Q&A with Tori Eldridge, Author of The Ninja Betrayed
By J.B. StevensSeptember 15, 2021
Tori Eldridge is the author of The Ninja Daughter, The Ninja’s Blade, and The Ninja Betrayed (a 9/14/2021 release from Polis Books, $16.95). Tori’s been nominated for the Anthony, Lefty, and Macavity awards. She was also a film and stage performer. Tori was kind enough to speak with me about her work.
Q: Hello Tori, can you tell me about yourself?
A: Hmm…big question. I was born and raised in Honolulu of Hawaiian, Chinese, Norwegian ancestry, I hold a fifth-degree black belt in To-Shin Do ninja martial arts, and I write thrillers. So I guess that makes me a Hapa Ninja Thriller Writer! Of course, that doesn’t include the mystery and cultural element of my Lily Wong series or the dark fiction, horror, and dystopian genres of my other works. My writing is as varied and unusual as my career path. I’ve purred in the original first national company of Cats, kicked my heels with Teri Hatcher as a Love Boat Mermaid in the final season of The Love Boat, performed serious scenes with dozens of motion-capture ping-pong balls attached to my body while shooting Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, and taught martial arts and empowerment around the country as a modern-day ninja. I’ve also raised two amazing sons with my husband in Los Angeles and have a beautiful granddaughter in Shanghai who, because of pandemic travel restrictions, I have yet to hold.
Q: How did you get into writing?
A: I had always been a voracious reader. After my two young sons were born and I had semi-retired from performing, I began reading the screenplays submitted to my producer husband. After a while, I came up with an idea of my own, bought Final Draft, read tutorials from Syd Field, and wrote draft after draft until I finally got it right. That first screenplay earned a semi-finalist spot for the prestigious Academy Nicholl Fellowship.
Although I wrote other screenplays, industry types raved about the quality of my writing and encouraged me to expand that first screenplay into a novel. I did. And I loved it. But my main focus, at that time, was on raising my sons and pursuing my new obsession with the martial arts. Since every success I had ever achieved had come from total immersion and dedication, I made a choice.
Years later, with my sons grown and a master’s license in the ninja arts under my proverbial belt, I dove back into writing and used that original novel as a project on which to learn my craft. I joined writers’ associations, built relationships, learned about the business—which I hadn’t been willing to do before—stopped training and teaching ninjutsu, and dedicated myself to a new career.
By the time I landed the two-book deal for The Ninja Daughter and The Ninja’s Blade, I had several short stories published in anthologies, a novel in submission, and two other novels partially written. It’s been a long road, but I’m thrilled to have my third Lily Wong novel out in the world and my Brazilian horror novel, Dance Among the Flames—inspired by that very first screenplay! —coming out May, 2022.
Q: Your new release, The Ninja Betrayed, is getting good buzz, what would you like to say about the work?
A: The Ninja Betrayed takes place one month after the second Lily Wong book, during the height of the 2019 pro-democracy struggle in Hong Kong. I set my story into this historical timeline and wove fiction into actual occurrences and events. I knew how relevant Hong Kong’s struggle would continue to be to the rest of the world, but I could not have predicted how closely the protests and riots would mirror what was about to erupt in the United States. The events of the last two years have made this story feel even more relevant.
When I visited Hong Kong at the end of 2018 to celebrate my son’s engagement to his fiancée, I was introduced to this astounding city through her and her family. This local perspective added nuances of authenticity and understanding I might not have gained from research alone. The sights, sounds, smells, and tastes I experienced are infused into this story that has become so personally connected to me. When I created my protagonist Lily Wong and established her mother’s Hong Kong family tree, I never imagined that my future granddaughter would share those same maternal roots.
Q: Who is your favorite author? (you must pick just one…)
I don’t have one favorite. In fact, I don’t have a favorite anything. My enjoyment of authors and books is as varied as everything else in my life. I couldn’t possibly narrow it down to six favorites, let alone one.
Q: What is your single favorite book?
A: See above.
Q: You have a deep martial arts background, what is something you wish other, less fight-experienced, authors knew about writing fight scenes?
A: It’s not enough to imagine a fight or be inspired by a scene from television or film. There’s a sensory component that brings a fight scene to life. There’s an energy and attitude that is challenging to convey. If a writer hasn’t experienced something similar to the altercation in their scene—and even if they have—it’s very helpful to interview experts, watch interviews, and study video footage of actual fights. It’s even more helpful when writers can watch that footage in the company of someone who can explain things that aren’t easily perceived.
Q: What author crafts great fight scenes?
A: Jonathan Maberry, Taylor Stevens, Zoë Sharp, and Weston Ochse are but a few of the authors I’ve read who write excellent fight scenes. All of them draw from personal experience in street fights, military combat, and/or martial arts training.
Q: Is there anything you would like to add?
A: Although the Lily Wong series follows a definite arc with a young protagonist in a constant state of growth, readers who have yet to meet my Chinese-Norwegian modern-day ninja will have no trouble falling into Lily Wong’s exciting world, family, and Hong Kong adventure.
Tori was a pleasure to speak with. Make sure you check out The Ninja Betrayed and go to her website torieldridge.com to keep up with all her news.