Hello and thank you for this opportunity to share my experiences with everyone.
What can you tell us about The Tale of Yin?
The Tale of Yin is basically a duology of Oysters, Pearls & Magic and The Path of Kindness, two novelettes that were first web serials before becoming ebooks. The story follows Mirra and then her daughter as they grow up on an Earth-like colony in the distant future. This world has magic based on the elements – Mirra, the protagonist of Oysters, Pearls & Magic, is forbidden to use hers as magic is basically the purview of men. She leaves her village and sets off on a journey to find herself. In the end, she finds nourishing love with two people, Josh and Aura. Kindness, Mirra’s daughter, walks a similar path like her mother, but her path is one filled with harshness.
You describe it as feminist YA. What are some of the ways you create feminist characters?
It is basically feminist YA, because women have agency in the story. Women are center-stage. Also it is feminist YA because the story examines the role of gender and what’s male, what’s female, what relationships are formed. The social norms in the world are interesting in that they also involve poly relationships and accept singlehood as a valid path.
Some ways I create feminist characters:
- Female agency: Have women play key roles in the story.
- Female strength: A strong woman needs not be a warrior woman all the time. Have your female characters take the roles of mothers, wives, sisters, teachers, nurses etc.
- Challenge gender roles: Gender is a construct. Challenge that construct.
I was thrilled to find a page on your blog called “Asian Steampunk”. I’m familiar with steampunk based in Victorian England, but I hadn’t run across any Asian steampunk until I started exploring your website. Tell us about this genre!
There is a growing interest in non-Victorian England steampunk, especially with diverse characters and backgrounds. So far the focus has been on Victorian England which is fine and dandy, but there is also a lot of baggage that comes with Victorian England (“Empire!”), especially for people who hailed from countries formerly colonized by Britain. So, there is a need to explore and create other forms of steampunk.
THE SEA IS OURS is an anthology edited by Jaymee Goh and me. It focuses on non-Victorian England steampunk and most importantly, it focuses on authors who are also Southeast Asians or are of Southeast Asian descent. You can find more details here.
How do you manage storylines across a trilogy of books? Do you ever find the story changing as you write?
I let the story flow and follow my instincts. I am not much a planner (though I do have a rough framework on how the story should go), but sometimes, the characters do speak up and change the story, so to speak.
For my urban fantasy trilogy/series, the story changes as the characters also change and grow. Characters are not static. They are not made of cardboard. So, no matter what plans you have for the characters, be prepared for changes. Of course, your mileage might vary.
What’s your favorite thing about SFF? How about fantasy?
I think SFF gives us the opportunity to dream about the future and imagine the kind of the future we would have to see. The same goes for fantasy: my kind of fantasy is inclusive and diverse.
Who should we be reading?
So many authors, so little time. I hate making lists (I tend to miss people out!).
1. Aliette de Bodard.
2. Zen Cho.
3. Victor Ocampo.
4. Jaymee Goh.
Read, too, THE SEA IS OURS. A lot of new SFF authors and writers from Southeast Asia!
You can explore more of Joyce Chng's writing on her website! Keep up with her on Twitter and Facebook, too.
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