Interview by: Colleen W
Q: What is your favorite food?
A: Oh my gosh, in, in the world. I don’t even know. Maybe I would say Korean food. Because my mom’s from Korea, and I spent the first couple of years of my life there, and I just really associate that cuisine with comfort.
Q: How are you liking TTBF thus far?
A: Oh, it’s awesome. I think we’re all a little surprised it’s so cool. Because I am on tour right now and this coat that I have was meant for Seattle. I wasn’t expecting to pull it out in Texas, but now it’s getting really beautiful. I love this festival. I loved it before.
Q: Homebody or traveler?
A: I really love to travel, but I dislike the act of traveling, if that makes sense. I love to see new places and meet new people, try something different, especially food or music, but the action of like packing or getting on a plane or having to travel in a car…not as fun.
Q: Pen, pencil or computer?
Q: What are your most anticipated releases of 2019- 2020?
A: Holly Black’s Queen of Nothing and Roshani Chokshi’s Silver Serpent. I’ve actually been able to read both of those books already. They are so fantastic. Roshani is someone who challenges herself with every book and grows so much between books. This is the best book she’s written so far.
Q: Do you have a favorite word?
A: Suserrate. It’s a type of like murmuring. I tend to be drawn to sibilant sounds since it has to do with snakes and I like snakes.
Q: Is there like a particular person, literary work, or style that you often find yourself inspired by?
A: I think especially for The Beautiful, I was heavily inspired by Anne Rice. She was the one who inspired me to first want to go to New Orleans and then I fell in love with the city, too. I just love how transported and immersive Anne Rice’s writing is. I really liked it and I like when I was envisioning what I wanted to do with The Beautiful, I thought a lot about Anne Rice and I actually thought a lot about twilight years. I thought a lot about Twilight because you know everybody likes to like sort of like crap on the book and crap on the series, but I liked it. I mean, we can definitely discuss the merits and demerits of it, but I think so much of it is wrapped up in crapping on stuff young women like. I really dislike that because no matter what you want to say about that book literally everyone read it. I mean, I was in my 20’s, when that book came out and all of my friends, all of my girlfriends, had read it. It was just such a juggernaut. I think it’s exciting when a book sort of sparks discussion and cultural dialogue.
Q: Do you have any odd odd writing habits or “ must do’s” when you’re writing a book?
A: I really like to write at home, because I find that I just work better. And I like to write at night because I’m a night owl. There’s also nobody calling you and your emails aren’t going off constantly. I also really like my dog. She’s an integral part of this process. She’ll press herself up against me so I usually sit on a bigger chair or the couch. Oh, and Hot Cheetos that I eat with chopsticks so I don’t get the red dust on my fingers.
Q: Do you have a favorite childhood author/book? What’s your current obsession?
A: I started reading Anne Rice when I was 12. Oh wow. I should not have been doing that, but weirdly, I would say that was a big childhood book for me. The ones that I read sort of earlier than that, that sort of sparked my love of fantasy novels, were probably Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain. It’s a great fantasy series I really really enjoyed.
Q: Why is romance so important? Why do you love it so much?
A: I really enjoy writing about love and death because I find both topics all consuming. You know, so much has been done or said in humanity and throughout history, for the sake of love. I think whenever you’re writing about vampires those elements are heightened. And for me, I can read anything that has a good romance; love triangles, enemies to lovers, any of that. It’s sort of like the meat of the story without necessarily being the foundation of it.
Q: How do you like formulate dialogue that’s supposed to be witty and romantic banter without sounding artificial?
A: I like to write sort of bare bones dialogue. I’ll just start writing as if you and I are talking without any sort of filler like “she touched her hair” or “she looked in the other direction”. I’m going to skip is stuff that gives a story a visual aspect to it. I‘ll just write the dialogue because then you don’t get broken up by other things and distractions that are going on around you. Therefore the cadence of the conversation doesn’t get disrupted, sort of like music. I want dialogue to sound a certain way and to end on a very particular note. I’m trying to shape the entirety of that scene around that so it looks cohesive and nothing looks like throw away.
Q: The Damned is releasing much sooner than most sequels. Were these close release dates planned? How did you tackle the amount of work?
A: Yes, they were planned out in advance. That’s not something I can sustain because it’s difficult since I travel a lot and have a baby on the way next year. There’s a lot going on around that but I knew I wanted to get both of these books out closely because I’ve structured them a little bit differently from anything I’ve previously written. This series will be four books and I wanted to model them after Regency romances, another genre that I’m a huge fan of reading. And what they do is, even with a series they’ll have an overarching plot. But every book will be another character story. So, Celine’s story is The Beautiful and The Damned will be another character’s story, even though it’s a continuation. So you could conceivably go in on book two or three without any knowledge of the other books and be totally fine. However, The Damned will take off immediately after the ending of The Beautiful, but the perspective and the narration will shift to another care. And then you’ll get that character’s backstory. It’s exactly like The Lunar Chronicles.
Q: Which character’s perspective has been the most fun to work with so far?
A: Well I don’t want to spoil anything right now, but I’m currently finishing up The Damned. I’m doing edits for it. So the book I’m working on now has been the biggest challenge and also the biggest joy because the character that it’s written about is probably one of my most favorite characters I’ve ever written ever. This character is incredibly complicated and layered. And I really wanted The Damned to sort of be my homage against toxic masculinity. I wanted to do something very specific with asking the question of myself and of readers ‘What makes a good man?’.
Q: Why is The Beautiful your dream project?
A: I like to talk with other writers about books we call “id” books that are just completely wish fulfillment. I do genuinely believe that writing is a political act because my worldview weaves its way into any story I’m gonna tell. I mean I’ve been obsessed with vampires since before it was cool. I was a teenager, loving these books loving anything to do with Gothic fiction, loving historical books. And this is just sort of everything I love thrown together and one project. And it’s such an “id” book for me. I sort of kept waiting for my editor to be like “Okay, you gotta pull back a little bit” and she never did, which I loved. This is so wish fulfillment, like you’re just painting a picture of this extremely Gothic romance with the most obscure and vivid things. I’m just like, “Enjoy this is the craziness that exists in my mind.”
Q: How do you balance using multiple languages in the story without sounding confusing or repetitive to your reader?
A: I don’t want to take readers out of a book. And I’m aware of the fact that when you write in a language that perhaps not everybody would readily understand, you could potentially draw the reader out so I think it’s important to sort of have context clues in there. And the nice thing about writing both in French and Spanish is they have many English cognates. But I also think it’s important not to treat your readers like they’re dumb. I get a lot of irritation when I feel like a writer is trying to spell everything out literally for a reader, because readers are smart and like to unravel the story themselves. Especially I find that teen readers are so brilliant. They have so much to say and I feel incredibly hopeful actually when I’m around teenagers, so I don’t see any need to dumb anything down with them. They often get things, such as the languages and cognates, more quickly than adults usually do.
Q: What is one thing you want readers to take away from your stories?
A: I think the takeaway that I would hope a reader would get from a new book is that there’s a story behind every story, which is actually something that I really worked on in The Wrath And The Dawn. I want them to feel like a different world, a world they may or may not have had any interest in exploring before, has come alive. That it has sparked interest in something that may be unfamiliar. When I have readers come in and saw things like, “You use words that my family uses” and “I felt like this is the first time where someone has captured my culture,” it’s a beautiful experience because I didn’t have that as a kid, as a child with mixed race. But I also really want for kids to be like, “I never thought this would have been cool. Now I want to read more books like that because that’s so exciting.”
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