Name: Henry Lien
Taiwanese (born in Taipei)
What is it about your experience and upbringing that inspired you the most to write?
My current middle grade fantasy series, Peasprout Chen, was my response to my experience immigrating to California from Taiwan as a kid. It’s about a brother and sister who leave their homeland to come to a new country and study at a boarding school that teaches an art form combining figure skating with kung fu. I wanted to create my own diverse Harry Potter that had diversity baked into it from the outset, that had no flat-out magic, but that showed that culture, history, and athletics could be as wildly entertaining as any magic. The books draw upon my own heritage and are my love letter to Taiwan. However, when I came to the U.S., there were few books with characters that looked like me. That’s usually not a great thing for a kid, but it turned out to be the best possible thing for me. See, I was a very over-confident, conceited, and hideously self-involved kid. Being forced to read books about people who didn’t look like me and had different backgrounds, lifestyles, and values, was the best possible thing for me. My childhood was infinitely richer reading books like Little Women about people who were nothing like me. So the Peasprout Chen books are my way of saying thank you to America for sharing its culture with me by sharing some of my culture with America.
Name 3 authors and 3 books
Shaun Tan, “The Arrival”
Ted Chiang, “Exhalation”
Cixin Liu, “The Three Body Problem”
What do you think is the best quality a writer can have?
Any last words? (Fun facts, comments, something you’d like to share with the world, etc.)
I write theme songs for my books! There’s a video of Idina Menzel (the star of Frozen, Wicked, Glee, and Rent) performing one of them at my book launch. Please check out www.henrylien.com/peasproutchen to view!
Challenge: Write a one-sentence story!
If you can understand these words, then you’re probably human, but I’m not making any assumptions these days, not after what I saw in the ocean off of São Miguel Island.