What was the last book that you read that you’d now recommend?
Yellowface by R.F. Kuang. The book was so painfully accurate that I felt very much attacked by it. Anyone who has any interest in publishing needs to read it!
Have you read any classics lately that you were reading for the first time?
Hmmm that would have to be a no. I get so many blurb requests that most of the book I read now are ones that are coming out soon!
Do you re-read books And if yes, what was your last re-read?
I do! The last book I reread was Gone Girl, because I was trying to write an adult suspense and I of course needed to study how the brilliant Gillian Flynn pulled off her masterpiece. And before that, I used to reread books all the time, especially Sir Terry Pratchett’s books, just for comfort.
What are your go-to genres?
Hands down, adult suspense. There’s just something I find so satisfying that comes from reading about messed up marriages, hahaha! My husband is very concerned about this obsession.
What is your favorite childhood book?
If I had to choose one, maybe Matilda. But there were so many that I really can’t think of a single one.
What books are on your bedside table right now?
I haven’t tidied up for a while, so there is a teetering pile. I see Babel by R.F. Kuang, My Summer Darlings by May Cobb, and Zero Sum Game by S.L. Huang, amongst others.
Do you bookmark or dogear your page in a book?
Only monsters dog ear their pages! I definitely use a bookmark.
What is your ideal reading setting?
You are going to hate this: On a treadmill. While running at 6 miles/hr. I know, it’s ridiculous. But the mark of a good book is one that can make me run for 8 miles without realizing it.
Tell us about your favorite indie bookstore?
When I was in LA last year, I had an event at The Ripped Bodice in Culver City, and omg I could not have loved it more. The people working there are absolute gems, and you MUST visit the restroom. Yes, the restroom. It’s filled with Post-It notes with the most life-affirming messages. I have never felt so loved while peeing?
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
Growing up, my parents were very domineering figures in my life. But when I was sixteen, I moved to LA, and when my parents visited, I saw how diminished they became because they weren’t comfortable speaking English. It made me realize how powerful language was, and how it can be wielded like a weapon. I felt so bad and just wanted to tell everyone, “Just because they can’t speak English well, doesn’t mean they’re any less intelligent than you!” That’s something that’s stayed with me, and I think is very apparent in many of my books.
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
Last year, I started going on these solo writing retreats where I checked into a hotel for three nights to write 40,000 words. Oh my god. Life changing. I can never write a book without going on one of these retreats now. I swear by them. The last three books I’ve written, I went on these retreats halfway through and finished them while at the hotel, and there is simply nothing more magical.
Where do you get most of your writing and editing done?
I write at my dining table. I don’t recommend it, because people keep trying to talk to me and I’m like, “I’m trying to create ART here?!!” But it’s the brightest spot in the house, and I love being in the light, so that’s where I’m perched.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Ooh what a good question! It does both, honestly. Especially on the tough days. But when I go on those writing retreats and bang out 40,000 words in 3 days, I honestly leave feeling SO energized, like I spent 3 days doing nothing but feeding my creative soul. It’s just the most magical experience.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
So many unpublished works! At least seven books that died on submission. I spent a long time trying to get published, so there’s definitely a lot of dead manuscripts.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I do! The bad reviews used to really bother me, and I would say the best thing I did was to moan about them to my friends. But now, they don’t really bother me anymore, probably because I’ve read so many reviews that they all start to blur in my mind. And the reason why I still read them is because most of them are so sweet and meaningful! With VERA WONG, I’ve read a couple of reviews from moms who said they cried when reading Julia’s chapters because they related to the experience of having a quiet child. I just wanted to give them a hug because that was my experience as a mom too, and I’m so glad to be able to share that part of my life with my readers. Definitely worth wading through the less positive reviews to get to these ones!
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
As cliched as this sounds, “Keep going.” Because I wanted to give up a lot of times, but I’m really glad that I kept going.
When you’re not reading or writing, what are you doing?
Mostly napping, to be honest.
What are your three favorite things right now?
My girls. They are 7 and 4 years old and they are just the BEST. Traveling. Oh my god, I have forgotten how much I adore traveling. Now that things are open again, I’m making sure to fit in as much travel as I can. Lunch dates with my husband. We have one of these every Sunday, and they are the highlight of my week.
Your favorite travel destination and why?
Japan! Because everything just works in Japan. My favorite thing to say is: “It’s Japan!” Need to have your incredibly heavy suitcase sent from one city to the other in less than a day? No worries, it’s Japan! Need to go to the restroom and have to leave your valuables behind? No worries, it’s Japan! I just feel so calm whenever I’m in Japan, lol.
What’s your favorite meal and go-to drink order?
Chinese Mala hot pot. The super spicy kind that leaves me regretting my life choices. Drink: Iced cafe latte.
What six people, living or dead, would you invite to a dinner party?
So many! Okay. Michelle Obama. Terry Pratchett. Mindy Kaling. Oprah. Ching Shih (this amazing female Chinese pirate). Rosalind Franklin (I would ask her what it was like to work for unbearable pricks like Crick and Watson).
If a movie was made of your life, what genre would it be, and who would play you?
Obviously a comedy of errors. And Michelle Yeoh would play me. I don’t even care about the age gap. She could be 200 years old and I would still want her to play me.
What’s the last TV show or movie you watched that was really good?
Love is Blind. Sorry not sorry, but people need to watch this to see how toxic men can be.
You have to sing karaoke; what song do you pick?
More than words. I sound amazing singing it!
If you were being taken to a deserted island and could only bring one book, what would it be?
I’ll choose something super long and dense, like The Iliad, just so I know I’m fully maximizing the book length.
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