I first learned about Gloria Chao through one of my favorite podcasts, 88 Cups of Tea. I’m on the podcast community’s amazing facebook group and saw her commenting on the page as well. Then I listened to her interview with Yin Chang and knew I’d be reading (and loving) her debut YA novel, American Panda – a hilarious and romantic contemporary story about a Taiwanese-American teen who’s parents want her to become a doctor and marry another Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her squeamishness and crush on a Japanese classmate. So much tension! So many potential swoons! And I was *very* intrigued about a YA set on a college campus.
A review post will appear in the next week or two, but in the meantime Gloria was generous to answer some of my questions for the blog.
How long did it take you to write American Panda and did you develop a writing routine?
The first draft of American Panda was written for NaNoWriMo 2015, and I revised for about a year and a half before signing with my amazing agent. I am lucky enough to write full time, so my writing routine is as simple as making a cup of tea and settling in my home office. The only change recently with the book release is I usually spend a couple hours catching up on emails and social media before diving in to my WIP!
When developing this story, did you begin with plot, character, or setting?
I love this question so much! American Panda began with the character, setting, and the goal of being the book I needed as a teen, and it took me many writing sessions to find the plot. Interestingly, my second book, Misaligned (fall 2019) began with the plot twist at the end, and it took me some time to find the character and setting that the plot needed! I love that each book is an entirely different being!
Has anything surprised you about the publishing process?
I’m amazed (and so grateful) at how many people are involved in putting a book into the world, and I feel indebted to each and every one of them! I have also been blown away by the reader responses. I’m so incredibly thrilled that readers of all ages and backgrounds have related to Mei’s story, which is a wonderful example of how similar we all are in our humanity, the difficulty in finding ourselves, and our love for our (sometimes very peculiar) families.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? How old were you and what was it about?
This may or may not have been the first, but I’m happy to share an image from a very early story I wrote.
It was a poorly executed mystery where the character became a detective (and yes, there is one panel where she literally says, “I’m a detective now!”). I wrote a lot of stories like this when I was little and they’re all tucked into the drawers of my parents’ house.
Are there any other genres you want to write in someday?
Fantasy was my first young adult love, and I may write some speculative someday! Most of my future ideas are contemporary, but I am definitely open to exploring other genres, especially fantasy!
BAH I would read the heck out of a fantasy written by you! Thanks for answering these questions. I’m eagerly awaiting your next books (no matter what genre they are!)