It's almost Books Alive! time y'all! We wanted you to get to know this year's author, Grace Lin, better. So we asked her a few questions. Continue to read the blogpost to find out what she had to say!
Q. What would you like our readers to know about your latest book, When the Sea Turned to Silver?
A. When the Sea Turned to Silver is an adventure story that follows a young girl and boy, Pinmei and Yishan on their quest to find a mysterious “Luminous Stone that Lights the Night,” so that they can save Pinmei’s grandmother from the cruel Tiger Emperor. Their adventures lead them from the top of a mountain to the bottom of the sea where they meet magical creatures like dragon-horses, mussels that turn into swallows and even the Dragon King, himself! This book is a companion book to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon but if you haven't read it, you can still enjoy When the Sea Turned to Silver. However, if you have read Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, you will find some characters you might remember and some stories that connect in an exciting way!
Q. How has your background in design influenced your art?
A. I think because I began as an illustrator, I usually see my story scenes. I don’t tend to write so much about characters but about narrative, because I’m kind of watching the story in my head. I’m not a specifically a designer but because I went to art school, I am kind of sensitive about the way things look on a page. If the font looks wrong or too cramped, if the paper is cream vs. white - I notice it and am bit picky about it and try as hard as I can to make it right (to me).
Q. What role, if any, did libraries play in your upbringing?
A. I actually spent a lot of time in libraries as a child. My parents were immigrants who, while they did not really read to me, did understand the value of books. Many times after dinner, we would all go to the library. There, I wandered around the children’s room and slowly read book after book—each one becoming a friend. Now, my biggest goal when making my books is to create books that give that same feeling—books that can be friends.
Q. Tell us something about growing up bicultural. You mention on your blog about rejecting your culture as a child but now try to add it to your daughter’s upbringing.
A. Yes, when I was young I tried my best to pretend that I wasn’t Asian. Growing up in a not-at-all-diverse suburb, I was always "the Chinese girl" — easy to pick out in a crowd, but just as easily dismissed as nothing else but that. To be constantly on display, yet always invisible, filled me with deep insecurity. It was only as an adult that I realized that my heritage was something to appreciate; and it is one of the reasons why I do the books that I do. I hope they help other Asian kids feel pride in a way I didn’t as well as help non-Asians see the magic of another culture. I also hope it works for my own daughter!
Q. Who are some of your favorite children’s authors and illustrators?
A. I love the classic authors and illustrators—Lucy Maud Montgomery, Natalie Babbitt, Noel Streatfeild, Elizabeth Enright, Virginia Lee Burton, Trina Schart Hyman. More modern authors and illustrators include Sharon Creech, Rita Williams-Garcia, Lenore Look, Lisa Yee and Cece Bell.
Q. Do you have any tips or advice for burgeoning writers and illustrators?
Q. What was your favorite subject in school?
A. Art! But I also liked English and History—all good subjects for a future author/illustrator.
Q. Can you share a few of your favorite books (children’s and adult)?
A. I think if you read any of the books by the authors I mentioned above, you’ll be in good hands (try Search for Delicious, El Deafo, Four Story Mistake and The Wanderer). After you read all the books by them, don’t miss Linda Sue Park’s The Single Shard or Robin Mckinley’s Hero and the Crown.
Q. Authors often talk about the importance of a good editor. What has your experience been with your editor?
A. Well, my situation is pretty unusual. My editor is actually my childhood friend—if you’ve read Year of the Dog, you know that the main character, Pacy, is based on myself. She is the only Asian girl in her class until another Asian girl moves into town and they become best friends. Well, that best friend is now my editor! In the book, I called her Melody but in real life her name is Alvina Ling.
Having Alvina as an editor is wonderful—we began at around the same time—she was an intern at a publishing company when my first book came out, so it’s been fun to have our careers grow at the same time. My favorite part of making a book is revising because I know whatever she says will be smart and insightful and bring the book to the next level. I think because we are such good friends there is an inherent trust, I believe whatever she says is to make the best book possible. I know that seems like it would be an assumed thing, but I think for most author-editor relationships, it takes a couple of books to really feel this way. With Alvina and me, the trust was there to begin with.
Q. Houston is one of the most diverse cities in the US. Would you like to tell our bicultural youth something about your upbringing?
A. The hardest thing for me was to realize that I would never be Asian and I would never be American. I will always be Asian-American. I kept trying to choose a side until I finally realized it is not a dividing line. While there were definitely points in my life where that hyphen between the two identities seemed like it is subtracting from the other, in the end I found it’s actually a wonderful bridge. Life with a hyphenated-identity is actually doubly richer. My hope is that my books show people a glimpse of that richness.
We hope you will be at this year's Books Alive! event and meet Grace Lin. Share your favorites in the comments.