers.

By the request of the current Head of He Family Taijiquan in China, Steve has also written the first English language book on this style of Tai Chi. It will also be released by Satalyte Publishing later this month. And as if this wasn't enough, he's written a stand-alone novel, Cloud Hands, also published by Satalyte.

Here are the questions I asked Steve, along with his replies.


1.You've been living in Japan for a decade now. What made you decide to move there?

I have a 13 year old half-Japanese son. Since culture is something I value greatly I didn't want him to grow up not knowing that side of who he is and I couldn't teach it properly to him. Japan became home (I came here in 1999 and have been back in Oz for about 3-4 years total over the years since), but Australia will always be my true home. When the big earthquake happened a lot of friends fled, and I don't question their decision, but I made the choice and stayed. I'd been here when times were great, I felt I should stay even when times got rough. Over three years have passed since that terrible time and a return to Oz for good is in the near future.


2.You had a Damascene moment when you realized that Taijiquan (Tai Chi) was something more than 'punch-kick-block'. Can you describe what triggered this change in your attitude?

It was not so much one moment as a progression of seeing I was not good at the punch-kick-block stuff no matter how hard I trained. It just wasn't the right fit for me. I met a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine going by the English name of John Chen in Sydney through my job and he instantly recognized I had breathing problems (due to my dad's experience with Agent Orange) and offered to teach me Qigong breathing exercises to help. The results, utterly amazing, happened pretty quickly and he began teaching me what he called the Dragon Game, something I later found out was Qinna, a method of locking an opponent's joints and manipulating their balance/posture. Unfortunately, the doctor returned to China but the seeds had been well and truly planted by this time that there was a lot more to Martial Arts than I knew. Since each body/personality type has the right fit for them as far as Martial Arts go, I knew I was lucky to find mine and began private lessons in He-Style Taijiquan. That was twenty years ago last April and I haven't sought out any other Martial Art since. When you find that perfect fit, grab a hold and enjoy the ride.


3. Many people are unaware of the different purposes of Taijiquan. Can you say something about it as a meditative training system and as a martial art? Are they both studied at once or do pupils choose to do one or the other?

What we see as Taichi around us today is a relatively modern evolution, compared to the ancient method. Originally there was no distinction between health, spiritual method or fighting system. Whatever your purpose for learning Taijiquan, it is a moving meditation and the health benefits will come. They're are undeniably amazing! But, if someone was to learn Taijiquan as a Martial Art from a knowledgeable teacher those benefits are increased considerably. I was fortunate in that my first exposure to Taijiquan came when I was around five and never saw it as anything other than its complete form of health and Martial Art. I can't speak on any one else's training program, but within my school we learn it as a Martial Art, a complete system, that happens to also give miraculous health and spiritual benefits. I personally see this as following the way it was always meant to be, but that does not mean another way is not correct nor beneficial. A little of something great is better than a lot of nothing.


4. Most people would not even think to look for fiction based on a martial arts discipline, yet you have long been interested in it. What sparked this interest in the first place?

Monkey Magic! I grew up on that show. Then I started learning Martial Arts at six but fell in and out like most Aussie kids until my late teens. I'd always loved reading, especially fantasy, but never really understood how the characters fighting didn't really differ in their methods. To use fantasy as an example, elves are slender of body and long lived (and therefore their methods would most likely be highly developed with a deeply structured instruction system) while dwarfs/dwarves are short and stocky. The philosophy and art of both would influence their combat methods as well yet it wasn't really covered anywhere I read to the degree I was looking for. Over the years I had found novels with some Martial Arts in them but I felt it didn't carry the essence of the various systems when detailing fighting or even the learning process the characters would go through sufficiently. So at 16 I started writing my own about a young Shaolin Warrior Monk in training and his Wudang Wandering Taoist buddy that is now the Tigers of Wulin series.

Writing Martial Arts themed stories is not so different from other genres. Rather than have a fight within a story, the fight is the centerpiece. But at the end of the day, the story is the most important factor. I did have a 20,000 word fight in one book that had to be cut WAY down (obviously). It can't be just one long fight from start to finish!


5. One of your stated aims in writing Tigers of Wulin was convey to a Western readership something of the philosophy and teaching of Taijiquan. How well do you think you have succeeded in this aim? Has it aroused interest among readers?

For me writing is a component of teaching. Sharing these morals, these values, is part of what I hope to do within my classes as well. I benefited greatly from them and have the duty to pass that on. Being over in Japan, and my books read in English speaking countries (other than a few in Japan and China), I haven't had many opportunities to talk with readers so I can't say confidently it has had that desired effect yet. Those I have spoken to have appreciated that component of the story, though. The next book, Cloud Hands, has a lot more of the healing and spirituality side of Kung Fu in it so we'll have to wait and see how that goes. I have studied Traditional Chinese Medicine in the past and consulted with Adam O'Mara, an acupuncturist friend, so it will be interesting to see how that is aspect is received. There are some simple acupressure methods detailed in the story which may be of interest to readers too.


6. Your new book, which is more of a text on the History, Theory, Form and Applications of He-Style Taijiquan, is now available for pre-order. Do you see it as filling a gap in the literature about martial arts in English, and if so, in what way does it differ from other handbooks on the subject?

Actually, the next book is Cloud Hands - the Origins of Taijiquan. But in a sense it is a companion to the manual you mentioned, as both are on He-Style Taijiquan. It is because of that manual that the Tigers of Wulin series and Cloud Hands even exist. See, this style of Kung Fu is not widely practised. It is difficult to find information relating to its history and theory, was almost impossible twenty years ago. To help my students access this info I wrote a little guide for them but also had it checked by He Youlu, the Head Representative of He Family. He asked me to turn this guide into the first ever English language manual on the style. Lineage and respect are of paramount importance to me so when the Head of your system, a man that is a true Martial Arts Master in every sense and one who has given you so much, asks you to do something, you get it done! While there is ample in there for people interested in the history and theory of any style of Taijiquan/Kung Fu, it is mainly for the purpose of sharing this little known style with the English speaking world, especially the students of it that haven't had access to this information before. As far as differing from other manuals, I'd have to say I have never seen a book covering the physical movements of an entire system (Form, Push Hands, applications) in such detail before on any style. I have to add, this content was only made available due to the kindness and sincere devotion to sharing from the He Family themselves.


7. Since Mark of the Shaolin is book one of Tigers of Wulin, no doubt there will be at least one further volume. How many books do you think there might be in the series?

The Tigers of Wulin series is nine books long, with room for a few off-shoots if readers want to know some of the side stories. Currently, books 2 to 5 are sitting in the Satalyte Publishing office, Book 6 is pretty much complete on my IPad. The plan is to release Book 2 - Swords of Wudang - on 25 April 2015, to coincide with World Taichi Day, as the Wudang Mountains are the legendary birthplace of Taijiquan. Originally it was due out now with Book 3 - Scroll of the Drunken Fist - coming in December but I just had to get this story (Cloud Hands) and the manual out to people. After a lot of begging I managed to persuade Stephen at Satalyte to let me get these two out this year. That said, Swords of Wudang is probably my favourite story that I have written, or a close second to Cloud Hands. It sounds like a big task writing nine connected stories but really it isn't considering I've been creating this story for over 20 years now, drawing in history and myth. In Martial Arts, there are always connections between styles if you dig deep enough, and hopefully I have provided a clear path to seeing that with these books while keeping it entertaining enough to not read like a textbook.


8. Do you plan to write stories on topics other than Taijiquan?

I can guarantee everything I write will be a Kung Fu story in some way! Whether they are based in old days China or not, my stories will always have the themes of Wuxia in them. The reason I write is a little different to most: I see it as an extension of my teaching as I said above, something I have dedicated my life to. Martial Artists spend years honing their skills, training when their family are sleeping or their friends are out having fun. But I do not believe the benefits they acquire, whether health, spiritual or self defence, should be exclusive to any one group of people. If I can share the benefits I have received to even one person who may not want to learn a Martial Art, then I have become succeeded in my goal as a writer. Already I have seen the little difference I can make and it powers me on. David Greenland of Emerald Dragon Martial Arts in Australia put me onto a great cause, that of building an orphanage at the Shaolin Temple, and I am donating a portion of sales towards this project. I have been blessed with guidance and support from so many throughout the Martial Arts and I hope I can give back and share this with others.

Thank you, Steve! I hope that your books convince many more people of the benefits of your art. And I hope you raise lots of money for the orphanage, too.

Steve has also interviewed me - you can read the result on his blog at 
http://stevegilshenen.blogspot.com.au/2014/08/interview-writers-satima-flavell.html 

2 comments:

Jo said...

I started learning T'ai Chi or Taijiquan some 15 or more years ago, something I had always wanted to learn. Unfortunately I have let my practice of the art lapse. I was very lucky having an excellent sifu when I started who covered the deeper meanings of the art as well as the actual instruction. Very interesting blog Satima and I must see if I can obtain some of these books. I'm sorry I don't have access to a really good sifu these days.

Satima Flavell said...

Jo, you can buy Steven's books from the publisher - satalyte.com.au - and also from other online book vendors. I hope they help you to re-establish your daily practice.

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