Name: Xiran Jay Zhao
Asian background: First-gen immigrant from small town China
What is it about your experience and upbringing that inspired you the most to write?
I’m a lifelong fangirl who’d always been dreaming stories up. I remember being 7 and blabbing out entire Yugioh fanfics to my best friend at lunch (poor guy). Besides books, my favourite media to consume are anime and Asian dramas. My book Iron Widow, which comes out Fall 2021 from Penguin Random House, is basically a mecha anime meets a Chinese palace drama.
Name 3 authors and 3 books
Some recent books I’ve really enjoyed –
Slay by Brittney Morris
Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim
Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells
(omg, they all start with an S!)
What do you think is the best quality a writer can have?
Persistence gets said a lot, but I think adaptability is actually more important. You need to learn from feedback and constantly be upping your craft, not just blinding writing book after book the same old way. You also need to be aware of market trends and have a target audience in mind. I know a lot of writers don’t like considering the business side of things, but if you want to be published professionally, then you do have to worry at least a little bit about that.
Any last words? (Fun facts, comments, something you’d like to share with the world, etc.)
Fun fact: there’s an extremely cheesy line in my book that’s like “YOU’RE MY POLAR STAR, WU ZETIAN.” It’s actually a historical reference to the time her second emperor husband tried to create a brand new concubine title, Consort of the Polar Star, to satiate her, but the court officials were like “Nuh-uh, you can’t invent a whole new title just for one woman!” So she was like “fine, then I’ll depose the empress and take HER title.” Then she did exactly that.
Challenge: Write a one-sentence story!
“I’ll finish this in the morning,” the exhausted college student said, doomed.