Congratulations to this month’s guest author, Gloria Chao, whose debut novel, AMERICAN PANDA, released last week! In this YA romance — called “effervescent” by Publishers Weekly — 17-year-old Mei Lu’s parents want her to become a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer. Two problems: Germs freak her out, and dreamy Darren Takahashi is not Taiwanese. Ah, forbidden love!
How did you come up with the idea for AMERICAN PANDA?
I wrote this book when I switched careers from dentist to writer and was having a hard time communicating with my parents. I wanted to write the book that I needed in that moment and also the book I needed as a teen. Just like my protagonist, Mei, I had a different vision for my life than my parents, and I needed to find the strength to pursue my dreams and communicate with my parents.
How did you find your agent and publisher? Was your manuscript an overnight success, or did you have to deal with a lot of rejections/revisions?
It took me a little over a year (and many, many rejections) to find my wonderful agent. I rewrote the book so many times because of the college setting and queried 3 different versions of the manuscript. After revising a few rounds with my agent, we went out on submission and sold the book in a week!
What is the significance of the title? Did you come up with it, or did the publisher?
AMERICAN PANDA represents Mei’s struggle with her identity, and the font on the cover even shows how they are in conflict with each other. Mei also starts the book with a black-and-white world view, and through the course of the book, she begins to see the gray. Hence the book’s tagline, “Unlike the panda, life isn’t always so black and white.” There are also references to pandas in the book.
I came up with this title, and I’m thrilled that Simon Pulse loved it!
You were once a black belt … what could kung fu teach you about writing?
Kung fu taught me to grit my teeth to push through the pain. Also, the more I practiced, the easier it became. Both of these are very applicable to writing! And fun fact: my second book’s protagonist is a martial artist!
How did you celebrate your release?
I was honored to have visited South Elgin High School the morning of release to hold a writing workshop and give a presentation. The rest of the day was my husband and I driving around to Targets, indie bookstores, and Barnes and Nobles to sign stock!
It was surreal seeing my book on the shelves, and I’m grateful to have been able to share the moment with the person who helped me discover my love of writing. There was a lot of driving (and singing at the top of our lungs), and then that night we celebrated with a launch party at Anderson’s Bookshop! There was laughter, hugging, cake, and panda plates, and I couldn’t have wished for anything more. I am also so grateful for the love that AMERICAN PANDA received on social media that day! Thank you, everyone, for making my launch day so special!
I’m currently drafting MISALIGNED, which will be out fall 2019 with Simon Pulse. The book follows a teen outcast, Ali, who is the only Asian in her small, predominantly white Midwestern town. The book explores racism and prejudice, and when another Asian family moves to town, everyone believes Ali and the other Chinese boy belong together. Despite her initial resistance, she begins falling for him, only to learn that her mother forbids them from being together. As Ali searches for the reasoning behind her mother’s disapproval, she unearths dark family secrets that threaten her future.
Ah, who doesn’t love family secrets? And more forbidden love? Okay, on to the speed round!
- Alpha males or sensitive types? Sensitive Types 110%
- Morning glory or night owl? Night Owl 1,000%
- Tropical island or mountain getaway? Ooh, tropical island relaxation.
- French fries or cookies? COOKIES!!!!!
- High heels or flats? Flats—I am all about comfort over style.
Thank you for visiting us, and enjoy the rest of your debut month! Readers can connect with Gloria here:
Gloria Chao is an MIT grad turned dentist turned writer. She currently lives in Chicago with her ever-supportive husband, for whom she became a nine-hole golfer (sometimes seven). She is always up for cooperative board games, Dance Dance Revolution, or soup dumplings. She was also once a black belt in kung-fu and a competitive dancer, but that side of her was drilled and suctioned out. American Panda is her debut novel, and Misaligned is forthcoming fall 2019.