ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lee’s passion is writing. His debut novel, PEARLS OF ASIA: A Love Story is the transgender version of Pretty Woman. Presented as a Romantic Mystery, where the intrigue of Law and Order meets the playfulness of Sex and the City, the novel revolves around a captivating San Francisco restaurant staffed by beautiful “gender illusionists.”
Lee is also the author of The Marginal Prophet, a Tuesday-Friday newsletter that takes only minutes to read and is part-information, part-inspiration, and all entertainment. Focusing on Wall Street, politics and the economy, Lee tries to simplify the data and have a good laugh at the same time. Be careful, though. Reading The Marginal Prophet with your morning coffee can become very addictive.Lee also writesViews From the Cheap Seats, a collection of short stories collected from The Marginal Prophet. Each week one story is filtered through the mind of Keith Geiger, Lee’s teenage son, who adds music and pictures to Lee’s words to produce amazing videos worthy of a Steven Spielberg wanna-be.
When I started reading Pearls of Asia, I didn’t know what to expect, but it quickly became an instant favorite and almost impossible to put down. Below is my interview with author Lee Geiger.
Self-confidence is one of the underlying themes of Pearls of Asia. Why is it so crucial for people to believe in themselves, and how does it strengthen the characters in your story?
In my view, every personal journey requires a combination of courage and confidence; the courage to take the first step, followed by the confidence to take the next step. A favorite expression of mine is “no one’s personal chart goes directly north-by-northeast.” Life is chock-full of peaks and valleys, and only those who believe in themselves realize overcoming obstacles is a natural part of any journey. The ladies who work at Pearls of Asia, along with Victoria Parker, learned this lesson early in their journeys to become the person they always wanted to be. All of them, through the power of their personalities, ultimately share this lesson with Mac.
The character of Sheyla Samonte entrances not only the other characters in the story, but the audience as well. What was the inspiration behind her character?
When I think of Sheyla, the first person I think of is my mother. She was five-feet nothing, a hundred and nothing, yet she raised five rambunctious boys using a powerful mix of love and intimidation. Mom was a Hall of Fame hell-raiser who smoked too much, drank even more, and forever spoke her mind. She possessed a lead foot, and many times she told me she wished she were born a man so she could have pursued her dream of becoming a race car driver. Mom died in 1986 at the age of 65, and I miss her very much.
Pearls of Asia is about transgendered women and their struggle to fit in with society, along with acceptance and strength of character. Why did you decide to write about this subject, and what were your hopes about what your audience would take away from your novel?
First and foremost, “Pearls of Asia” is a story. I believe every person has a story to tell, and mine just happened to be about the women who worked at AsiaSF, one of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco. The fact they happened to be transgender only added to the story.
I’m not the shy and sensitive type, and I frequently engaged the “Ladies of Asia,” as they are known, in conversation. Many of them have a dark and wicked sense of humor, and I found their stories about love, family, and coping with the realities of day to day living to be as inspirational as they were amusing. I told these ladies I would someday write a book about them. Ultimately, I felt it was better to tell their stories in the context of a fictional romantic mystery rather than through a series of documentary tales. To that end, I hope anyone who reads “Pearls of Asia” will learn something about the transgender experience, but more importantly, appreciate the courage required by these individuals to take control of their lives.
There is so much more to this novel than the women working at Pearls of Asia–there’s love, romance, and mystery. Was it important for you to show a heterosexual man falling in love with one of the dancers, and why is this no different than any other relationship?
One of the primary themes of my book is individuals who are transgender are no different than anyone else. There are battles to fight, bills to pay, and families to be a part of. And yes, dreams of finding someone to love, and to be loved.
As a heterosexual man, I found much to admire about the Ladies of Asia. They are as intelligent and engaging as they are beautiful and sexy. Many shared with me their stories of physical intimacy, and I learned that straight men, rather than gay men, were attracted to them. And vice versa. But few of these men had the courage to take their relationships to the next level, which meant introducing these women into their daily lives. I wanted my book to change that perspective, to enable men to be proud of whom they loved. To the end, it is ultimately the power of Sheyla’s character, and not just her physical beauty, which convinces Mac she is the woman for him.
Lately, there has been much discussion about transgendered men and women, and most of the attention has been negative and focusing on what lies beneath their clothes and less on who they are as people. Was writing Pearls of Asia a way for you to show that these women are not just a commodity, that they are real people going through real struggles?
The five trans women in “Pearls of Asia” are portrayed as a beauty queen (Sheyla), a godmother (Reyna), a diva (Diamond), a working girl (Nadia), and a prodigy (Ashley). I believe you’ll find the same personality types at Google, GLAAD, the Stanford University football team, or your local book club. These traits have everything to do with character, and nothing to do with anatomy.
Balancing the budding relationship between Mac Fleet and Sheyla Samonte and the growing investigation for the murder of a local news anchor could not have been an easy task? How did you create such a balance between the two?
The key to balancing the two competing story lines was maintaining the element of risk to Mac’s way of life. While he alone puts his professional career at risk by becoming close to a murder suspect and keeping secrets from his partner, the lure of being with someone as exotic and alluring as Sheyla is too much for him to pass up. Deep down, Mac loves danger, and he’s never met a woman as emotionally and sexually dangerous as Sheyla.
Pearls of Asia has seen such high praise, from blending together genres seamlessly, to tackling tough subject matter in a way that is compassionate and provides an insight that is virtually unseen. How has this praise and success impacted your life?
I wanted to write a book that had never been written before. I believe I have achieved that goal. Regardless of how many books I sell, or how many reviews I receive, I am very proud of this book.
At this point, the praise and success has been limited. The book doesn’t officially come for sale until May 29th. But time will tell. I’ve always believed “Pearls of Asia” to be more than a book. It’s an idea. My hope is “Pearls of Asia” becomes a movie, a cable television series, and a chain of high-end restaurants/nightclubs. I’m even selling t-shirts!
The blend of humor, romance, mystery, and identity in this novel is so seamless, that it has left many fans wanting for more. Are you currently working on any new projects?
My contract with The Writer’s Coffee Shop calls for a two-book series. I have written an outline for a sequel called “Ladies of Asia,” but I have yet to start writing it. I am presently working on a book titled “She Makes Breakfast For Me in Her High Heels,” a fictional story based on my older brother selling everything he owns so he can move to Ecuador to live with a woman he met online.
Is there any advice you can give to any budding authors out there?
A savvy veteran editor named Alan Rinzler told me there are three elements to selling your book; writing, editing, and marketing. All are equally important, and equally difficult.
Writing a book is the first draft. Too often writers will start to write a twenty chapter book, but then they stop writing Chapter Five so they can go back to editing Chapter One. That’s like running a marathon and stopping at Mile Five so you can rerun Mile One. Get the story out of your head first, he said, regardless of punctuation, tense, or character development. In retrospect, because the story was so ingrained in my head, it took me only one month to write the first draft of “Pearls of Asia.” But then it took nearly four years to edit. Now I’m starting the marketing phase. Wish me luck.