Let’s Get Lit: Asian Author Interviews

lets get lit

Hi there!

For today’s Let’s Get Lit post I’m bringing you author interviews from 5 amazing asian authors! Today I’m interviewing Jessica Kim, Manjeet Mann, Mary Fan, Agatha Jean Rosen-Lim, and Janie Chang! The Let’s Get Lit Online Book Fest is a 6 week long book event where we highlight books by marginalized authors.

Read on for the interview!


 

  • Please introduce yourselves and briefly explain what your books are about!

Jessica Kim: I’m Jessica Kim and I’m the author of middle grade novel, Stand Up, Yumi Chung which is about a shy 11-year-old girl who is obsessed with comedy despite her immigrant parents’ wishes. They’d much rather Yumi spend her time studying for her upcoming scholarship test to her fancy private school. Yumi gets tangled up in a web of lies as she accidentally steals someone’s identity to attend a comedy camp taught by her YouTube idol while her family fights to keep their Korean barbecue restaurant. It’s a funny adventure story with lots of humor and heart. 

Janie Chang: My name is Janie Chang and I live in Vancouver. My first two novels are THREE SOULS and DRAGON SPRINGS ROAD. My third novel THE LIBRARY OF LEGENDS was recently released by HarperCollins Canada. They’re all historical fiction set in pre-war China with some supernatural elements thrown in. The novels often drawn from my own family’s history.

Agatha Jean Rosen-Lim: I’m a twenty-something Wattpad Ambassador who splits my time between full-time working and writing fantasy stories. I spend most of my free time sitting on my bed wearing XL T-shirt and pajama pants and crafting fantasy and mystery stories while fantasizing about Christian Bale saving me instead of Gotham, Entwined is her first novel. Since I’m immensely fascinated by Greek mythology, Entwined is about the origin of soulmates according to Greek mythology.

Mary Fan: Hi! I’m Mary Fan, and I write YA sci-fi/fantasy. My most recent books are Windborn, a high fantasy about an air nymph who’s captured by dark magicians and finds her fate tied to an apocalyptic prophecy, and Stronger Than A Bronze Dragon, a steampunk fantasy about a warrior girl who teams up with a thief to fight the demon king. I’m also the co-editor of the Brave New Girls anthology series about tech-savvy girls in sci-fi worlds. I currently live in Jersey City, and when I’m not writing, I mostly shadow box (quarantine version of kickboxing) and hang upside-down from my pull-up bar (quarantine version of aerial arts) these days.

Manjeet Mann: Hello I’m Manjeet Mann and I’m the author of Run, Rebel. Run Rebel is a YA novel told in verse. It’s about Amber, a teenage girl who feels trapped. By her father, his rules, his expectations and her own fears. She is desperate to break free. It’s also a
book about female empowerment, friendship, resilience and succeeding against all the odds.

 

  • What inspired you to become a writer?

Jessica: I really wanted to write about what it’s like to be a second generation American who has to navigate between her immigrant parents’ culture and the one she’s grown up in. There aren’t many books about kids who grew up like me so I decided to write one!

Janie: Apparently 90% of people believe they have a book in them. I was one of those but never did much to pursue that dream, especially since I was very busy with a career in high tech. But after a while something felt missing. I didn’t want to be 95-years old in a rocking chair, wondering “what might’ve happened if only …” So I applied for and entered The Writers Studio at SFU and wrote most of my first novel while attending the program. 

Agatha: About ten years ago, I picked up my first journal and wrote things that never actually happened. Life wasn’t easy at that time and writing is my way of escaping and coping with reality. Reading what I’ve written made my younger sister smile and I thought if I could bring a smile to someone’s face, to help them forget their issues or whatever troubling their mind even for a short amount of time, it would make me really happy.

Mary: I always loved reading when I was a little kid, and I used to use construction paper to make books and scribbled stories whenever I was given a chance to. The first time I decided to write a BOOK book, I was 12 and living in a new country (I spent a year in Hong Kong because my dad had a temporary stint at a university there) with too much time on my hands. After a few years of writing in middle and high school, I stopped my junior year to compose music and make movies instead. But right after college, I was once again living in a new country (my first job out of college was in Beijing) with too much time on my hands, so I decided to give this whole writing thing another shot just for fun. Hmmm I’m spotting a pattern…

Manjeet: I was inspired to become a writer because I was tired of the roles I was getting as an actress. I did what a lot of actors do which is, if you’re not getting the parts you want to play then write one for yourself! That was back in 2016. I honestly hadn’t really thought of writing as a career before then. 

 

  • Who’s your favorite (insert marginalization here) author?

Jessica: I love books by Lisa Yee, Mae Respicio, Linda Sue Park, and Erin Entrada Kelly.

Janie: Eden Robinson has only just begun her career and I know it’s going to be a phenomenal one. She blends gritty contemporary stories with creatures out of native mythology to powerful effect.

Agatha: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Ilana Tan, Marga T, Aoyama Gosho, Maya Angelou, and many more! I love mysteries and fantasy and when they’re combined, it’s even better!

Mary: Argh I don’t like picking favorites because I always feel like I’m leaving someone out! There are so many fantastic authors out there from marginalized backgrounds who are writing terrific books. I just know that I’m going to forget someone and feel like a jerk later, but off the top of my head, in no particular order… Julie Dao, Lyssa Chiavari, Gloria Chao, Tash McAdam, Intisar Khanani, GL Tomas, Dhonielle Clayton, Heidi Heilig.

Manjeet:  I can’t pick just one I’m afraid! Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Khaled Hosseini, Rohinton Mistry, Jason Reynolds, Kwame Alexander and Joseph Coelho to name a few. 

 

  • What drink, for ex. coffee order, tea, etc, would go best with your book?

Jessica: A boba of course! I like classic milk tea, but my main character, Yumi, loves Taro Slush.

Janie: THE LIBRARY OF LEGENDS is set during a very traumatic era in Chinese history, so I would recommend something comforting. English Breakfast tea with lots of milk and sugar or a nice strong chai, also with lots of milk and sugar. 

Agatha: Tea or bubble tea — preferably brown sugar milk tea with bubble. I hope it will be a fun read!

Mary: For Windborn – a pretty rose tea. For Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon – it’s gotta be loose green tea

Manjeet: It has to be a proper Punjabi cup of chai because of the poem in the book.

 

  • What are your favorite books?

Jessica: I love Ghost by Jason Reynolds, The Insignificant Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling, Pie in the Sky by Remi Lai, The New Kid by Jerry Craft. So many more!

Janie: I enjoy historical fiction of course and also science fiction. At the moment very few contemporary novels call out to me, perhaps because I’d rather escape to the past or future right now. This isn’t to say I’m avoiding current issues – quite often historical and science fiction pose questions and options for how people act during a time of personal or political crisis – but from a distance. That makes it easier to maintain objectivity and analyse your own responses. 

Agatha: There are too many! Pride and Prejudice, Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Three Investigators, Harry Potter, and many more.

Mary: Nooo not another favorites question!! The answer is always shifting too depending on what genre or tropes I’m in the mood for. This time I’m going to chicken out of answering, but anything by the authors I listed above becomes a favorite the instant I read it 😉

Manjeet: Four books that have stayed with me and I’ve read many times are The Colour Purple by Alice Walker. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, Maus by Art Spiegelman and A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry.

 

  • What made you want to write in your current genre?

Jessica: I used to be a teacher for middle grade aged kids and I also have a ten year old daughter.

Janie: I’m not sure it was a deliberate decision, more a realization that this was the genre my books were being slotted into. I didn’t have genre in mind when I wrote my first novel. THREE SOULS was based on my grandmother’s life and my intention was simply to tell a story to show how little agency was allowed to women of her era and class.  

Agatha: A dream — as in an actual dream. ENTWINED came to me in a dream about ten years ago and it came in a dream again three years ago. The second time it came, I wrote it down and published it on Wattpad.

Mary: I’ve always loved out-of-this world adventures full of magic and/or futuristic tech. The further from reality, the better. Give me dragons and starships and dark magic and artificial intelligences. I also love epic stories with high stakes (physical, emotional, and philosophical). So that’s why I chose to write sci-fi/fantasy adventures.

Manjeet: Like all writers I draw upon many things including my own experience. Essentially, I wanted to write for my teenage self. The teenager who felt quite isolated and voiceless, and therefore the adult me is passionate about empowering teenage girls any way I can.

 

  • If your main character had a Twitter account, what would be a tweet of theirs that would go viral?

Jessica: Maybe a joke from the book: What’s an Asian parent’s favorite pastry? An honor roll! 

Janie: “The guy’s in love with a celestial being. How am I supposed to compete with that?”

Agatha: Since my main character, Avery, and her soulmate can read each other’s mind, it will probably something that involves mind-reading.

Mary: Kiri, the air nymph from Windborn: “I am who I am, and I love who I love. What’s wrong with that?”

Manjeet: Probably something political. Something to do with funding cuts to women’s refuges. 

 

  • Do you feel like your book is the kind you wanted to read when you were younger?

Jessica: Yes, definitely. I wish there were more books about kids who straddle multiple worlds and have to figure out where they belong.

Janie: Definitely. Historical fiction with a touch of the supernatural, female characters leading ordinary lives but wanting more, some romance, some domestic drama, some political intrigue. But more importantly, the characters are Chinese and female, trying to overcome cultural and patriarchal barriers. Until Amy Tan’s JOY LUCK CLUB came along, I had never read anything that made me feel seen.  

Agatha: I am not sure how to answer this question. It definitely is the book I want to keep writing and hopefully, the young audiences will enjoy it.

Mary: Oh, definitely! I got into this genre precisely because it’s what I loved reading when I was a kid. I guess I never grew out of it.

Manjeet: Definitely. I wouldn’t write anything I wouldn’t have wanted to read myself. I rarely saw myself in books when I was younger, it’s still rare now. I remember how excited I was when Anita and Me by Meera Syal came out. It seemed like the only book out there with a south Asian character in. I read it in one sitting. So, I know if there was a Run, Rebel out there I would have devoured it!

 

  • What do you hope readers, especially from your community, take away from your book or your experiences as an author?

Jessica: I really hope my readers come away from my story with a renewed sense that they are enough just as they are.

Janie: I’d like the Asian-Canadian community, especially those born here, to consider what their parents and grandparents had to endure, to understand how those challenges shaped their lives and world view, and to respect that. 

Agatha: I hope they will be more grateful and appreciate little things in life. I also hope that they will take something good from each of the characters, for example, Avery’s bravery, Kristen’s kindness, Adrian’s way of living life to the fullest and not letting small things bring him down, Vlad’s selflessness.

Mary: I hope they take away that authors of color are allowed to make up messy, fun, historically inaccurate, mythologically mixed up sci-fi/fantasy worlds the same way white authors are. We shouldn’t have to carry the burden of “representing our culture” or whatever. As a Chinese American with immigrant parents who grew up in the south, I spent my whole life trying to fit in with the white majority around me (or at least not make myself extra weird). And I was exposed to the same Western media as they were. At the same time, I also watched Chinese media at home. So I wound up with a mishmash of experiences and ideas that don’t fit in any particular cultural box, which can be nerve-wracking when it comes to making up your own world. I eventually gave up worrying about it and just made things up the way I wanted to. But I know there are those out there who would rather I hadn’t, and I see it in both what’s said and what’s not said.

Manjeet: I hope that those who read this book will hear it as a rallying call for anyone who has ever felt powerless. Amber is a strong and complex character who wants to live her life on her own terms, and I think that is something we can all get behind. 

 

  • Do you have any advice for any aspiring authors out there?

Jessica: KEEP WRITING and DON’T STOP.

Janie: Writing and publishing is a business, and your book is a product. Until you’ve completed your product, you have nothing of interest to an agent or a publisher. Take courses, it accelerates the learning curve. Apply bum glue and write, write, write. It doesn’t matter if what you write is crap. You can always edit crap. You can’t edit a blank page. Can you tell I come from the tough love school of creative writing?  

Agatha: I am an aspiring author myself. I always consider myself a noob, mainly because I want to continue learning and improve my writing. So as advice goes, I would say, “Always write and never give up. Read a lot of books too but find your own style. Your writing will get better, and when you look back at your old writings, you will learn how far you’ve gone. Have faith in yourself and your work. When you are passionate about something, no one can take that away from you, and one day, you will succeed as long as you have faith and work hard.”

Mary: Write what you love. You can never predict how luck or cultural shifts or economic trends will impact the publishing industry. And you also shouldn’t confine yourself to what you know if there’s other stuff you want to explore. So write what you love, and at the end of the day, no matter what happens, you’ll have a book that’s yours, and that you can be proud of.

Manjeet: My top tips would be: 

  1. If you have an idea, start it, be consistent and focus. Don’t worry about being perfect. Just get your story down on paper. 
  2. Read widely. 
  3. Writing is an art form so get curious about all other art forms. Go to museums, galleries, theatre etc. I get most of my ideas from photographic exhibitions and art installations. 
  4. This is the big one. Just be observant of the world around you. A snippet of an overheard conversation or a street scene might just be the start of your novel.  

 


 

Thank you so much to all these amazing authors for talking to us! Super excited to read these books and I hope you all are too.

You can catch the other events on the fest on these blogs:

 


E8CB7F5A-0421-416F-AFC0-F21BD9DE0E75

Are any of these books now on your tbr?

7 thoughts on “Let’s Get Lit: Asian Author Interviews

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s