I was born in Chicago to Hong Kong immigrants. My mother's parents - my maternal grandparents - fled mainland China during World War II and eventually settled in a fishing village a few miles from Hong Kong. My grandfather made a living selling gasoline to the local fishing boats, and my mother grew up among the children of fishermen. Both of my parents left their islands behind in the mid '70s when they came to the United States to pursue advanced degrees, but their roots as island dwellers have shaped me and brought me back to the sea in my writing.
I was raised in Colorado and Texas, received my B.A. in English Literature at the University of Texas at Austin, and then moved abroad to Japan. When I returned, I tried my hand at a variety of careers, including graphic design and librarianship. While working at a local library, I discovered Herman Melville's Moby-Dick
. That book changed my life, leading me to write the novel that would become The Sea-God at Sunrise
and an eventual move to Massachusetts. I now live in Boston with my Norwegian-American husband.
This muddling of multiple careers and cultures drives me to explore the effect of cultural exchange and diversity in my writing. I'm most inspired by the history of American whaling, the United States' first equal opportunity employer, its first worldwide industry, and the young country's first true "melting pot." The city of New Bedford, about an hour's drive from Boston, was once known as the whaling capital of the world. I feel really fortunate to live so close to its rich heritage and the New Bedford Whaling Museum
, as well as Mystic Seaport, home of the last wooden whaleship in the world.
In addition to writing, I work as an artist and photographer in the greater Boston area. I'm also a founding and performing member of ShinDaiko
, a local Japanese taiko drumming ensemble.
How do you pronounce your name?
My name, Ger Tysk, is pronounced like "Jair" (like "chair" but with a J) and "Tisk" (as in "tsk tsk"). However, I usually answer to anything vaguely resembling my name in some form or fashion.
Why are some of your books written under the name "G.L. Tysk" while others are written under "Ger"?
I was trying to separate my writing interests (perhaps badly), when I made that choice. I write all my historical fiction under "G.L. Tysk" and use "Ger Tysk" for anything having to do with photography. Sooner or later people wonder what my name is anyway because calling someone "G.L." is kind of weird. But I like keeping the two niches separate, if only in a small way, so people know what they're getting when they pick up one of my books.
Are you Japanese?
I am, as far as I know, 0% Japanese. I'm mostly Cantonese Chinese with a mix of Vietnamese and, if my family legends are to be believed, an even tinier sprinkling of French. However, my family on my mother's side has a very deep history with Japan and its culture. Out of my mother's 6 siblings, two of them moved to Japan and became fluent in Japanese, and one of them married a Japanese citizen and had kids, became a Japanese citizen himself, and still lives in Japan with his family. There are, counting me, nine semi-fluent to fluent Japanese speakers on my mother's side of the family, which isn't bad for a clan from a tiny fishing village off of the coast of Hong Kong. I wish I could tell you why Japan called to us the way it did, but the best part is that this has put to rest a lot of anti-Japanese sentiment, especially from my grandparents, dating back to World War II. I firmly believe that there are good people and bad people in every country, and that the good people vastly outweigh the bad.
Are you doing a sequel to your cosplay photobook?
If I had a penny for every time someone asked me this question I'd have about $5 :P
In all seriousness, because I did a limited print run on this book and it's not sold through print-on-demand like my novels, I'm focusing all my energy right now on selling the copies I have in stock. I don't know what the future holds for more cosplay books from me, and I have my eye set on other photo projects at the moment, including a photobook on taiko in the United States. However, I'm not ruling anything out!
Who is your agent/publisher?
I do not have an agent or a publisher. I self-publish all my books, which means I am completely in charge of the creative process start to finish. The self-publishing industry has come a long way since the days when it was perceived as a hopeless writer's last resort. It's not without its challenges, but in the end, I enjoy having 100% control of all of my work and royalties, and I'm proud to call myself a self-published author :)