Please welcome Yangsze Choo to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge
Interviews. The Ghost Bride
was published on August 6th and is an Oprah.com’s Book of the Week, an Indie Next List pick, a Barnes & Noble Fall ‘13 Discover Great New Writers selection, and more!
The Ghost BrideThe Ghost Bride
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?
Yangsze: I think the first thing I wrote was a diary, probably when I was about 6 or 7 years old. It’s full of misspellings and is mostly concerned with things like our neighbor’s dog (I wanted one desperately) and what we had for dinner. But in some ways, I think this is what writing is at its most basic - making observations, and spinning stories to explain the world.
TQ: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Yangsze: I spent part of my childhood in Japan and to this day, I prefer to write at a low table, sitting on the floor.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Yangsze: Pants! Pants! When things are going well, it makes writing very fun as I feel like I’m experiencing the story as it’s occurring. But when I get stuck, it’s very sad.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Yangsze: Finding quiet time to write, and doing it consistently. There are so many distractions to writing and it’s far too easy to spend time doing things like watching cooking videos on Youtube and googling Korean celebrities.
TQ: Describe The Ghost Bride in 140 characters or less.
Yangsze: In 1890s colonial Malaya, a young Chinese woman receives a marriage proposal for the son of a wealthy family. The only problem is, he's dead.
TQ: What inspired you to write The Ghost Bride?
Yangsze: I was doing research in the archives of our local Malaysian newspaper for another novel I was working on, when I found a brief mention of spirit marriages that offhandedly declared them “increasingly rare.” This was so intriguing that I ended up abandoning my first book to write this one instead.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for The Ghost Bride?
Yangsze: My dad collected a lot of old books and British traveler’s tales about Malaya. I remember poring over them on long, hot afternoons when I’d run out of reading material, never guessing that years later, they would serve as the basis for a novel. The archives of our local Malaysian newspaper were also helpful, as well as Harvard’s Widener and Yenching libraries, which were a trove of out-of-print books. I also heard many odd stories about ghosts from my family and friends in Malaysia, some of which gave me lifelong phobias such as avoiding banana trees at night!
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Yangsze: The cook, Old Wong, who is a grumpy old Chinese man, was very easy to write. Actually, so was Amah, the grumpy old Chinese nanny. I think I must have internalized such voices from my childhood, because if I close my eyes I can immediately imagine someone telling me to go and wash my face or make my bed.
The hardest character to write was Tian Bai, Li Lan’s first love interest. According to the conventions of the time, she would have hardly known him. I imagined in real life, they would have these stilted, awkward conversations, yet I had to try to make them interesting enough for a reader to follow along.
TQ: Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in The Ghost Bride?
Yangsze: The chase scene in the Plains of the Dead, the Chinese afterlife which is made up of burned paper offerings. I really enjoyed writing it, and later reading it for the audio book!
TQ: What's next?
Yangsze: I’m working on another novel about man-eating tigers, but it’s still quite nascent and it’s hard to say whether it will work out yet...
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Yangsze: It’s been a pleasure!
William Morrow Books, August 6, 2013
Hardcover and eBook, 368 pages
A startlingly original voice makes her literary debut with this wondrous coming-of-age story infused with Chinese folklore, romantic intrigue, adventure, and fascinating, dreamlike twistsAbout Yangsze
One evening, my father asked me whether I would like to become a ghost bride. . . .
Though ruled by British overlords, the Chinese of colonial Malaya still cling to ancient customs. And in the sleepy port town of Malacca, ghosts and superstitions abound.
Li Lan, the daughter of a genteel but bankrupt family, has few prospects. But fate intervenes when she receives an unusual proposal from the wealthy and powerful Lim family. They want her to become a ghost bride for the family's only son, who recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, traditional ghost marriages are used to placate restless spirits. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at a terrible price.
After an ominous visit to the opulent Lim mansion, Li Lan finds herself haunted not only by her ghostly would-be suitor, but also by her desire for the Lims' handsome new heir, Tian Bai. Night after night, she is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, with its ghost cities, paper funeral offerings, vengeful spirits, and monstrous bureaucracy—including the mysterious Er Lang, a charming but unpredictable guardian spirit. Li Lan must uncover the Lim family's darkest secrets—and the truth about her own family—before she is trapped in this ghostly world forever.
Malaysian writer Yangsze Choo’s debut novel, The Ghost Bride
, is Oprah.com’s Book of the Week, an Indie Next List pick, Barnes & Noble Fall ‘13 Discover Great New Writers selection, Glamour Magazine Beach Read, and a Good Housekeeping August Book Pick. Set in 1890s colonial Malaya and the elaborate Chinese afterlife, with its ghost cities and burned paper offerings, it’s about a young woman who receives a marriage proposal from a dead man. Yangsze eats and reads too much and can often be found doing both at her blog http://yschoo.comWebsite