Blog Tour with Tales of the Lonely Sun: An Interview with Merie Shen

This is my first official blog tour that I’m participating in. I’m so glad I get to be a part of it. I found this team blog, https://talesofthelonelysun.wordpress.com/ , because of Christine Smith’s linkups. Naturally, I had to check out all four bloggers: Carlye Krul, Merie Shen, Jorja Ayres, and Mya Gray

Merie’s post about her novel for NaNo made the decision for me. I knew I wanted to interview her, to know more about her life in Beijing as a writer.  Without further ado. . .

Merie Shen

1. Tell us about yourself. What made you want to write?

My writing journey is kind of cliched– just another person who fell in love with art and decided writing sounded like a good way to tell a story. Of course, there are plenty of details, but I don’t want to start rambling. Let’s just say that Shannon Hale’s Ever After High first got me into writing, and the rest is history. 

2. How did you connect with the other three ladies who host the team blog with you and why did you decide to work together?

Mya was one of the first bloggers I ever encountered… We didn’t get to really know each other until April Camp NaNo 2019, when she and another blogger friend of hers, Carlye, created a writing cabin for the three of us and one of Mya’s online classmates, Jorja. We had a lot of fun chatting and getting to know each other… And then I got the idea to start this blog, around the same time Carlye did. We ended up collaborating 🙂 

3. Is there someone who has influenced you more than others? a favorite author? a family member? a teacher?

A LOT of people have influenced me over the years! Brian Jacques’ Redwall series got me hooked on fantasy, and let’s not forget Shannon Hale’s enchanting fairytale masterpieces. As a kid, I’ve always been fascinated with the animal world, so natural sciences like that also kinda got into my writing… 😉 Though my family don’t influence my writing, per se (except for my long-suffering younger sister, who has to bear with every single story idea I’ve ever had!), they do inspire me to grow as a person in a crazy multicultural world like mine.

4. I loved the idea of your book based in Beijing. And am glad that you’ve decided to represent your own. What are some of the misconceptions you’ve found people to have about you and/or other writers from China?

I’m no longer writing that book currently, but I’m so glad you like the concept! I find that Americans (and other foreigners) expect all Chinese food to be like the food they would eat at Panda Express. Even the TCKs (Third Culture Kids) here cannot stand Panda Express, haha. One of the most common misconceptions about Chinese culture is that we’re all a big red-and-yellow, lantern-lighting, dumpling-eating people. There are like, a zillion minorities and each one has their own unique culture. That includes cuisine. I guess it’s also kind of out fault for mostly representing the Han minority, since we’re the biggest. 😀 

5. To put it another way, are there books that make you cringe because of how they misrepresent you? What are some common things writers get wrong either about your culture, age, gender, or beliefs?

I haven’t really read many books where Asian cultures (besides Japan, because everyone loves ninjas) are represented at all. I tend to shy away from mainstream YA Asian fantasy, because… it’s mainstream YA. I haven’t read contemporaries about Asian people, either, because I read English books and English books are by English-speaking writers. So I really can’t be a reliable source for that information!

6. Do you feel that it’s okay for writers who’ve never lived in China to write their novels set in China? Why or Why not?

I think it’s absolutely fine! If you’ve visited China, you usually can get a feel of the place that you’ve visited; but if not, then you would have to do some very hard research. I mean, with all the varying customs of each province and region, it can be hard to know what you’re doing. But I have never lived in Europe and unashamedly drop some characters there from time to time.

7. What’s it like to be a writer in China? Are there writing groups to join? Or are all your writing friends long distance? What do the people around you think about you being a writer?

I have a friend or two who are MKs (missionary kids) and love to write, though with the life of ministry you move around a lot. A lot of my other writing friends though, yes, they are long distance. I don’t tell many people I love to write, unless they ask, and in that case they’re perfectly fine with that. In fact, Asian cultures are more introverted and they value education and books, so they usually end up impressed when they learn that I love to read. So I don’t tell them I mostly read fiction. xD

8. Do you have any books published yet? What are they? If not yet, do you have an idea when you might get published?

I have not! I hope to someday, though, and I want to be traditionally published (mainly because of how hard it would be to do the self-publishing gig while living here in China). I have no idea when any of my stories will be ready for that, but probably when I’m older. School, I’m afraid, has to be a priority until I graduate from college. Who knows where God will lead me?

9. Is there a book you can recommend to us by another Chinese author, either as just a really good book you like or as an example of how we can be better writers when it comes to representing your culture?

I honestly have no idea! I’ve heard Descendant of the Crane by Joan He is a really good Chinese fantasy, but I haven’t read it yet. I’m just waiting for someone to set a fantasy in a Ha’erbin-inspired setting. Russian fantasy + Chinese fantasy + Dongbei accents = very, very cool. No pun intended.

10. Will you give us a writing prompt?

Um… would you like one? If you want to go through all the trouble of researching Ha’erbin as described above, go for it. I’m not from Dongbei, though, so I’ll be a loyal northern-southern (Korea/Beijing north, Shanghai south!) and maybe you can check that out too, haha.

Ha’erbin, The City of Ice

Thank you, Merie, for answering all my questions! I’m a little bit sad that you’ve put this novel aside because I totally want to read it. But, I am excited to learn about Ha’erbin and definitely want to see a fantasy take place here!

Also, be sure to check out the rest of the tour as follows:

Monday, Dec. 9

Tuesday, Dec. 10

Wednesday, Dec. 11

Thursday, Dec. 12

~ ANNOUNCING SHORT STORY CONTEST WINNER ~

Friday, Dec. 13

Saturday, Dec. 14

Oh and before we go, The Tales of the Lonely Sun have put together a Giveaway! Details are below:

The giveaway runs from December 8 to the 15th and is only in the U.S. and Canada. Sorry, international folks! (Seriously! Merie lives in China.)* This giveaway is not affiliated with or endorsed by Nadine Brandes. (But it is with Mya Gray.)*

ONE WINNER WILL RECEIVE

  • A SIGNED COPY of Hide and Seek by Mya Gray (yes, our very own Mya!)
  • A hardcover copy of Romanov by Nadine Brandes
  • Bookish & TotLS stickers
  • A $10 Amazon gift card
  • Assorted tea bags 

Giveaway link: https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/690be0241/?

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