Photo credit: Teresa Flowers
I met my friend Jade Chang when she interviewed me for Goodreads. And like everyone who meets her, I was instantly charmed and wanted to be her best friend. A short time later she's taking the literary world by storm with her first novel. Here's what she had to say about it:
Flb: Tell us about The Wangs vs. the World. What were some of your influences?
Jade Chang: Charles Wang is a Chinese immigrant who came to America and built a cosmetics fortune only to lose it all in the summer of 2008. The Wangs vs the World is about what happens to him and his family after that! There's a roadtrip across America and we delve into many different worlds, including fashion, finance, art, and standup comedy. The book really grew from my desire to write a different kind of immigrant story, that wasn't about immigrants or people of color struggling to fit in or who see themselves as outsiders. Instead, the Wangs see themselves as being absolutely central to both their own story and the story of America!
There were a lot of different influences for this book, but three of the major literary influences were White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz, and No Coins Please, a kids book the Gordon Corman that I've recently realized was a big sensibility influence on the Wangs!
Flb: Can you give us a brief history of the book from conception to creation to sale to publication?
JC: I started writing this book when I was working at a luxury magazine in the midst of the recession—a very strange time and place. It took me five years to write. In that time I worked at the magazine, then was laid off and on unemployment for a bit, then freelanced as both a journalist and a marketing copywriter for a while, then took a job as an editor at Goodreads. I was working there when the book sold last April—I actually just left a couple of months ago. And now the book comes out tomorrow!
Flb: What advice would you give to aspiring writers who are trying to get their first book published?
JC" Be ambitious. Write the best book you think you can write. And don't psych yourself out before you even get started—don't tell yourself that no one's going to care about what you have to say. Just make sure you write something worth caring about! Apply that confidence in what you have to your search for an agent. Also, don't be afraid to cold query—that's how I got my agent!
Flb: Where can we get your book?
JC: Anywhere! Go out and support your favorite indie bookstore by buying it there! My local store is Book Soup (www.booksoup.com)—they're amazing! And of course you can get it at Barnes & Noble (where it's a Fall Discover pick) and on Amazon (where it's a Best Books of October pick). And, of course, you can always get it from your public library, too!
Flb: What’s next for you?
JC: I'm about to go out on book tour for the next two months! I'll be at bookstores in LA, SF, NYC, Seattle, and Dallas, and at book festivals in Portland, Austin, DC, and Miami—see my website, www.thewangs.com/events, for details!
Flb: Anything else you’d like to add?
JC: Yes! Though a lot of this book takes place on the road, I do think of it spiritually as being an LA novel. I grew up here and I really love this city now, but growing up I had a lot of adolescent frustration with the city. What turned the tide? Weetzie Bat! I went away to college in freezing cold upstate New York and I remember being in the library one particularly chilly day and finding your book on the shelf. Instead of working on the paper that was probably already late, I read Weetzie from cover to cover and just swooned. The world inside was so gorgeous and wild and broken that I couldn't wait to get back to it. It reminded me of all the things that I really had always loved about LA and named a feeling that I didn't realize was part of this place. Every time I walk through a canyon at dusk, I think of Weetzie Bat. Francesca, thanks so much for helping me rediscover Los Angeles! xox