If you have been following me for a while, you know I’m a huge fan of Gloria Chao. Having fallen in love with American Panda and Our Wayward Fate, I was so excited to host another interview with her all about Rent a Boyfriend. Without further ado, come see my latest obsession and interview!
Rent a Boyfriend
Chloe Wang is nervous to introduce her parents to her boyfriend, because the truth is, she hasn’t met him yet either. She hired him from Rent for Your ’Rents, a company specializing in providing fake boyfriends trained to impress even the most traditional Asian parents.
Drew Chan’s passion is art, but after his parents cut him off for dropping out of college to pursue his dreams, he became a Rent for Your ’Rents employee to keep a roof over his head. Luckily, learning protocols like “Type C parents prefer quiet, kind, zero-PDA gestures” comes naturally to him.
When Chloe rents Drew, the mission is simple: convince her parents fake Drew is worthy of their approval so they’ll stop pressuring her to accept a proposal from Hongbo, the wealthiest (and slimiest) young bachelor in their tight-knit Asian American community.
But when Chloe starts to fall for the real Drew—who, unlike his fake persona, is definitely not ’rent-worthy—her carefully curated life begins to unravel. Can she figure out what she wants before she loses everything?
How was the writing process for Rent a Boyfriend? It’s your third book, did you discover anything different about your process or plotting for this junior novel?
As I’m currently writing something new, I remember Rent a Boyfriend and Our Wayward Fate’s drafting process going so much easier than right now. But then my husband and friends remind me that I did not have as easy of a time drafting as I remember. Apparently, I tend to block out the pain and only remember the fun parts of drafting a new manuscript.
One thing I’ve discovered is that the process of drafting each book has been very different. Our Wayward Fate and Rent a Boyfriend were fairly plot-driven, with more of the plot points outlined before I started drafting. For each upcoming chapter, I knew what had to happen. For American Panda and my current WIP, the defined plot points are vague. There are so many ways of getting from Point A to B that it takes a little longer for me to figure out what will happen in the next chapter.
In Rent a Boyfriend, Chloe is faced with the choice between living for her parents and for herself. Can you talk about why you felt compelled to write about this dilemma for Chloe?
This is a difficult choice I have struggled with many times, most recently when I switched careers from dentist to writer. I frequently explore this tension in my stories partly because it helps me grapple with my own struggles and partly because it’s an interesting part of life that almost everyone experiences on some level.
How did Chloe first appear to you in your mind?
Drew’s voice actually came to me first and is closer to my own voice. Chloe took a little longer to find. She has to balance being a feminist and fighter who goes for what she wants while also loving her parents and maintaining a relationship with them. I relate to that struggle, and I also relate to Chloe’s anxiety—the kind that keeps her up at night stressing and reliving past embarrassments (like the time she couldn’t decide between saying “lovely chatting” or “see you” to a cute guy and instead said “love you”).
If Chloe and Drew were Taiwanese foods, which would they be?
This is such a cute question! They could be fish balls because on their first date over a hot pot dinner, they express their feelings for each other as metaphors, talking about how “it’s different when it’s right” and how you need to find the right kind of fish ball. Chloe and Drew also have a lot of inside jokes revolving around mooncakes (saying “mooncake points” instead of “brownie points” or “that takes the (moon)cake!”) and the first time they bond is while sharing mooncakes at midnight. I’m thrilled that there are little mooncakes for the section breaks and pictured on the jacket flap!
Fear of failure was a hugely relatable theme in Rent a Boyfriend. Can you talk more about Drew and your characterization of him? I didn’t predict how much I would fall in love with him!
I drew (pun intended) a lot from my own experiences switching careers for Drew’s backstory. Drew Chan is an aspiring artist who drops out of college to pursue his artist dreams and is cut off from his family for that decision. I surprised myself while writing his story, with old unconfronted feelings sneaking up, ones I had thought I’d dealt with but hadn’t. The things that Drew’s family says to him about being a failure are unfortunately things I also dealt with. Drew’s fear to fully go for his dream even after he made steps toward pursuing it was also an obstacle for me, and I didn’t think of myself as a writer or talk openly about it for the first few years after I switched.
Was Rent a Boyfriend always named that?
Yes, I was lucky that this title came to me pretty quickly and stuck! It’s rare for books to retain the titles they start out with, but I’ve been lucky in that American Panda and Rent a Boyfriend remained the same through the publication process! (Our Wayward Fate began and sold as Misaligned.) With Rent a Boyfriend, I was hoping for a fun, short title that tells you exactly what the book is about.
Did Chloe or Drew go through any major character changes through the drafts?
Interestingly enough, there weren’t any significant changes to character or plot through the drafts. Rent a Boyfriend was on a very tight deadline, and I drafted it in two months and revised it over 1.5 months with my editor (which, for the record, is 2x faster than Our Wayward Fate!). The biggest change in the story was that during revisions with my editor, we intersected Chloe and Drew’s stories more, making them have a bigger impact on each other. I think the story is much stronger because of that!
Find Rent a Boyfriend on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, Bookshop.org & The Book Depository.
About the Author
Her wayward journey to fiction included studying business at MIT, then becoming a dentist. Gloria was once a black belt in kung-fu and an avid dancer, but nowadays you can find her teaming up with her husband on the curling ice.
AMERICAN PANDA received four starred trade reviews, is a Junior Library Guild Selection and Indie’s Next Pick, and is a Seventeen Magazine, Bustle, PopSugar, Chicago Public Library, and Paste Magazine Best YA Book of 2018.