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Rene Ritchie Talks "Legends of Wingchun" (joss whedon mention)

Saturday 17 December 2005, by Webmaster

SHOWDOWN Entertainment (SD): So, tell us about your new book-it’s your third, right?

Rene Ritchie (RR): That’s right. It’s called Legends of Wingchun: Embers of the Shaolin.

SD: And it tells the story behind the martial art of Bruce Lee?

RR: His original martial art. It’s a classic Chinese folk story about this rogue fighter, Boklao, who saves the life a small town girl named Wingchun, who might just be a lot more than she seems. They both get caught up in mystery of the Fist of the Elders, the secret martial art that caused the Shaolin Temple itself to get burned to the ground.

Along the way, they face off against the Imperial Army, the Heaven & Earth Rebels, the Bandits of the Eight Immortals, and a killer from the edge of the world who’ll stop at nothing until every last ember of Shaolin is expunged, not to mention some of those Elders themselves... But, I don’t want to spoil the story for people who haven’t read it...

SD: Who aren’t familiar with the original folk story, or is it safe to say that even they’ll be in for a lot of surprises?

RR: Definitely! I drew on a lot of complementary material, you know, brought a lot of stuff together and fleshed it out with the real history as well. I think people will definitely be surprised.

SD: And it’s got action and adventure, some romance, some humor, and of course, crazy-*** kung fu fighting...

RR: Gotta have the crazy-*** kung-fu fighting...

SD: And not just Wingchun Kung Fu, right?

RR: No, no, quite a few. Actually, Wingchun (the martial art, not the title character) hasn’t even been developed when the book starts. It doesn’t exist. That’s a big part of the story, but again-

SD: You don’t want to get into spoilers. Okay, okay. So let’s aim a little broader. Now, martial arts novels like yours are really popular in Asia, right?

RR: Sure, they’re a huge genre of Chinese novels (wuxia) and have been for a very, very long time.

SD: But we don’t see them in North America that much?

RR: You see some translations, but most often we see adaptations in films or Anime.

SD: Like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon?

RR: Right, that’s an adaptation of a very well known Chinese martial arts novel. So are things like Mulan, and many of the old Kung-Fu movies we all know and love.

SD: Jackie Chan, Jet Li...

RR: Exactly.

SD: Now this is your third book, but your first novel?

RR: The first two were non-fiction, now, I get into the good stuff, the stories. You see, the problem with non-fiction is that you have to be very careful. Even in this information age with the UFC and other martial arts shows breaking into the mainstream, there’s still an attitude of secrecy that permeates a lot of this stuff...

SD: If you tell the ancient secrets, you’ll get summoned to Chinatown for a death match?

RR: Not so literally, but yeah, there’ll be problems. But in fiction, you don’t have the same constraints. You can be truer than fact, if that makes any sense.

SD: Because everyone just thinks it’s a story... Okay, but will people used to the quality of information in your previous books still be able to find something similar in Legends of Wingchun?

RR: Absolutely! I worked my butt off to get as much in there as I could, and to give them a great ride along the way. Anyone who knows or is curious about the martial arts will find a lot of Easter-eggs hidden in there just for them.

SD: And what about for people unfamiliar with the martial arts genre, you know, who read more traditional [North American] sci-fi and fantasy.

RR: They’ll find something fresh, something that will hopefully excite them in a new way. And if they already like fantasy, historical fantasy, especially if they like the more recent martial arts movies coming out of China...

SD: So does that mean you would recommend this book to people who are into martial arts and are trying to find a way to share some of that interest and maybe help explain it a little to family or friends who-

RR: Really aren’t? I would. I mean, when my own family and friends read it-the one’s who don’t know from martial arts-they all seemed to gain a whole new appreciation. So, yeah, if you’re skipping out on your spouse or significant-other for hours at a time, get them this book to read while you’re gone and maybe you’ll get a little more understanding and a little less punishment...

SD: (Laughs).

RR: And who knows, some of them-especially the women-might just get inspired to go train with you.

SD: That’s true, Wingchun is the only martial art founded by a woman, correct?

RR: That’s my understanding.

SD: And in addition to the title character, there are other very strong female martial artists in the novel. Was that also deliberate?

RR: I’d like to say it was, but that’s straight from the Chinese folk story. Even thousands of years ago, the Chinese had folk stories about Sword Mistresses of incredible skill.

SD: Right, right, like you said-Mulan, or the women in Crouching Tiger. So, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lara Croft, Alias... They really weren’t the first? (Laughs).

RR: Well, Joss Whedon is one of my favorite creators. I’ll watch or read anything he comes up with and, in many ways, it’s thanks to people like him and J. J. Abrams, who paved the way for powerful woman heroes in modern action and adventure, that the older classics can be re-introduced. I think they’ve created not only an acceptance, but a demand for these types of characters and stories.

SD: Okay, so we’re just about out of time here. How can our readers get the book?

RR: Through online retailers like Amazon or they can take the title and ISBN number (0-9738804-0-6) to their favorite real-world bookstore and have it ordered. They can also check out www.legendsofwingchun.com for all the latest news and ordering info.

SD: Great, thanks for you time, Rene!

RR: Thank you!