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MEET: Peng Shepherd

Peng was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, where she rode horses and trained in classical ballet.

Author Peng Shepherd
The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd

What was the last book that you read that you’d now recommend?

Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu. It’s about a background character in a TV show striving to be noticed, both on-screen and in real life, and is written in the format of the screenplay in which he’s starring. It’s just incredible.

 

Have you read any classics lately that you were reading for the first time?

None recently. 

 

Do you re-read books? And if yes, what was your last re-read?

Almost never! The only author I ever re-read is Ursula K Le Guin.

 

What are your go-to genres?

Speculative fiction—stories with a touch of science fiction, or magic, or something strange. Give me all the weird.

 

What is your favorite childhood book?

The Earthsea series by Ursula Ke Le Guin.

 

What books are on your bedside table right now?

The Overstory by Richard Powers and Geek Love by Katherine Dunn.

 

Do you bookmark or dogear your page in a book?

I dogear! It’s terrible, I know.

 

What is your ideal reading setting?

Any place with a bunch of pillows I can mash into whatever sitting shape I like.

 

Tell us about your favorite indie bookstore?

My current favorite is Changing Hands bookstore in Phoenix, AZ. Every time I’m passing through the city, they always have exactly what I’m looking for—whether I know it or not!

Changing Hands Bookstore Arizona

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

The first time I innocently asked my mother what a curse word I’d overheard meant.

 

What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

I’m actually planning my next one right now! There’s a secret on a map in my most recent novel, The Cartographers, which is located somewhere in upstate New York. All you need is a rental car, some snacks, and, of course, a paper map.

 

Where do you get most of your writing and editing done?

At my desk. That sounds like it’s work, but to me, my desk is my haven. It’s a space all my own, where I retreat from the world and disappear into other ones.

 

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

It depends on the day—all I know is, if I don’t write that day, the world feels like it’s off by a few degrees, and isn’t righted again until I get back to my keyboard.

 

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Too many to count.

 

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

If I come across them, I do! Good ones are always lovely, but I’m never as bothered by the bad ones as I worried I might be. No one book can be for everyone, and if it was, it would be for no one.

 

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Just because the writing is hard, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t meant to be a writer! Writing is always hard—but it’s so, so worth it.

 

When you’re not reading or writing, what are you doing?

Running, cooking, or on an airplane somewhere.

 

What are your three favorite things right now?

Softlips chapstick, really good pillows, sunflowers.

 

Your favorite travel destination and why?

Japan and Norway. Their landscapes are absolutely breathtaking, and their towns and cities exist so harmoniously with the geography.

 

What’s your favorite meal and go-to drink order?

Chinese dumplings, something spicy, and a glass of white wine.

Peng Shepherd

What six people, living or dead, would you invite to dinner a party?

Right now, I’d choose Ursula K Le Guin (of course), Youn Yuh-jung, George Saunders, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, my best friend Jillian Keenan, and Roxane Gay.

 

If a movie was made of your life, what genre would it be, who would play you?

It would be a Christopher Nolan-esque sci-fi (except without a single explosion), starring Sandra Oh (I wish!).

 

What’s the last TV show or movie you watched that was really good?

I’m watching What We Do In The Shadows now, and it’s absolutely perfect.

 

You have to sing karaoke; what song do you pick?

I never sing. Ever.

 

If you were being taken to a deserted island and could only bring one book, what would it be?

This is an impossible question. I might say the Earthsea series by Ursula K Le Guin, again.

The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd

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