Author Interviews

Interview with Mimi Yu

I know so many of you are excited about The Girl King by Mimi Yu so I reached out and wanted to see if I could host an interview. And the answer was yes! I supposed that’s obvious since you’re even reading this post. But now I’ll turn it over to Mimi!

The Girl King

Sisters Lu and Min have always understood their places as princesses of the Empire. Lu knows she is destined to become the dynasty’s first female ruler, while Min is resigned to a life in her shadow. Then their father declares their male cousin Set the heir instead—a betrayal that sends the sisters down two very different paths.

Determined to reclaim her birthright, Lu goes on the run. She needs an ally—and an army—if she is to succeed. Her quest leads her to Nokhai, the last surviving wolf shapeshifter. Nok wants to keep his identity secret, but finds himself forced into an uneasy alliance with the girl whose family killed everyone he ever loved…

Alone in the volatile court, Min’s hidden power awakens—a forbidden, deadly magic that could secure Set’s reign…or allow Min to claim the throne herself. But there can only be one Emperor, and the sisters’ greatest enemy could turn out to be each other.

Find The Girl King on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound & The Book Depository.

The relationship of Lu and Min is incredibly important in the book, can you talk about your inspiration for writing these characters and their relationship?

I didn’t actually set out to write a central sibling relationship, and it surprised me when I did! I have a much older brother, but we didn’t grow up together, and I have no sisters. But you know, you’re always fascinated by what you don’t have, right? Growing up, I was very close with a pair of sisters. One was a year older than me, and one a year younger. Whenever the three of us hung out they would sort of compete with each other over me, compete over who was my better friend. Once, the two of them were bickering horribly, just all day, sniping back and forth. Finally I said: could you guys get it together? It’s not really fun for me to be here with you two fighting. And they just turned on me as one and were like “well, you can just go home, then.” I’d seen these girls get into physical brawls. But they were also an in-group, their animus for each other was still something that only belonged to them, and it gave them this deep, ferocious bond. I didn’t understand it until I saw it. I thought about that moment a lot while writing this book.

Can you talk about your trajectory to becoming a writer? Did you always know you wanted to write? And how did the idea for The Girl King come about?

When I was a little kid I wanted to be a veterinarian who was also a writer. Now I’m a writer who lives with five cats and a dog, so you know, I wasn’t too far off the mark!
The very first germ of The Girl King sprung into being when I was actually a very bored teenager, daydreaming in math class. It didn’t look like much of anything at the time. The only solid idea at that time was that there was a princess, and a shape-shifting boy living behind enemy lines in her country, and that they would meet in the thick of a forest and emerge as allies. The characters stayed with me over time, growing and changing, until I reached a point where I was ready to commit to the story. And that scene in the forest was actually the first one I wrote!

Growing up can you talk about some books that were influential? And how you came across them? Were there any that, as a teen or young adult, made you feel seen and represented?

My mother was really big on the public library, and starting from when I was very young, she would check me out books of every stripe–mystery, fantasy, biography–by the dozens. Maybe as a result, I didn’t have a strong sense of genre, but I definitely gravitated toward sci-fi/ fantasy as I got older. Some of the books I most loved as a teenager were AnimorphsLes Misérables, the Star Wars extended universe novels, Tuck Everlasting, The Last Unicorn, various Lois Duncan novels from the 80s like Third Eye, Madeleine L’Engle’s Many Waters, and I also read Game Of Thrones way too young and it changed me indelibly in ways that are both good and bad.
Back then we didn’t have awesome book bloggers like you, so it was harder to have a broad sense of what was available. Honestly, for most of my childhood I picked books based primarily on their covers! And if my older brother didn’t buy them for me, or they weren’t available through the Scholastic Book Club, or stocked in my library or classroom, or didn’t happen to be in the overstock bin at the grocery store–this last one is how I found the first Harry Potter–I likely didn’t know about them. This started to change only when I was late in high school and I joined Livejournal.
Regarding representation, literally the only Asian-American main character around when I was a kid that I can think of off the top of my head was Claudia from The Babysitters Club. And actually, my mom didn’t allow me to read that series because she had decided, rather arbitrarily, that it lacked literary merit. I did end up reading a few of them, and I saw the movie (I feel like if you weren’t born between 1984 and 1988 you absolutely wouldn’t remember the movie), but I always identified with Kristy (short, kinda bossy, tomboy). I think I always slightly resented poor Claudia, actually, because my white friends would always try to make me “be” her when playing. That was probably a little bit internalized racism on my part–not wanting to be the “Asian one” because I had the sense of “Asian” as being lesser–but also just not wanting to have to be the “Asian one” because there was literally only one Asian one, and she was nothing like me! Recently and very rapidly we’re starting to see more Asian characters in YA fiction, and that’s something I wanted to contribute to with The Girl King, which is full of Asians who all want, love, and do different things!

How has the process of writing your second book differed from writing your first?

I would say I went into it thinking I would be better organized, only to be humiliated and defeated by my own stubborn, weird brain and bad habits. By nature I’m a pantser, not a planner, and I tried really hard to become a planner! I made a very detailed outline and everything. I like to think it helped a little bit, but I hope my next book will be the one where I learn to work with my natural inclinations, rather than against them. Third time’s the charm!

Discussion

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