31 DAYS OF ASIAN AUTHORS, DAY 22: Zen Cho

Photographer: Jim C. Hines

Name: Zen Cho

Website: https://zencho.org

Asian background: Chinese Malaysian based in the UK

What is it about your experience and upbringing that inspired you the most to write?

I had a very sheltered childhood with loving but overprotective parents and spent a lot of time extremely bored at home. My main diversion was reading, so I read voraciously. Books made me, so I ended up wanting to make them.

Name 3 authors and 3 books

Karen Lord, Redemption in Indigo
Patrick O’Brian, HMS Surprise
Kao Kalia Yang, The Latehomecomer

What do you think is the best quality a writer can have?
In order to succeed in a writing career, perseverance. To write a book that I will love, a sense of humour.


Any last words? (Fun facts, comments, something you’d like to share with the world, etc.)
In the nineteenth century the island of Penang in Malaysia was the destination for many convicts sentenced by the British colonial administration to transportation from India, but also from Sri Lanka and Hong Kong, and they helped build the infrastructure of the island.


Challenge: Write a one-sentence story!

“I could,” she said, “but I’d rather not.”

The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water
The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water is coming out on June 23rd 2020 from Tor.com Publishing

31 DAYS OF ASIAN AUTHORS, DAY 21: Lindsay Wong

Name: Lindsay Wong

Website: https://lindsaywongwriter.com

Asian background: Chinese-Canadian

What is it about your experience and upbringing that inspired you the most to write?

I grew up in a dysfunctional Chinese family that doesn’t believe in mental illness so I ended up writing a memoir called The Woo-Woo: How I Survived Ice Hockey, Drug-Raids, Demons, And My Crazy Chinese Family (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2018).  I honestly didn’t know I wanted to be a writer until I majored in Creative Writing at The University of British Columbia. The department was the only one that would take me. Let’s just say I wasn’t a stellar student haha.

Most authors say that they always loved reading or writing, but I think I just “fell into it.” When everything felt too difficult or unbearable, writing made the world seem like it could be okay.

Name 3 authors and 3 books

These three female Asian authors are extremely bad-ass and I love their books so much. Definitely check them out for Asian heritage month!

  1. That Time I Loved You by Carrianne Leung
  2. Older Sister, Not Necessarily Related by Jenny Heijun Wills
  3. How Does A Single Blade Of Grass Thank The Sun? by Doretta Lau

What do you think is the best quality a writer can have?

A sturdy sense of humor! The rejections are abundant, plus writing a book is a long and exhausting process, and the day jobs (yes, multiple) are horrendous. Your Asian parents were right about going to law school. Being a writer is neither glamorous or fun. A few weeks ago,  a whole bunch of people just happened to email, DM, and tag me in shitty reviews of my work at the exact same time, and I already had a really bad day, as in, I worked 16+ hours, my boss yelled at me, and then my grandmother died, so I was like, Omg please noooooo, I just don’t want to deal with this right now and ate my weight in Twix bars lol. I think the key to surviving being an author is the ability to laugh at yourself and whatever bullshitty thing happens because writing has a lot of really WTF moments.

Any last words? (Fun facts, comments, something you’d like to share with the world, etc.)

Confession: I used to pay for these long-ass flights go on these weird writing residencies where I’d self-isolate in a cozy cabin in the woods or just sit in this cottage in Key West by myself, but now that the whole world is social distancing or in lock down, I wonder if writing residencies will become less popular after COVID-19. During the pandemic, I’m spending my time hiding and catching up on writing and eating too many homemade marshmallows.

Also, I’ll be reading and answering Q&As for My Summer Of Love and Misfortune on Facebook Live as part of #CanadaPerforms on May 22 at 2 PM PST/5 PM EST. Please come hang out with me! (Bring snacks!) 😉

Challenge: Write a one-sentence story!

True story: I was craving mint chocolate ice cream for dinner, ran to the kitchen, tripped over furniture, broke my foot in three places, and never wanted to eat that flavor for 1.5 years.

Lindsay Wong will be reading and answering Q&As for My Summer Of Love and Misfortune on Facebook Live as part of #CanadaPerforms on May 22 at 2 PM PST/5 PM EST

31 DAYS OF ASIAN AUTHORS, DAY 20: Pamela Delupio

Name: Pamela Delupio

Website: www.-outofcontext-.tumblr.com

Asian background: Filipina

What is it about your experience and upbringing that inspired you the most to write?

I was born in the Philippines, but my family immigrated to California when I was two years old. Growing up in a country where you barely know the language and you look so different from everyone else can make you lonely, can make feel unwanted, like maybe you don’t belong. Worse yet, with not much extra income, I relied on books and movies to entertain me, yet even in those fantasies there was still no one that looked like me. I loved The Little Mermaid, I wanted to be a Disney princess. But when you have no image of you reflected in any story, you begin to believe that you aren’t worthy, that you’re too different, that people like you don’t deserve to be seen. Well, FUCK THAT! Little Filipino boys and girls in this world need to know that they can be heroes too! We each have a story to tell, a voice that needs to be heard. And the more we’re seen, the more the next generation will see themselves, and know they belong.

Name 3 authors and 3 books.

Roshani Chokshi – The Star Touched Queen

Erin Entrada Kelly – Lailani of the Distant Sea

Sabaa Tahir – An Ember in the Ashes

What do you think is the best quality a writer can have?

Perseverance! Publishing is so subjective. Everyone has different tastes, different styles. You never know when fantasy is at its height in popularity or contemporary or romance. Write your story and keep honing your craft. The world will hear your story! It’s up to you to give the world the best story you possibly can. And never give up!

Any last words?

You know, I’m not the first Filipino to write a story and I won’t be the last. I do what I love and hope that one day someone else will love it too. That’s it man. That’s all we can do in life right? Find what makes you happy. Don’t ever apologize for it. And don’t let anyone take it away from you, including yourself. Other than that, be kind to each other. Help each other. Give each other advice. Success is not finite. There’s enough to go around. And in a community as marginalized as ours, one voice heard leads to another. So if one of us rises, we all rise. Let’s lift each other higher!

Write a one-sentence story!

In my dreams I could float amongst the stars, and when I wake I build the ladder to lift me there.

31 DAYS OF ASIAN AUTHORS, DAY 19: Yoon Ha Lee

Name: Yoon Ha Lee

Website:
http://yoonhalee.com

Asian background:
Korean-American

What is it about your experience and upbringing that inspired you the most to write?

I spent half my childhood in South Korea (the other half mostly in Texas), and growing up, there was almost no sf/f that had Asian characters or settings. For years I wrote about Western characters and settings because those were what I had read during my childhood. Then I realized that, hey, I can draw upon my own background for my fiction, and I started doing that.

Name 3 authors and 3 books

S. L. Huang, Zero Sum Game.  A gun expert with math as a superpower and a hidden past!  (And it has sequels!)

Liam Liwanag Burke.  Dog Eat Dog.  A brilliant tabletop roleplaying game on the dynamics of colonialism/imperialism.

Kate Elliott.  Unconquerable Sun.  Space opera gender-bent Alexander the Great!

What do you think is the best quality a writer can have?

Persistence.  Anything can be learned if you put enough work into it.

The most useful is actually luck, but you can’t control that.


Any last words? (Fun facts, comments, something you’d like to share with the world, etc.)

I have been entertaining myself lately with digital art and watercolors! This is the only way I will ever get to visualize my characters (I have aphantasia) and it’s a lot of fun.


Challenge: Write a one-sentence story!

“It was a delicious universe while it lasted,” said the cosmic monster with a burp.

Dragon Pearl is a brilliant space opera that blends Korean mythology and features a kumiho, a Korean fox spirit! I also enjoyed his short story “The Mermaid Astronaut” from Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

31 DAYS OF ASIAN AUTHORS, DAY 18: Tracy Badua

Name: Tracy Badua

Website:
https://www.tracybadua.com/

Asian background:
Filipino (Ilocano) American

What is it about your experience and upbringing that inspired you the most to write? 

As a kid, I read everything I could get my hands on and even wrote my own stapled-together books to sell to neighbors. My family was wholly supportive, with frequent trips to the library and genuine-sounding praise of my plotless, pencil-drawn works. My grandmother says I inherited this love of the written word from her father, a school teacher in the Philippines. It’s lovely to think that writing is in my blood. 

Name 3 authors and 3 books

Jessica Kim – STAND UP, YUMI CHUNG. fun, funny, fantastic!

Yoon Ha Lee – DRAGON PEARL. a fast-paced sci-fi middle grade that I couldn’t put down 

Mae Respicio – THE HOUSE THAT LOU BUILT. reaches right for those heartstrings in all the best ways 

What do you think is the best quality a writer can have? 

Resilience. Writing is tough and there’s the potential for discouragement at every turn, but your ability to bounce back is key to reaching your goals. You may not reach your goal as fast as some, or even take the same path, but two steps forward and one step back is still one step in the right direction. 

Any last words? (Fun facts, comments, something you’d like to share with the world, etc.)

My one viral tweet was about quarantine baking and Peeta from The Hunger Games.


Challenge: Write a one-sentence story! She ducked behind an abandoned fruit cart, letting the angry horde of fellow thieves thunder by, then patted her hidden pocket with a grin: the treasure was all hers.

31 DAYS OF ASIAN AUTHORS, DAY 17: Mina Li

Name: Mina Li

Website: minasli.wordpress.com

Asian background: Taiwanese (waishengren)

What is it about your experience and upbringing that inspired you the most to write?

Growing up in the 80s/90s, there weren’t a lot of stories featuring Asian girls like me, unless they were immigrant narratives. Those are obviously very important, but I loved fantasy and fairy tales, and there were hardly any books like that out there that I knew of at the time, although I will say that I fondly remember Laurence Yep’s Dragon series. Now that I’m an adult, I want to help expand the genre for Asian diaspora so they can see themselves. I also find it really fun and fulfilling to share stories with people and see how excited they get–one time, I told a friend about this idea I had for a xianxia story, and she wrote back immediately telling me she wanted to know more. It’s such a great feeling. 

Name 3 authors and 3 books       

Rebecca Makkai, The Borrower    

Seanan McGuire, Middlegame

Paul Krueger, Steel Crow Saga

What do you think is the best quality a writer can have?
Believing in yourself and your stories. If you’re enamored with them, chances are others will be excited to read them, too. And while you need to keep your expectations realistic (see: the higher likelihood of rejection vs. acceptance), it’s also important not to self-reject. Let the editors decide. 

Any last words? (Fun facts, comments, something you’d like to share with the world, etc.)

If you’re looking for TV shows to momentarily distract yourself from the pandemic hellscape we’re all in, What We Do in the Shadows is a scream. Everything about that show is hilarious, and bless Taika Waititi for taking it to the small screen. 


Challenge: Write a one-sentence story!
Her heart thumped in her chest as she realized, after years of grueling practice, that not only did she not need a sword, she had become the sword.

31 DAYS OF ASIAN AUTHORS, DAY 16: Julie Tieu

Name: Julie Tieu

Website: www.julietieu.com; Twitter: @julietieu

Asian background: I’m a 2nd generation Chinese-American. My parents have roots in Vietnam and Cambodia and came to the U.S. as Khmer Rouge refugees.  

What is it about your experience and upbringing that inspired you the most to write? 

Like the main character in my current manuscript, I grew up working in my parents’ donut shop. While my manuscript is primarily a romcom, I wanted to also highlight some of the dynamics of working with your parents and the range of experiences that come with supporting your family’s small business. Also, my character’s background is similar to my own and I chose to do so because I wanted to write about what it’s like to talk to your parents who might weave in three languages into one sentence. 

Name 3 authors and 3 books

EMERGENCY CONTACT by Mary H.K. Choi
THE KISS QUOTIENT by Helen Hoang
FRANKLY IN LOVE by David Yoon

What do you think is the best quality a writer can have? 

I think it’s really important to be able to process feedback in a healthy way. The truth is, no writer gets things 100% right in the first draft and gathering constructive feedback is so crucial to improving your writing. Of course, some feedback stings more than others and it’s important to have a way to cope with that. I tend to lean on my network or try to process the feedback with an open-mind before coming to any conclusions about it. 


Any last words? (Fun facts, comments, something you’d like to share with the world, etc.)

My current boba order is either brown sugar milk tea or black sesame milk tea. I recently started watching Kdramas (send recommendations my way!). I have a ukelele and skateboard collecting dust in my closet.

Challenge: Write a one-sentence story! 

Julie thought quarantine would offer her more time for hobbies like playing her ukelele, but she found herself spending all her time wishing for boba while watching Kdramas.

31 DAYS OF ASIAN AUTHORS, DAY 15: Henry Lien


Name: Henry Lien

Website: www.henrylien.com

Asian background: 
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?
Uniqueness.

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.

Kung fu ice skating? Sign me up! Henry’s Peasprout Chen series is described as “Hermione Granger meets ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ meets the Ice Capades meets ‘Mean Girls.’”

31 DAYS OF ASIAN AUTHORS, DAY 14: London Shah

Name: London Shah

Website: www.londonshah.com

Asian background:
South Asian Pashtun

What is it about your experience and upbringing that inspired you the most to write?
Like almost every child, I found escape in the stories I read (mostly silly ones that made me laugh!). And I can’t recall a time when I didn’t enjoy writing my own. But growing up, I never—not once—read a single story where the MC was a Muslim. And still, to this day, the absolute lack of Muslim representation in British SFF is astonishing and utterly shameful. The Light at the Bottom of the World is the first science-fiction novel to star a British Muslim main character, and the first science-fiction or fantasy narrative to star a lead of British Pashtun ethnicity. I’m simultaneously appalled and honoured by this knowledge.

Name 3 authors and 3 books
S K Ali and LOVE FROM A TO Z

Kat Cho and WICKED FOX

Sona Charaipotra and SYMPTOMS OF A HEARTBREAK

What do you think is the best quality a writer can have?
To see their idea through. To have the passion and ruthless determination and endless patience required to take the vision in their head and bring it to life. To carry it through all the doubts (especially those arising from the state of the industry if they’re a PoC author) and obstacles and research and time constraints, until they’ve created something they feel does that idea proud. 


Any last words? (Fun facts, comments, something you’d like to share with the world, etc.)
Possibly not what you had in mind, but I’ll burst if I don’t say this: Please check in with any elderly neighbours you might have as we continue through this tough time. So many of them aren’t technologically-minded and so don’t even have virtual company. They may feel they’re bothering us if they say anything. There are so many who are incredibly lonely, and in need right now. Please, if you can, ensure those who don’t have somebody helping, have enough groceries etc. Please don’t assume someone is taking care of them—check to be sure. *Falls off pulpit*

Challenge: Write a one-sentence story!
Mehmuna closed her eyes upon sight of the burning hut, covered her face against the ashy breeze taunting the village now, and silently howled for the fated loss of her own soul.

The Light at the Bottom of the World is the first science-fiction novel to star a British Muslim main character, and the first science-fiction or fantasy narrative to star a lead of British Pashtun ethnicity!