Monday, April 20, 2020

Jennie Liu

Jennie Liu is the daughter of Chinese immigrants. Having been brought up with an ear to two cultures, she has been fascinated by the attitudes, social policies, and changes in China each time she visits. She lives in Western North Carolina with her husband and two young sons.

Liu's 2018 novel is Girls on the Line.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I had a working title, Aging Out, that I wasn’t crazy about, but it essentially summed up that this was a novel about girls aging out of an orphanage. When an editor mentioned she didn’t like the title much either, my agent and I tossed ideas back and forth for a couple of weeks. She came up with On the Line, which I loved for the double entendre of the moral-socio-emotional lines that challenge the girls and the factory line where they go to work. I added Girls, and it wasn’t until the book came out, during an interview, that I remembered I had been reading other suspense novels, Girl on the Train and Gone Girl just before I had started writing. I suppose the word girl had lodged into my brain.

What's in a name?

In China, a person’s name is usually well thought, chosen for providential meaning. I chose my characters’ names randomly since the novel is about people who are pushed to the margins.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your new novel?

My teenage self would be so surprised that I have actually written a complete novel! I had a stab at writing when I was about seven years old, a story about a mouse, but when I showed it to my older sister, her lukewarm response, “Keep trying,” pat, pat, made me give it all up for the next twenty years or so.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings?

Beginning a novel is like jumping off a cliff. First there’s that big climb to come up with a good story idea, and then to have to sit down and turn that germ of an idea into a living, breathing scene—makes my stomach turn just thinking about it.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

There are two mains in Girls on the Line, both of whom are relatable to me. Luli is a watcher, more introverted, which is like me most of the time. But I have been impulsive and reckless like Yun, though luckily without terrible consequences.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

News reports and photojournalist imagery have most influenced the writing of this novel. I really wanted to portray the grittiness and industrial-grade resilience of these girls. And of course my cultural upbringing, which has everything to do with the personality and resilience of the Chinese characters.
Visit Jennie Liu's website.

My Book, The Movie: Girls on the Line.

Writers Read: Jennie Liu (November 2018).

The Page 69 Test: Girls on the Line.

--Marshal Zeringue