A while ago, an audio clip went viral around the internet. It was regarding a danmei writer ‒ Feitian Yexiang who accepted audio interview for the first time. Everyone was surprised to find out that Feitian was actually a male writer. Lots of people were super curious; the danmei circle has many authors, but male authors are very rare. To satisfy everyone’s curiosity and wonder, N-dimension’s Xiao Bian has specially invited Feitian Yexiang-dada here for an exclusive interview.
Xiao Bian (XB): Hello, Feitian-dada.
Feitian Yexiang (FTYX): Hello everyone, you can just call me Xiao Fei.
(XB: （*/ω\*) Feitian-dada is so friendly!)
XB: Very grateful that Xiao Fei accepted our e-magazine’s interview request. Let’s directly go into today's main topic ba (I won’t admit that I don't know what to say, so nervous I could die「_「 ). When Xiao Fei writes stories, do you have a complete outline for the characters’ settings, or do you feel like you’ve accompanied the protagonists in their growth during your writing process?
FTYX: No outline for characters’ settings, outline for story’s progression yes, but basically limited to the framework of the story. For example, at this point they will fight the boss, the boss is a pig, after that I’ll pass the time over to the characters to freely express themselves. When writing, I'd imagine the basic personalities for each member of the main gang, what would happen when they encounter the pig, what kind of group chemistries, what kind of critical hits they'd deal... Something like that. I feel that not having a clear character’s outline is better in comparison, but of course it varies from person to person.
(XB: As expected from a horrible gamer, but ‘the boss is a pig’... The boss’ aura is so weak… Pfft)
XB: Hiahia, moving on… Where do you usually draw the ideas in your works from?
FTYX: Sometimes they come from my experience travelling to another city, sometimes from a painting, sometimes from a book, or perhaps a movie, things like that. “Yao’er” was inspired by my travelling to Lijiang, where I saw a soldier-gege chatting at the entrance of the bubble tea shop with the handsome owner, and then I wrote the story. That soldier-gege and the shop owner were very interesting people. Personally I feel that, if you want to bring local cultures into your writing, travelling is the best method. Because whether fantasy or fiction, they all stem from the consciousness of our own spiritual world, they can’t exceed a person’s thinking box. If you can travel, or listen to another person’s share of their lives and stories, it would be much better than coming up with something yourself.
(XB: o(*////▽////*)o Soldier-gege and little shop owner, this setting…)
XB: Then, has Xiao Fei encountered writer’s block before? How did you adjust and overcome it?
FTYX: Writer’s block, this is a really big headache. Generally, there are two types of writer’s blocks, one is caused by physical issues, and the other by mental issues. Physical causes are basically too much exhaustion, therefore no energy to write, or the lack of nutritions. For example, many office workers these days are very tired out after reaching home, they essentially have no strength left to write. What they need are sufficient sleep and nourishment, not continuing to spend hours on the internet, fighting themselves to stay up late just to scroll the webs and chat on QQ. This will form a vicious cycle.
Mental causes most of the time are due to writers no longer able to find the initial appeal, they don’t like what they write anymore. For this kind of block, can try jogging the memories a little to remind yourself of what initially inspired your story. To be honest, a lot of people face this problem. I feel that writer’s block is basically having a new interest and falling out of love with the previous one, a manifestation of ‘aesthetic fatigue’. It’s like dating your own story, after dating for a long time you grow tired of it, this kind of analogy. That’s why you must strike the iron when it’s hot and finish writing before the burnout settles in. It’s that “Ah! If I write it this way, even I myself would really look forward to it!” kind of feeling.
And then there's the matter of writing styles. I don’t know if there're rules to how one writes, perhaps descriptions of characters can also be counted as styles ba. Normally I feel that, when debuting a new character, I need to set them up with good prose and chemistry. All of these require a long time to finalise. So if you’re stuck on a character who just jumps into the scene, then just power through and write ba, on one condition that this guy must come out again, later on in the text. One tends to get stuck writing protagonists, side characters less likely. This mental block, a number of authors can be influenced by negative comments from readers, but if the whole text is completed before posting, the influence will be much less.
XB: That feels very professional… Then, how long do you usually take to complete a work?
FTYX: Approximately two to three months ba.
XB: So fast!...
FTYX: Because when writing, I don’t always think about the current work, once in a while, I'd think about other stuff. They come hand-in-hand, it’s alright once you’re used to it. I feel that when you’re accustomed to this way of thinking, it comes more naturally; you won’t write it, but you have some ideas in your mind. For example, when writing A, your brain would wildly fantasise about B, C, D, so you save those, keeping them in view.
XB: When you write, besides some characterisation, do you bestow any other feelings unto your characters? For example, hoping to convey some personal beliefs through them?
FTYX: No feelings, but if there are things I wish to convey, it'll usually be through the story, I don’t dare to convey them through characters, because there’re a thousand Hamlets in a thousand people’s eyes. You may want to portray a character and to communicate some feelings, but in the readers’ eyes they may not resemble even half a dot of what you want to say, to me that is very embarrassing… I won’t express personal viewpoints through my portrayal of any characters, most of the time it'd be through plot points.
XB: Do you have any quirks while writing, such as, without fail, must have a cup of water by your side?
FTYX: Yes, I’ll smoke, after that I’ll drink Yuanyang, really like Yuanyang.
XB: Yi? Yuanyang milk tea? From which store?
FTYX: No store, I make myself. Lipton tea bag + water + 1 teaspoon of coffee + creamer + 3 teaspoons of sugar + 2 teaspoons of milk powder. In that order, add everything to a Starbucks cup.
(XB: Whoa! A good man that every households need 〒▽〒)
XB: Do you have burnout periods? If yes, how did you get out of that state? What has been your motivation to write until now?
FTYX: Basically no burnout periods. Everyday I write a chunk of a few thousands words, just like brushing your teeth before sleeping. Once writing becomes a habit, it feels like brushing teeth, you won’t get tired from brushing teeth. Cultivating this habit drives you to write something everyday, otherwise you won’t be able to sleep.
XB: Do you have a laohu you or a great close friend that gives you suggestions when typing out novels, or gives you lots of motivation and support?
FTYX: Suggestions are very rare, but I have other authors as company. We'll type words together, competing among ourselves who can write more content, or discussing a little bit of our own plot progression. If someone serialises, we’ll flatter one another a bit, it can help strengthen the faith in our writing. There are discussions, but no one will reveal everything they have completed for us friends’ feedback. Plotlines these kinds of things, you shouldn’t reveal too much, because it’s really painful to hear something you don’t like, and going back to fix it is a lot of trouble.
XB: Then, does Xiao Fei like to be a birth daddy or a step-daddy?
FTYX: Actually I want to be a birth daddy ah. That’s not right! I actually want to be a step-daddy… But I don’t dare to… So I can only be a birth daddy giving his children happy-ends.
XB: But then, looking at your new novel, it’s very much step-daddy ah 〒﹏〒
FTYX: Ultimately there are still more happy-ends ma. I feel that Yao’er is not angsty. In the future, every year I will write one warm and fuzzy novel.
(XB: En en, please write more warm and fuzzy ba.)
XB: In the future do you plan to try out other genres? Such as mythological fantasy (xuanhuan), wuxia, het romance and so on.
FTYX: I will, but only when I don’t want to write danmei anymore, which means not under this pen name. I think Feitian Yexiang this pen name, since it was born for the danmei circle, then let it end with danmei and danmei only. Rather thick-skinned to put it that way, but this name was brought to fame by the readers, so it belongs to the readers. I have another alt in Jinjiang, but in the future I'll probably use it outside, and will have other alts too. Everyone is welcome to speculate, but I won’t admit oh~ Nonetheless, at the moment there isn’t any alt.
XB: Have you encountered any reader who is a dead loyal fan to one alt, but an antifan to the other alt… (*bonks* do you think everyone has split personalities like you)
FTYX: So far, not yet. I would…… have no words ba. To be honest you only need one alt to write danmei! Although I do find it more fun to change to alts. Changing to alts makes it difficult for people to comment that you’ve lost your touch… Or things along that line. Generally the readers are not as demanding towards new writers.
XB: Do you have a special memory from writing novels, or more specifically danmei novels?
FTYX: Yes, one unforgettable time when boarding a subway train in Beijing. From a distance, I heard a girl’s ringtone, “Xiao Jian I love you, Xiao Jian I love you”... The ringtone was a song that Yi Muyan and Yunduan covered for me, as the accompanying music for one of the novels. At that moment, my brain immediately felt the pink bubbles flying up.
XB: (Inner thoughts are moe as expected o(*////▽////*)o ) Xiao Fei, how did you get into writing? What was the original intention of writing novels?
FTYX: At that point, I was reading novels on Qidian, to the point that I was no longer satisfied. I wanted to see more gay romance fantasy stories, the kind where all of the main characters were male, and everyone went on an adventure together. But after scouring the forums, I could only find very few novels that were indulging enough. In the end I simply decided to write myself. I remember really liking a few, I think it was "The Law of the Devil" by Tiaowu, and Laozhu's works which I won’t go into details. Lately I haven’t enjoyed anything as much as those, I also like Zhang Xiaohua, very hilarious writings.
XB: Have you considered becoming a big-name writer on Qidian one day? (Twinkly eyes! Xiao Fei I’m a veteran fan of yours! *inserts* Everyone in the Saowen group is your fan!)
FTYX: No… The amount of updates required of Qidian big-name authors is very scary, don’t think I can ever write like them in the future.
XB: Then, would you consider writing historical settings again?
FTYX: I will, this year I already planned to. Either the Qing or the Song dynasty, Qing dynasty would be the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom setting, following Shi Dakai, the general who was made commander of his troops at the age of 18.
XB: (Looking forward to your new work ah 〒▽〒) Xiao Fei, up to this point, which is the work you are most satisfied with? Do you feel that the characters created under your pen tip resemble yourself?
FTYX: For now, there is none that I’m satisfied with. They’re all really scary ah, every book I have completed felt like an overhyped bait, I don’t dare to reread. Characters… At the moment I don’t feel that they resemble me too much. Like how the saying goes, as humans, to truly understand yourself is the most difficult thing to do. I can’t even understand myself well, but I'd weave in some personal likings into gongs and shous, such as drawing, or liking certain food. I always don’t dare to look back at my writings, there’s that “What the hell have I written ah, yeet!” kind of feeling, if only I could delete every single book I’ve written.
XB: Do you see yourself as a perfectionist, ‘the past is the dark history, my best work is always the next one’ kind of person? Are you a Virgo?
FTYX: I’m not, I’m a Gemini. If I don’t write new stuff I'd feel, “Ai, my current writing skills are so much worse than before”, and then I take a look at the old stuff and think, “Yi, the old texts are an even bigger mess”. It gives me the reassurance to continue writing.
XB: Would you read your old texts again and think, ‘is this written by me’?
FTYX: Yes yes, very often. It’s as if I do the writing the night before under one personality, then wake up the next day in another personality of a stranger, it feels very ‘splitted’.
XB: Gemini usually has split personalities; the day before you still think something is nice, then comes the next day you impulsively wish to get rid of it. Has Xiao Fei ever felt such impulses to rewrite all of your novels?
FTYX: Yes, previously I wanted to edit so badly, now I can rein in the urge, not so much anymore. More than editing, I think writing a new one under the same settings and aesthetics can be even more meaningful. Just like how “Observation Diary of Martial General” is actually, to some extent, a rewrite of “Nothing to Lose”.
XB: I think this situation is actually faced by many authors ba… Once a work is completed, rereading it for the first time in a while allows you to see so many areas to be improved, perhaps even the ‘actually over here I can fit in another plotline’ kind of thoughts. The interview with Feitian-dada that day was delightful, the full session was more than 3-hour long. After the interview, everyone realised that Feitian-dada was a very loving and patient person, he would answer every single question the girls asked. Therefore, we managed to dig out many “small secrets”~ For even more wonderful content, please stay tuned for next week’s issue of “N-dimension” e-magazine oh~
XB: Do you read other authors’ novels? Which genres do you prefer? Do you usually read danmei too? If yes, give us some recommendations of your liking ba.
FTYX: When reading, I usually don’t remember the authors’ names, and also don’t read much danmei. I like Xiao Hongxiu very much. Other books I read recently include Huang Renyu's books and collection of speeches. I prefer historical works, because the liberal arts are my weaknesses. Currently reading "The Unwaning Great History", at home I’ll read Hawking’s “The Grand Design”, especially The Grand Design, highly recommended oh~
(Little Editor: Feels like book readers are more sophisticated ah...
Chief Editor: Do you think everyone is like you (→_→) Only know how to read yellow books!)
XB: Anyone in your family, close friends or people around you know that you write novels? How do they react?
FTYX: Some friends read, but not many. No one had any special reactions, those with normal sexual orientation don’t know, but the gays do. So I’m really afraid that my gay friends will reveal it one day… I had to warn them not to say things recklessly. Even my parents don’t know.
XB: Do you still play Warcraft, Gujian and Xianjian? Which level are you at in Warcraft? Would you admit you’re a horrible gamer? Will you neglect writing because of gaming, or neglect gaming because of writing?
FTYX: Yes, I would play Warcraft intermittently, current equipment rank is at 85,368, never partake in multiplayer dungeons though. I play Discipline Priest. Horrible gamer is really horrible! Basically I’ll game during the free time after completing a book, after playing enough I’ll go back to writing. Single-player games I’d play The Legend of Heroes, Trails to Zero, Ys, Assassin's Creed and Dragon Age, basically these few. I won’t game during the writing period, because it’s very painful, wanting to game but also cannot not write, if I don’t fill the pit I’ll be scolded to death… I have a guild full of little sisters, every time I log in they’d rush me to go update… No choice, you can only go back to the writing pit...
XB: Do you dream very often? Do you remember anything from your dreamscapes?
FTYX: I’m very good at forgetting dreams. Even if I do remember, they won’t become writing ideas, because you can’t get much feelings from just fragments; personal reflections on the other hand offer a long, lasting aftertaste. There’re many dreams in springtime, people who dream a lot are happy people, because you get to live twice.
XB: Initially why did you choose to go into danmei?
FTYX: This and the question earlier are somewhat related, honestly it was because I want to see more gay adventure novels ah, gay transmigration novels ah, “a gay with a normal person” this kind of “stories”, after that I just started writing danmei. As a novel writer, danmei is my beginning, hence this pen name belongs to danmei, I won’t use it for other genres in the future, and probably will continue writing danmei for a long time.
XB: Does Xiao Fei remember a while ago, there was a rumour about danmei authors whose works exceeding a certain number of clicks would be jailed? If you’re jailed, who do you want as your cellmate? Female authors also possible~
FTYX: I’d bring in a spoon and dig my way out… If I must pick, probably Wu Zhe ba. This way, the peeing time would be easier to handle. If more people are locked up together, during the Spring Festival we can even draw up a base plan. Ai, that’s not right! I want to be locked up with Sanshu! Chubby Sanshu, cuddle at night to keep warm~
(XB: o(*////v////*)q Sanshu…)
XB: As a rare male danmei author, any thoughts on the current state of danmei and its future?
FTYX: Regarding the future of danmei, personally I don’t have much opinion. I’ve only been writing for 3 years, a very short period in comparison to the overall development of the genre. In addition, my works don’t emphasise on the prose, nor on romance plots. But personally, I think of danmei as a genre of literature, a trend that should be more and more widely accepted; relegation to a mere ‘style’ is unlikely.
Because, like any other genre in literature, it’s dependent on the readers’ demand. For example, magical realism is now a ‘style’, having a niche and fixed audience, and following the standard of reading to expand its reader base. Fiction is basically under the "when the granaries are full, the people follow appropriate rules of conduct" side of the story; authors must be warm and fed before they can explore wild and unrestrained outlining of ideas, as well as new worlds and new civilisations, among others. All of these follow the changes in our society, whether big or small, and are directly linked to our senses. Sexual fantasy and homosexuality are somewhat similar to deriving pleasure from erotica, so danmei literature basically will not decline, as long as fujoshis and gays are still here, this genre will continue to exist and flourish. Basically that’s my opinion.
XB: Do you feel that there’re advantages and disadvantages to male danmei writers as compared to female danmei writers? Or rather, are there any differences?
FTYX: Honestly, I don’t think male authors have any advantages to begin with. Danmei, since the beginning, centralises around the concept of beauty and aesthetic. The original danmei portrayed a gravitation towards aesthetics, and how to bring about the aesthetics. Only females can truly and accurately depict these kinds of beautiful, romantic feelings. Males’ writings seems to lean more towards gay literature. Females’ writings emphasise more on the delicate emotions. My writing is probably “fantasy gay literature” or “XX genre gay literature”. There’s no aesthetic in my writing, same for H. Danmei itself is probably of a delicate nature, I’m just borrowing danmei’s light to write gaylit. If you must categorise it, my writing probably falls under gaylit, or erotica. Seems like there’s a weird word getting into the mix… I still have a long way to master this delicate and aesthetic method of narration, or to try fusing gaylit with danmei and see the outcome.
XB: What’s the title of your most recently read book?
FTYX: Most recently read… Danmei doesn't seem to have any, I read Nanzhi’s “Unwithering Spring” when helping to proof her typos. Other books I read include Huang Renyu’s books and collection of speeches. Currently reading “The Unwaning Great History”, at home I read Hawking’s “The Grand Design”.
XB: This year’s Valentines have just passed, what is Xiao Fei’s most memorable Valentines-related story?
FTYX: There’s not much that I especially wish to do during Valentines, things like buying rings I’ve done before, but those are considered pretty normal. Don’t want to flaunt my lovelife anymore, too much flaunting will cause my CP to break up!
XB: Any thoughts on audio drama adaptations of your own novels?
FTYX: I’m basically not picky, as long as you can release the drama then it’s okay~! Sometimes there’re small crews who try to establish a name for themselves coming to me to seek permissions, that’s also because they think highly of me ba, if I can help them then I’ll do my best to help ba. Big production crews, there’s nothing to worry about. Every adaptation rights granted are exclusive, however if the crew takes too long to release, I’ll retract the rights. I don’t really understand much about audio drama…
(XB: Such a good person T_T Production crews who have gotten his permissions, you need to work harder ah!)
XB: Do you have anything to say to your readers who have always supported you?
FTYX: This question, there’s not much to talk about. These days I don’t dare to say things recklessly besides making standard official announcements. Basically, follow the novel, don’t follow the author, in the last interview with Xiao R I also mentioned this.
XB: Anything to say to the girls who conduct this interview?
FTYX: Wishing that you all will get better and better with time! Managing a magazine like this is probably not profitable right? You’re doing it completely out of love ah. To be honest, I feel that managing a magazine out of sheer passion is very difficult, it must be hard on you all too, jiayou oh~ No matter how long you take, or how many people, to work hard for what you’re passionate about is truly a very beautiful thing.
(Text: “Wishing N-dimension: Flourishing day by day, getting better and better with time.”)
Thanks Bee from Feitian server for hooking me up with the transcript!
Edit: Feitian wanting to write "gay thrillers" is a mistranslation on my part, he actually wanted to write "同志冒险" which just means "gay adventure novels". My deepest apologies to everyone for this mistake, it has been rectified now. Thanks Namio for helping to clarify the differences between these two genres!