Eddy Boudel Tan is our first guest to kick off this new Deb year and I am so thrilled to have him!! Eddy is the author of AFTER ELIAS which is a heart-wrenching story of loss and growth and resilience. I’m about halfway through and am just loving it. Eddy’s book comes out this Saturday, September 12th so be sure to pre-order now!
Eddy Boudel Tan is the author of After Elias (Fall 2020) and The Rebellious Tide (Summer 2021). His work depicts a world much like our own—the heroes are flawed, truth is distorted, and there is as much hope as there is heartbreak. He is currently working on his third novel at home in Vancouver.
Tell us about the title of your book. What is the story behind it?
After Elias centers on a single tragic event: the crashing of a plane piloted by Elias Santos a week before his wedding day. From that moment, the story unfolds forward and backward in time like a swinging pendulum. In the present, Elias’s fiancé, Coen, struggles with the aftermath while fragments of the past come to the surface, each one revealing something different about Elias. We’re all shaped by the past, and the title reflects Coen’s journey coming to terms with the loss of Elias by confronting the man he truly was.
Fun fact: the original title was Between the Surface and the Sky. I decided to change it after the book was acquired because people kept referring to it by mixed-up variations of the title. I opted for something easier to remember!
I get asked this often, especially by friends and family. I think characters draw from the influences of real people in our lives, subconsciously or otherwise, but nobody in the story was molded after a specific person.
Since the novel is such a personal story told from Coen’s perspective, the question that understandably comes to mind is how alike we are. I’ve been finding myself stating a disclaimer to friends and family reading the book: don’t picture me narrating it! Though it’s true that Coen is not my fictional avatar, I do see pieces of myself in him. At the very least, I understand him intimately, as though he were a dear friend whose troubles I’ve witnessed first hand. Sometimes I wonder if we would be more alike had life been less generous to me.
Have you ever traveled to do research for your writing? Where did you go?
I decided early in the outlining phase of my novel that it would be set in Mexico. The story is anchored in death, and I’ve always been fascinated by how deeply death is revered by the Mexican people. Customs from both Mexico’s Indigenous and colonial cultures appear throughout the novel, influencing Coen’s journey. Plus, Mexico has long been one of my favourite countries, and I’ve traveled there extensively.
A month after I began writing the first draft, my husband and I decided to take an impromptu trip to Mexico City and San Miguel de Allende. It was our first time in either destination, and we were enchanted. We daydream about these places often and have revisited since. At the time, I was doing lots of research on Aztec mythology, elements of which are woven throughout the novel. During that trip, we visited ancient pyramids and the capital’s exceptional National Museum of Anthropology, which gave me plenty of insight. Perhaps more significantly, the fictional island where most of the novel takes place was inspired in large part by San Miguel de Allende, a magical town of soaring pink cathedrals, cobblestone lanes, vine-covered courtyards, and a garden in the village square.
Publishing a book is a bucket list dream for many people—are there any other accomplishments on your bucket list right now?
My bucket list is long, but the top tier consists of three main goals:
1) Write the next great novel (I think I might just settle for a novel, period. Greatness is subjective, anyway!)
2) Watch the sun set from every continent on earth (I’m about halfway there)
3) Become fluent in a second language (I’ve chosen French, and I really have no excuse not to accomplish this one because my husband is from France)
What’s the strangest job you’ve ever had?
I spent a gap year working on board a cruise ship as a vacation club consultant, basically schmoozing the more affluent guests into joining an exclusive club—think timeshares at sea. I turned out to be rather good at it, probably because my clients saw my twenty-one-year-old self as so adorably earnest that they wanted to help me succeed, but I didn’t care much about the job. I was there because I’d always dreamed about living on a ship, and it was one of the strangest, most memorable experiences of my life, traveling across the sea with people from all over the world.
In fact, my time on board that ship inspired the setting for my second novel, which is slated for publication on July 13, 2021. The Rebellious Tide is about a young man who poses as a member of a ship’s crew to stalk the father he’s never met. It’s a story about blame and identity, set on the Mediterranean Sea, and I can’t wait to share it with the world.
Thanks Eddy! The Debutante Ball is looking forward to seeing your book out in the world this Saturday!