What: Meet “Dragon Springs Road” author Janie Chang

When: 5-6:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Sunriver Books & Music, 57100 Beaver Drive, Building 25-C, Sunriver

Cost: Free (registration requested)

Contact: sunriverbooks.com or 541-593-2525

Janie Chang always wanted to write a novel but found other things — such as earning a living — got in the way. She worked for many years in the technology sector but nurtured the dream of writing a novel in the back of her mind.

The push she needed to make that dream a reality came around eight years ago, when her mother began descending into dementia and had to move into an assisted living facility.

“When you visit someone in care often and look around at all those people, it makes you wonder if they ever achieved their dreams,” Chang said.

That thought motivated her to take a short creative writing course, and she then undertook a year-long creative writing program at Simon Fraser University near her hometown of Vancouver, Canada, while she worked on the manuscript for her first novel.

That novel, “Three Souls,” was inspired by her grandmother’s sad but compelling life of unfulfilled ambitions that were crushed by the patriarchal society of China in the early 20th century. It took Chang about 18 months to write and was released by a division of HarperCollins Publishers in early 2014 when the author was 53. Set amid the social and political turbulence of China’s civil war in 1935, it is a sweeping tale of revenge, betrayal and redemption based on the Chinese belief that everyone has three guiding souls. The ghost of a repressed young woman must look back in time with her three souls — romantic yin, stern yang and wise hun — and make amends in order to gain entry to the afterlife.

Chang’s sophomore novel, “Dragon Springs Road” was released in January, and the author will discuss it during an event on Saturday at Sunriver Books and Music.

Beginning in 1908, “Dragon Springs Road” traces the life of a Eurasian girl after she is abandoned by her mother in Shanghai at the age of seven and scorned by Chinese and Western society. Jialing is guided by Fox, an animal spirit, as she attempts to escape her past and navigate a web of political intrigue and murder.

Chang’s books are historical fiction, with a twist of the supernatural, that draw on her family history. They meld the tales Chang’s father told her about ancestors who encountered dragons, ghosts and immortals. They also incorporate events and her parents’ experiences living in the small Chinese town of Still Waters.

Chang was born in Taiwan, where her parents had moved for work shortly after their marriage. The Communist revolution on the mainland prevented their planned return, and her father’s work as an agricultural researcher soon took the family to the Philippines, Iran, Thailand and New Zealand, before they emigrated to Canada when Chang was 14.

Despite never living on the Chinese mainland, Chang always felt a strong connection to her family’s cultural heritage.

“My parents were always very, very Chinese wherever we went,” Chang explained. “They always thought it was important for their children to retain their Chinese identity wherever we went.”

However, Chang encountered roadblocks when she decided to set her novels in China and began researching and writing.

While her two older brothers are fluent in Mandarin, Chang only speaks what she calls “Chinglish” — an informal blend of family Chinese.

“I could speak and understand just enough to defend myself against my mother when she wanted me to eat more vegetables,” Chang recalled fondly. However, she can’t read or write the language.

With the help of her brothers and translations of Chinese works, Chang was able to gather the information she needed. She also found the memoirs of foreign missionary women working in China in the early 20th century invaluable.

Sadly, Chang’s father passed away in 2000, before she began writing her novels and incorporating many vignettes from the oral family history he had shared with her. Prior to her death, Chang’s mother was aware her daughter was working on a novel, but she was not able to read it due to dementia.

“It’s really only been since my father died in 2000 that I really thought about all the questions I never asked,” said Chang.

However, her father’s words and stories live on. At janiechang.com, Chang shares vintage family photos and recounts 22 anecdotes combining family history and mythology, providing a glimpse into daily life and family dynamics in China over several generations.

These stories, along with the novels they have inspired, illustrate how the supernatural was (and in many places still is) matter-of-factly accepted as part of daily life in China.

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