Hi Pen Friends~ Ready for another YA author interview? Today’s guest is the ever-talented Elizabeth Lim, author of SPIN THE DAWN. Check out that cover below. A beauty, huh? And the words inside it have been spun wonderfully too. Now, on to the good stuff!
SP: Hi Elizabeth! Thanks for joining us! Spin the Dawn, came out in July and is getting A LOT of positive attention. People are enamored. And much deserved, I’d say.
Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.
Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of 12 tailors vying for the job.
Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.
And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.
SP: The blurb line “the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars” pretty much sold me on the book 🙂 Can you tell us a bit more about how this idea came about?
EL: The idea behind the dress is inspired by a French fairytale called Donkeyskin, in which a princess asks her father for dresses of the sun, moon, and sky. But there wasn’t ever really much description about the dresses aside from that, and having a background in music, I really wanted to evoke a poetic image whenever I described Amana’s dresses, and also evoke the legend and mythology behind them that I created for the world of Spin the Dawn.
SP: Can you tell us a bit about using Chinese culture in Spin the Dawn’s world & story building?
EL: Spin the Dawn’s world is inspired by Asia during the Silk Road Era, though most of the book takes place in A’landi, which is loosely inspired by China. Maia’s relationship to her family, her respect for her ancestors, her superstitions and fear of demons, for example, are some of the more obvious nods to Chinese culture. But I also wove in references to a few of my favorite Chinese legends, like Chang’e and Houyi and the Cowherd and the Weaver.
SP: How long did your write FanFic and what was something you learned from it?
EL: I probably wrote fanfic for 3-4 years before starting to write my own stories. I’d say I learned voice and dialogue through writing fanfic, because it was a really good exercise trying imitate what characters who are already established in media sound like, and write them into original stories.
SP: In your bio, you mention that a teacher said you had “too much voice” –can you tell us how that is even possible (lol) and what is something you learned about penning a fictional “voice”?
EL: Lol she meant that I was writing my essays like conversations, and I guess that’s a no-no when it comes to academic writing. Regarding penning a fictional voice, I learned to have confidence in my writing, because that’ll show up in your voice.
SP: What was your agent journey like?
EL: I started out writing adult fiction, so I queried my first agent for those manuscripts. But after my adult novel didn’t sell, and editors suggested I write young adult, I took a few years off to rediscover myself as a writer and then I started the querying process again and found my current agent! So my journey was long, but the cold querying process worked for me!
SP: Harvard, Juilliard, Music, composer for film and video games, East Asian Studies, New York, Wife, Mother, AND AUTHOR–you are amazing! Now tell us your secret, how do you balance your time and writing life?
EL: Hah, that’s really kind of you! I’d say the balance keeps changing. When I was in grad school, I had a lot more time to practice my craft as a writer. But now as a new mom, it’s been a lot trickier because the baby comes first so the answer now would be I’m still figuring that balance out! If I were to say I had a “secret” though, it’d be that I’m very disciplined. Even when I wasn’t published, I tried to treat my writing like a job and write almost everyday, whether or not I was inspired to. That sort of routine and mindset has helped me through a lot of tough times.
SP: What is your favorite part about living in New York as a writer?
Most things are within walking distance, and I don’t have to drive (I don’t even have a car!)
SP: Now to lighten things up:
Best recent read? Currently reading Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon and loving it!
Favorite childhood book? Ella Enchanted
Which Star Wars character would you like beside you in a fight? Which one would you just like to spend the day with? Mara Jade, though she’s not part of the Star Wars canon anymore!
SP: Thanks again Elizabeth for joining us! We wish you and all of your books success!
Nova, signing off