Everyone, I have an AMAZING post to share with you today! In case you missed it, I’m one of the co-hosts for #AsianLitBingo, an initiative to promote Asian books and authors, this month (more details are on Shenwei’s announcement post here). As part of this, my co-hosts and I will be featuring some incredible authors on our blogs, and today I’ll be sharing an interview with (my favourite! author! ever! 😍 *heart eyes*) Stacey Lee.
For those who aren’t aware, Stacey Lee is the author of the historical fiction books Under a Painted Sky and Outrun the Moon from Putnam/Penguin, and the contemporary/magical realism novel The Secret of a Heart Note from Katherine Tegan Books. Outrun the Moon, my personal favourite, just came out in paperback; see more at the end of this post. Her next book, which will be out in 2018, is Dear Miss Sweetie – about “a Chinese teenager in 1890s Atlanta who moonlights as the pseudonymous author of a wildly popular newspaper advice column”, and I can’t wait to read it!
Q: Outrun the Moon has just released in paperback, and it won some incredible awards in 2016 – Blast from the Past in the Book Shimmy Awards, the young adult Asia/Pacific American Literature Award (as well as being on many other lists/nominations!). How does everything feel, one year later?
Thank you! It feels wonderful. My characters become like real people to me. I feel like Mercy is out, roaming the hills, getting these done.
Q: What are some of your favourite a) historical books, and b) books by Asian authors with Asian characters?
Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, L.A. Meyer’s Bloody Jack series, Linda Sue Park’s A Single Shard. I loved Cynthia Kadohata’s Kira Kira and Padma Venkatraman’s Climbing the Stairs, and recently read an ARC of Julie Dao’s Forest of a Thousand Lanterns that I loved!
Yes! I love The Book Thief as well, and Kira-Kira‘s my favourite book from childhood, it had such a powerful impact on me when I first read it (Outrun the Moon being my favourite book from my teens, haha). I’m super excited for FOTL as well, and will definitely have to check those other ones out!
Q: Were you always interested in history from a young age? If not, how did you become interested in it and writing historical fiction?
Sadly, no. I loved historical fiction, but history for me consisted of facts and dates and I had no memory for it. I consider myself a bit of a bathtub historian. I immerse myself in a particular time period in order to write the story, and then I drain the tub to make room for incoming knowledge for the next story. That said, I have to admit that studying history is a little bit of addictive! I’m that person who sees a plaque by the side of the road giving the history of a particular tree stump and I have to stop to read it.
That’s lovely! I’m similar in that I wasn’t really interested in it in high school and only did the compulsory subjects. The personal and emotional side of historical fiction is what I find really compelling, and got me invested in it.
Q: How would you encourage someone who’s resistant to, or hasn’t previously tried, reading historical fiction to do so?
I think more people would read historical fiction if we just relabeled it as ‘adventure’ because that’s what it is, it’s an experience into a world we would not otherwise have access to. Feelings are universal and timeless and a good book will connect us to characters regardless of time period.
I love this answer – will definitely share this with my friends next time I’m recommending your books, and other historical fiction ones 🙂
Q: Do you have any stories in mind, or would you ever be interested in, writing historical fiction that’s set outside of the US (e.g. in China)?
It has crossed my mind! 😉
Q: What are three interesting things you’ve learnt whilst researching for Dear Miss Sweetie?
My story takes place in 1890 and Coca Cola had just been invented. To buy a drink, you’d go into the pharmacy and sit down at a counter and they would pour you soda water with the secret syrup for a nickel. The bottles came out much later.
Bicycles, ‘freedom machines,’ were just starting to become popular in the 1890’s, and was emblematic of the growth of women’s rights/suffrage.
Chinese people first came to the South replace the freed slaves as field workers.
I didn’t think it was possible for me to be even more excited about the book, but I am now! This is fascinating.
Q: What changes would you like to see happen regarding representation of marginalised voices and characters in publishing?
We need a constant flow of new stories with diverse voices. Keep it coming! To get there, we need more diversity in publishing at all levels, and we need vigilance by gatekeepers to make sure they’re buying/recommending the books that include everyone. I would love to see diverse stories get the same kind of marketing that more mainstream stories get. You can’t read a book you’ve never heard about.
So well-said 🙂
Q: What has the experience of writing ownvoices stories been like for you?
There’s not that much thought that goes into it, actually. I think that’s the beauty of writing #ownvoices, it comes rather naturally.
That’s so great to hear! It really shows in your writing, too – I love how compelling your characters’ voices are, and how they’re so uniquely themselves.
Q: If you had a time machine, which time(s) and place(s) in the past would you go to and why?
I would love to see what the dinosaurs looked like (but I would need the time machine to be supremely reliable because I would not want to be stuck there!). I’d also love to see what the Chinese admiral and explorer Zheng He saw sailing his treasure ships between South/Southeast/West Asia and Africa in 1400. None of the ships remain, but they were humongous— six-times the size of Columbus’ biggest ship (the Santa Maria).
Wow, I’d never heard of Zheng He before! That’s incredible.
Q: Finally – there’s a fair bit of food and cooking involved in Outrun the Moon! What are some of your favourite foods/dishes, including Chinese dishes? 😀
I’m a big fan of dim sum. My favorites growing up were always the fried taro dumplings, steamed sticky rice in lotus leaves, and fried sesame balls with lotus paste. One of my favorite things about Chinese food is the soups, actually. Chinese people don’t waste anything, and bones were always made into nutritious soups. Now they have fancy ‘bone broth’ at the upscale groceries, and my mother in law would roll her eyes at that! Chinese have been cooking and drinking bone broth for thousands of years.
I am feeling so hungry now, haha. Dim sum’s great; I also love shāomài, green onion pancakes, pan fried pork buns, and just about all noodles. (sorry the pictures below aren’t accurate to all the foods listed, I had to make do with free stock photos xD Hope this inspires everyone to go out and eat Chinese food anyway! :P)
Thank you so much, Wendy! Your questions were so fun. 🙂
About Outrun the Moon
San Francisco, 1906: Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong is determined to break from the poverty in Chinatown, and an education at St. Clare’s School for Girls is her best hope. Although St. Clare’s is off-limits to all but the wealthiest white girls, Mercy gains admittance through a mix of cunning and a little bribery, only to discover that getting in was the easiest part. Not to be undone by a bunch of spoiled heiresses, Mercy stands strong—until disaster strikes.
On April 18, a historic earthquake rocks San Francisco, destroying Mercy’s home and school. With martial law in effect, she is forced to wait with her classmates for their families in a temporary park encampment. Though fires might rage, and the city may be in shambles, Mercy can’t sit by while they wait for the army to bring help—she still has the “bossy” cheeks that mark her as someone who gets things done. But what can one teenage girl do to heal so many suffering in her broken city?
Have you read any of Stacey Lee’s books before? What did you think of them, and what she said here? How’s #AsianLitBingo going for you?