The DMS was lucky enough to interview Wendy Wan-Long Shang. Lizzy recently reviewed her story The Great Wall of Lucy Wu, 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, Wendy!
What inspired you to write The Great Wall of Lucy Wu?
One of my biggest inspirations was simply writing a book that I would have loved as a kid. When I was growing up, there were not many Asians in popular culture (Mr. Sulu on Star Trek and martial-arts star Bruce Lee), but Tracey Wu, the best friend in Judy Blume's Blubber, was a revelation to me. Here was a girl who looked and sounded like me! In this book, I'm speaking to the parts of the kid-me that felt misunderstood and unrecognized.
How long did it take you to write The Great Wall of Lucy Wu?
I wrote the first 50 pages in a year and then began to struggle a bit. Luckily, around that time, I found out that I had won a Work-in-Progress grant from the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). It was the shot in the arm I needed to keep going, and I wrote the last 100 pages in 6 months.
What was your inspiration for the characters Lucy and Yi Po?
Lucy is the 12-year-old part of me that never grew up, though she is quite a bit saucier than I am. I had a real-life Yi Po who was beloved by everyone who knew her; I wanted to honor her memory in the book, though her experiences were different.
What are some of your favorite books from childhood? Were there any specific authors who inspired you?
So many to choose from! I adored the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder; in fact, my family went on a cross-country road trip this summer and I arranged to stop in Pepin, Wisconsin, where Laura was born. I also loved The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder because it had dark and funny elements, and books by Ellen Conford because I felt a little more grown-up when I read them. As I mentioned before, Judy Blume was and is an inspiration to me. I always felt that she understood what it was like to be a kid and could write about childhood situations with great compassion.
If you could live anyplace real or fictional, where would it be? Why?
After seeing the tremendous beauty of the western United States on my cross-country trip, I'd love to go back in time and see Utah as it was portrayed in John D. Fitzgerald's Great Brain series. I can only imagine it was more wild and lovely, and it would be great to experience life in a 19th century small town. I'm also fascinated by how much freedom (and responsibility) kids had in those days.
If you could befriend a character from one of your books, who would you befriend? Why?
Oooh, that's a toughie. I think I would have to pick Yi Po, because she has great strength and kindness, and I feel sure she would have a lot to teach me.
Lucy loves basketball and is not happy when it conflicts with Chinese School. Is basketball your favorite sport? Also- do you speak Chinese, and if so, did you go to a school like the one Lucy did to learn it?
Basketball is actually not my favorite sport, but in the process of writing the book, I enjoyed learning more about it. I do speak Chinese, though not as fluently as I'd like. I did go to a school like Lucy's for a while, but most of what I know is from my family, living for 6 months in Taiwan, and self-study.
Are you currently working on a book? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?
I have a book scheduled to come out 2015. It is set in the 1970s, and it is about a baseball-loving Chinese-American boy who is forced to choose between what he thinks is right and who he loves as he copes with the loss of his brother.