I was super hyped to win a signed book pack of four very cool historical YA novels! The authors celebrated their book releases with a Badass History Google Hangout and a giveaway for the best question. I knew my interest in obscure women’s history would come in handy someday. All four of these books sound pretty awesome, so I’m excited!
Since March is Women’s History Month, for this week’s Writing Wednesday, I decided to spotlight both my writing and herstory. The Google Hangout (watch here!) had some pretty fun questions, so I decided to answer them. Enjoy!
First, my winning question! Favorite lesser-known badass woman in history?
Shannon Biggs Waller took my answer, “Ching Shih FTW” (Chinese pirate queen you really must know about!), so I’m going to go with Noor Inayat Khan. Just incredible–she was a biracial children’s book writer and bona fide Indian princess (her father was descended from Tipu Sultan) turned Allied spy. She tragically gave her life fighting the Nazis, but never once divulged any information to them, even after months of torture. Jason Porath of the wonderful Rejected Princesses notes that hers was the first entry that made him cry.
Do you ever base your characters on people you know in real life?
I’ve never deliberately based a character on someone from real life, though I’ve always feared that maybe I have subconsciously, heh. I shamelessly steal anecdotes from the people around me, though, because they’re just so damned colorful. There’s a scene in my WIP when a random teenage girl walks up to a character named Tyler (who was inspired by Michael B. Jordan’s character in Chronicle) and asks for a selfie with him, just because he’s “really cute”. It might be one of the most over-the-top scenes in the whole novel (which is about superheroes!), and unbelievably, it actually happened to someone I know!
Favorite woman from your home state or country?
I’m from California, and when most people think Cali, they think Hollywood. So I’m going to give a shout-out to the first film star of my own heritage, Anna May Wong. Despite the incredible racism of the 1930s and 40s, which had very few roles for Asian women other than endless submissive China Dolls or scheming Dragon Ladies (Wong, upset with the lack of positive on-screen portrayals of Chinese people, campaigned hard to play O-Lan in the film adaptation of Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth, only to be passed over for a white actress in yellowface), she managed to achieve success and stardom. Also, she had an incredible wardrobe–I’m very, very partial to all things cheongsam.
What do you love most about being an author?
I’m writing my final Children’s Lit paper on A Little Princess, so I’ll let Sara Crewe explain it much better than I ever could:
“I–I can’t help making up things. If I didn’t, I don’t believe I could live.”
Which character was the hardest to write?
I understand my WIP’s narrator, Mike, very well, but his narration proved a real challenge–for one, being an ordinary 12-year-old surrounded by superheroes means he can’t directly partake in a lot of action, but also he’s pretty reserved when it comes to actually talking about himself and not just commenting on superheroes and his brother. That’s definitely something I’ll have to figure out during revisions.
If you could be a neighbor to any historical figure, who would it be?
When I was a kid, I had this intense wish to have known Anne Frank. I felt a weird kinship to her because she loved writing, was seen as weird, and liked fairy tales and mythology. In some ways she’s been reduced to a figurehead, but I think it’s worth remembering that what made her personal diary so devastating is the very strong and human personality beneath the tragedy.
What’s the hardest thing about writing historical fiction?
I’ve never actually written historical fiction, though I have one idea in the works for an adult novel against the backdrop of Chinese silent film. I can guess why it’d be hard for me, though–one of my strongest assets is a distinctive voice, but I can’t imagine how it would translate to older time periods.
Is there a certain song you listened to on repeat while writing your book?
No one particular song, though I do have a series playlist. The second song is “Impostors (Little By Little) by The Fratellis, which I chose because it fits the major themes of both superhero secret identities and Internet anonymity. The first line is “You wear your mask, I’ll wear mine.”
What craft, book, or action did you do to be inspired?
I’m hoping to read more comics and watch superhero cartoons for inspiration. I’ve also drawn some costume designs for the heroes; they actually came out pretty well, so I’d like to do more of that. I love Pinterest inspiration boards, but haven’t used them all that much for my current WIP.
How do you decide on names for your characters?
I did something a little different for my WIP–I made an effort to just give the characters the first name that came to mind, for a more natural and realistic feel. Some exceptions: Tomorrow Girl, the main female superhero (secret identity: Alexis Pendleton) was named after a nickname for Alexis Rhodes in the original Japanese version of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX. It was a cheesy cartoon, but my brother and I made a whole mythology with the characters turning into superheroes–hence, the reference. There’s another character named Kate Hansen who’s a proud feminist, and her name references both Kate from The Taming of the Shrew and Kathleen Hanna, frontwoman of the ’90s Riot Grrrl band Bikini Kill.
Favorite hobby: reading!
Favorite thing: my stuffed white tiger. She was my favorite stuffed animal as a child, and she followed me first to my college dorm and now to my apartment.
Favorite movie: I don’t have a single fave, though my default answer is The Artist.
Where I write: at my desk, though I definitely want to do the cliched thing and write more in cafes!
What I’m reading now: my signed books, beginning with A TYRANNY OF PETTICOATS!
That’s all this week! I really loved this Q&A. Go women’s history and go books!