I read These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong from July to August. In fact, the day that I finished it, I finished it in one sitting. TVD is one of the most captivating books of 2020, and I was absolutely elated when Chloe Gong agreed to do an interview with me over e-mail. I am so happy that the first author I am interviewing is one of my favorites of all time ever. TVD will change the YA game forever, and I am so grateful to have been able to “speak” to Chloe because her journey is just getting started.
1. What impact do you hope your book has on Own Voices readers? As a reader, I am so happy to see more Asian representation in YA, and especially representation of Asians who are proud of who they are.
When I wrote These Violent Delights, I was thinking about all my fellow diaspora Asians, and the importance of seeing our faces on shelves—not just to be the center of an identity story, but to be a fully-fleshed protagonist who is allowed to rage and cry and fight monsters. Identity stories are super important, and the book interweaves a lot of Juliette’s musings about her place between the Western world and the East, but I wasn’t content with that being all we’re allowed to see. I needed a balance: delving into what it means to be Asian up against these forces of Western colonialism and imperialism, alongside the sort of plot that white protagonists in YA have been allowed to occupy. At the end of the day, that’s what I hope to do for Own Voices readers, to provide the sort of cool, adventure-filled stories that we’ve been lacking on bookshelves, without watering down the intrinsic part of our cultural identity which colors the way we see the world.
2. What has been your favorite moment (or moments) of becoming an author and why (besides getting your book deal)? How has this moment impacted your life?
I’ve been writing since I started high school, so long before I got my book deal, I had already been putting my stories online and seeing what real readers thought of my work. Some of my favorite moments were undoubtedly when people messaged me their reactions after I put a chapter up—sometimes it would be a paragraph about what they enjoyed, sometimes a whole big spiel to tell me that they’re so nervous about the fate of a character. I’ve chosen to be an author because I love telling stories, and storytelling isn’t storytelling if I’m only yelling into the void: I absolutely need an audience as well. So those little moments—when my readers made themselves known and reacted to my stories—were the best part of being an author. They’ve shaped my desire to continue pursuing this on a larger level, and go the traditional publishing route to put my books on real shelves.
3. Your book takes place in an urban historical fantasy setting. What research advice would you give to aspiring writers in this genre?
While historical facts are important in writing something with a historical setting, it’s also about atmosphere and feeling! The beauty of creating a fantastical or historical world is that you can choose what is relevant to your story, and which parts to emphasize in order to slice out the most compelling narrative. A setting can fall flat if you only throw true facts at a reader; what they want to know is how the air smelled, how the streets sounded, how the falling rain hit the character’s skin with just enough softness that it didn’t feel like rain at all. So my advice is to not get bogged down by research, even though it is important! The most critical part about creating a visceral setting is to close your eyes and use the research you’ve done to then trigger your imagination.
4. (Bonus-ish) Is there anything else you want readers to know before your book is published?
I want teens to know that this book is for them. That I conceptualized this book at 18 and finished writing it at 19, and though the world keeps trying to look down on young people, we deserve to have stories about us, centered around us, without influence from what grown-ups think we like.
1. Top three favorite underrated books of the past five years?
The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle, The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi, and Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett
2. Dream place you’d go for an author retreat?
3. I read your “YA Heartthrobs as Viral Tweets” article. It was very funny! Would Juliette and Roma be friends with anyone from The Gilded Wolves world?
Oh, absolutely. Juliette and Laila would be the bestest of friends.
Cover + Synopsis + Author Bio
Synopsis: Perfect for fans of The Last Magician and Descendant of the Crane, this heart-stopping debut is an imaginative Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai, with rival gangs and a monster in the depths of the Huangpu River.
The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.
A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.
But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.
Chloe Gong is an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, studying English and International Relations. During her breaks, she’s either at home in New Zealand or visiting her many relatives in Shanghai. Chloe has been known to mysteriously appear by chanting “Romeo and Juliet is one of Shakespeare’s best plays and doesn’t deserve its slander in pop culture” into a mirror three times. You can find her on Twitter @thechloegong, check out her website at thechloegong.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her instagram is @thechloegong .
Once again, thank you Chloe Gong for agreeing to do this interview!!! I hope to meet you someday. My review of These Violent Delights will be up November 17 (the day TVD comes out).