Saturday, June 6, 2020

Lindsay Wong

Lindsay Wong is the author of the bestselling, award-winning memoir The Woo-Woo: How I Survived Ice Hockey, Drug-Raids, Demons, and My Crazy Chinese Family. She has a BFA in creative writing from the University of British Columbia and MFA in literary nonfiction from Columbia University, and she is now based in Vancouver, Canada.

My Summer of Love and Misfortune is Wong's first YA novel.

My Q&A with the author:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

My Summer of Love and Misfortune is a fantastic title that Jennifer Ung and the team at Simon Pulse came up with for the manuscript. It’s lively and fun and immediately captures what the book is about--a light-hearted escapist summer beach read about a girl who has horrible luck with falling for bad boys and general misfortune because of her terrible life choices. The previous title was The Summer I Learned Chinese, which is also great, but the team agreed that it was a title for a quieter book.
My Summer of Love and Misfortune essentially portrays the time-period in almost every young person’s life, where they go through a period of change and growth, and learn a little something about themselves and whether the relationships in their lives benefit or hurt them. Iris gets cheated on, dumped, and finds out her best friend is not really her best friend, but she learns to stop hating herself in the process.

What's in a name?

The book was a collaboration and Iris Wang was the name given to me by my editor, and I think it’s perfect. Iris is also the name of a flower, and like her perennial namesake, Iris is flower-hearted, which means in Chinese culture, she’s always falling in love. She’s someone who follows her emotions, which makes her impulsive, reckless, and selfish at times. She wants to do well by others, but she doesn’t really know how or have the right influences in her life to help her. So what ensues for Iris, is making a lot of humiliating mistakes and feeling deep shame for who she is as a failure of a person. This is why she shops nonstop and has difficulty facing the consequences of her actions.

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

My teenage self would be proud and stunned that I had managed to write a book. Teenage Lindsay was a very serious, very angry person who didn’t think that she could be successful at anything, let alone living. There were several moments that I wanted to drop out of high school and I found academics to be very hard. I think my teen reader self would be shocked that this novel is light-hearted and entertaining. True story: when I took a career test in tenth grade, I scored Mortician as one of my top three choices for post-graduation life. That’s how fun I was in high school.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

I must be a weird one, since I actually enjoy writing beginnings and endings. It’s the middle that terrifies me the most because you have to do so much more work. I usually know where a story is going to end up when I start writing it, but I find that the middle is like trying to stuff a Thanksgiving turkey and trying to figure out where everything goes. It just doesn’t always work for me, and it sometimes comes out raw and undercooked. But that’s okay. I am still learning from every book as a writer, and I’m grateful to be able to experiment. I kind of wish someone would write the middle of my book for me!

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

In many ways, Iris Wang and I are both absurd characters. We’re both imperfect, very flawed individuals, and bad drivers. I did crash my parents’ new car through the garage door once and knocked off the side mirrors and it was such an expensive mistake. Iris certainly shops more than me (I’m a broke millennial) but I did spend money a little recklessly when I was a teenager and had my parents’ credit cards. Iris and I both own a lot of clothes and makeup that we haven’t worn, and we don’t always trust in our own abilities.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

Food definitely inspires and influences me. Whenever I’m at a restaurant or cafe, I always think about what each character would order and what their particular choice says about them. Do they want an extra large taro bubble tea with cream cheese frosting and a tray of decadent New York cheesecake or do they order a small unsweetened organic green tea? Food really tells me about who a person is, and what their personality is like. Rare steak or iceberg salad with no dressing? Second and third and possibly fourth helpings? Or does a character not like food in general? I love reading restaurant menus.
Visit Lindsay Wong's website.

--Marshal Zeringue