Friday, October 12, 2012

Author Interview with Grace Lin



The DMS was lucky enough to interview Grace Lin, author of the middle grade novel Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Fairday reviewed this whimsically, magical book, and it was great to share our thoughts about it and hear yours! We are excited to learn a little bit more about the story behind the story. So, without further ado... take it away, Grace! 


What inspired you to write Where the Mountain Meets the Moon?


I grew up in Upstate New York, the only Asian (except for my sisters) in my school. Because of this, my childhood was always tinged with a strange sense of identity. Was I Chinese? Taiwanese? American? Books and stories were always a source of comfort. I loved folktales and fairytales as a child. I love the classics East of the Sun, West of the Moon, The Light Princess, and The Wizard of Oz – all with gorgeous illustrations, which I devoured and gazed at in awe. It was because of my love for these stories that my mother knew she could pique my interest with the Chinese fairytale books. At the time, she regretted that I knew and had so little interest in our cultural heritage – this was a way of “sneaking” it in. And it worked!

I began reading the Chinese folktales and was at first disappointed. Used to lush illustrations and descriptions, the Asian books were plainly translated with an occasional simple b/w line drawing and seemed an inadequate comparison. However, slowly I discovered the stories had a magic and I began to image details of my own, tinged with Asian-American sensibilities. When I grew older and was able to travel to Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China – the stories came alive. And that’s when Where the Mountain Meets the Moon came into existence. An homage to the folktales and fairytales I read in my youth, it is a mixture of Asian fairytales and North American classics. Not a traditional retelling of stories from either cultures, it is a mix – like me, Asian-American. Hopefully, it is full of the magic from both that will satisfy readers everywhere

How long did it take you to write Where the Mountain Meets the Moon?

It took about 3 years.

What are some of your favorite books from childhood? Were there any specific authors who inspired you?

The books I loved as a child and still love are the Shoes books by Noel Streatfeild. I think my favorite is Family Shoes, anything by Rumer Godden. I love Miss Happiness and Miss Flower, anything by Beverly Cleary. Ramona and Her Father still makes me feel warm and fuzzy. The Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace, anything by Ruth Chew The Witch’s Buttons. I also LOVED Anne of Green Gables (so much so that I even went to PEI) A Search For Delicious by Natalie Babbit, and, of course the Narnia Books and the Oz books. All of those books and authors have inspired me.

Where did you come up with the character Minli?

Hmm, Minli is kind of an idealized version of myself in my youth—the heroine I wanted to be. In reality, however, I’m probably most like the Ma character.

If you could ask the Old Man in the Moon for anything, what would you ask for?

How can I make cake, candy, cookies and all the things my sweet tooth craves into health food?

No, really, I don’t know. The problem is the things I want to know change. Five years ago I might have asked for the cure for cancer. Right now, perhaps I’d ask how to make sure my daughter’s life was long, happy and healthy. Maybe what I’d really ask is how to live without any regrets.

You are your own illustrator. What is the process you use for deciding on the illustrations that accompany your story? 

 I wanted the chapter headers to be simpler, more of a teaser or clue to the upcoming story rather than a window into it (which is how I wanted the full page images to be). For those, I looked at Chinese paper cuts. Paper cuts, to me, have always been an interesting art form – all the abstract shapes suddenly coming together to make an image, rather like how (hopefully) the chapters come together to make a story. So, I thought it would be a good approach for the chapter headers.

For this book, I really wanted my art to have a traditional Chinese-inspired look. I didn’t want to reproduce a traditional Chinese painting style, as I feel that the book is not a re-telling, not a historically accurate tale; but an original fantasy with a Chinese influence. I wanted the art to be influenced, but not an imitation. So, like the writing, I tried to do research and blend what I found with my own sensibilities. I took thousands of my own photos during my trips abroad that I used as a photo reference, but I also looked at Chinese paintings, ceramics, and paper cuts. In China, we visited a cloisonne factory (a tourist standard!) and I found the many steps that the artists do to create cloisonne images fascinating. The intricate patterns, the ornate borders, had a certain jewel-type richness that I felt fit the magical atmosphere I wanted to achieve in Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. So the cover illustration was very much inspired by that. The full-page illustrations also had cloisonne as its muse, but they were also mixed with influences of traditional Chinese paintings and the art of antique Chinese vases and ceramics.


If you could choose a magical creature to befriend, what would it be? Why?

Oh, good question! Right now I’ve been reading about a Chinese fairy called the Ginseng Boy—a healing and benevolent spirit. I might want to befriend him…or a unicorn. When I was 12, I loved unicorns, so that would be fulfilling a dream!



Where can we purchase your books?



Anywhere books are sold—your local bookstore : ) 


Author Website Blog Amazon ☞ Barnes and Noble 




Read the reviews! 






*We were lucky enough to meet Grace Lin at the 2011 UCONN Children's Book Fair. It was wonderful to get to chat with her in person, and we are excited to tell you about her latest novel Starry River of the Sky, which just hit bookshelves in October! 





26 comments:

  1. I love that she wrote the heroine she wanted to be.

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    1. Hi Kelly, Minli is a wonderful character, and it was interesting to learn that she was a reflection of Grace. Lovely to hear from you! Thanks for stopping by to share your thoughts with us : ) ~ F

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  2. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is such a magical title, and the illustrations are wonderful.
    I so enjoyed this interview, thank you.

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    1. Hi Barbara, Thanks so much for popping over! This was a special interview for me, as I am a big fan of Grace Lin. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is one of my favorite stories. It was truly an honor to get the chat with Grace Lin and Lizzy and I were so excited to share it with all of you! Great to hear from you : ) ~ F

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  3. Great author interview. I'm with Kelly in that its great that Grace got to be her heroine through the writing of her book.

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    1. Hi Petty, It's a wonderful middle grade read! Thanks so much for stopping by to share your thoughts with us : ) ~ F

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  4. I'm lucky that where I live there is a lot of diversity and no one cares as much as I think other places would by what you look like.
    The Shoe books! Thanks, my tia was looking for the authors and books name.

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    1. Hi Adriana, That's great that you live in a diverse area- no one should ever care more about what a person looks like than who they really are in my opinion : ) Excellent about The Shoe Books! Great to hear from you : ) ~ F

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  5. I know of these books and truly love the illustrations!

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    1. Hi Patty, The illustrations are amazing! Grace Lin is very talented! Always a pleasure to hear from you : ) ~ F

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  6. What a great interview! I'm definitely adding these to the list - gorgeous illustrations! Thanks so much for sharing - Happy Friday :D

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    1. Hi Cheles Bells, Excellent! We think you guys will really enjoy the story! Thanks so much for stopping by : ) ~ F

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  7. Thanks so much for this lovely interview! So glad you enjoyed "Where the Mountain Meets the Moon" and hope you like "Starry River of the Sky!"

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    1. Hi Grace, Thank you so much for stopping by! It was wonderful to chat with you, and we wish you the best of success with your new middle grade novel Starry River of the Sky : ) ~ F & L

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  8. I've heard of this book and will be reading it soon. THanks for hosting Ms. Grace Lin, Jess & Steph. The title and illustrations are amazing.

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    1. Hi Claudine, Seriously, you will LOVE it! : ) ~ F

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  9. Sounds like a wonderful book. I loved hearing Grace Lin's story behind writing the book. That's a cool book trailer for Starry River of the Sky. Best wishes for your new book, Grace.

    Thanks for hosting Grace Lin, Jess!

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    1. Hi LynNerdKelley, Thanks so much for stopping by! I think it is one of the best book trailers I've come across- very to the point, but keeping the mystique and whimsical nature of the story. Lovely to hear from you! ~ F

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  10. I would love to see the illustrations! It isn't often you get an author and illustrator in one.
    I loved Anne of Green Gables and Natalie Babbitt as well. I am sure this is a fantastic read and I would love to read it. BTW...if the man in the moon ever grants that wish you better share the recipes!

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    1. Hi Heidi, They do sound delicious! Thanks so much for stopping by to share your thoughts with us. Grace Lin is very talented- I think the artwork is just amazing : ) ~ F

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  11. I keep hearing about Grace Lin and how great an author she is. Chinese have rich literature and beautiful intricate art. I would love to read how Lin portrayed her stories. Thanks for this enjoyable interview.

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    1. Hi Nancy, We think you will enjoy her writing and illustrations- rich and textured is the perfect description for her work. Excellent to hear from you! ~ F

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  12. What a fabulous interview! I love her answers (yay for Anne of Green Gables!), and she sounds like a total sweetheart. I'll have to check her books out. Thanks!!!

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    1. Hi Christine, Grace Lin is very nice! Thanks so much- we think you will love her stories, they are very magical : ) Thanks so much for popping over. It's always lovely to hear from you! ~ F

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  13. I love the look of this book and the premise of the story. I'm glad she chose to write it. We should have more books like this.

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    1. Donna- It is such a beautiful book! I look forward to reading her latest book. More books like this would be fabulous! ~L

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