Jeremy Trylch on His New Novella and Finding Magic in China

Longtime D.C. resident Jeremy Trylch talks about switching from crime fiction to surrealism, being an expat, the magic in Chinese culture, and his new novella Carnival of Sand.


What’s your book about?

Carnival of Sand is a book about the futility of human achievement. It’s a look at all the things we’ve done and really, once we can take a look at them with any kind of objective distance, we’ll see all our great monuments amount to sand castles. But that doesn’t necessarily mean human life is futile. It’s fun to build sand castles after all. Ultimately, however, the value of this existence comes from our connections to each other.

Who will like your book?

The book is poetic and surreal. I wrote it for me at a time when I felt my powers of expression as a writer were waning. I’d completed a crime novel and wanted to try something vastly different. My beta readers, as writers themselves, responded favorably to it. So maybe this is a writer’s book.

Why did you decide to self-publish?

Self-publishing returns the book industry to the great American small businessman. This is where we really belong as a society. This is where we were before we got sidetracked by big business. The big publishing houses can’t afford to risk money on new writers, or only on very few. Small houses are so niche that’s it difficult to make a match as a writer, and it can take years for them to get a book out once it’s on their publishing list. I can do it myself in weeks or months. The marketing differences between a small press and self-publishing are negligible.

How has your experience as an ex-pat influenced this novella and your work in general?  

I once talked with an older Chinese man outside of a Starbucks and he asked me what I was doing in China. His eyes flashed when I told him I’m writing novels. He nodded, saying, “China is a wonderful place to be a writer.” I was curious why he would think this as I haven’t met any other writers here and most Chinese readers bemoan the state and quality of their current writers. He said, “There’s magic here. Everywhere. Sure everyone is sidetracked right now because money is flying around, but just below the surface there’s superstition and magic.” It struck me as true so I began to look more closely at my surroundings, and yeah, it’s here! It’s as if New Orleans had a population of a billion people.

Life is, and should be, full of magic. I feel awestruck by the things I witness in this life and I want that sense of awe to be revealed in my fiction.

What’s next in the pipeline?

I’m going to self-publish the first novel I wrote, Torque, as a tribute to the late Elmore Leonard. That crime novel was highly influenced by him. I had an agent for that book, but he was pitching it at just the wrong time, when the industry was changing, and it never got picked up. I want to get it out there.

I’m also completing edits on another novella called, The Last Resort. I’m excited about this book. I taught for a short while at Sanya College. As I was leaving that job two of my students gave me a notebook, knowing that I write. And so I promised I would write a book for them. I gave them an unedited version as a graduation present. Honestly, my students have a hard time reading fiction in English. It’s a task for them. So this book was written using simpler terms and a straightforward storyline. So everybody can easily enjoy it.

What is your favorite piece of public art in D.C.?

The Washington Monument. It’s the largest sand castle in D.C.

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