Intricate Garments, Multiple Endings, and Even Sailor Moon: Q&A with Elizabeth Lim

Hello Readers & Writers,

Today I’ll be featuring Elizabeth Lim and her novel Spin the Dawn, releasing in July 2019 from Knopf. If you’re looking for an East-Asian fantasy filled with mythology and an incredible heroine, don’t click away. I am beyond thrilled to be showing off the very recent (as in yesterday) released cover!

Before we dive in, here’s the gorgeous cover and blurb of Spin the Dawn!

36683928This sweeping fantasy duology, steeped in Chinese culture, will entice fans of Sarah J. Maas.

When her ailing father is summoned to compete to become the Emperor’s tailor, 17-year-old Maia Tamarin dresses as a boy and goes in his stead. At the palace, Maia competes with twelve other tailors to win the job. While deceit and sabotage among the tailors complicate the task and a budding romance with the court magician, Edan, threatens to expose her secret, Maia emerges victorious.

Or so she thinks. The recent treaty between her nation and a rebel warlord is precarious, and the Emperor’s marriage to the warlord’s daughter, Lady Sarnai, is the only thing keeping the peace. However, Lady Sarnai demands three magical dresses — one made from the laughter of the sun, one from the tears of the moon, and one from the blood of stars — before she can marry the Emperor. With the fate of their country at stake, Maia and Edan embark on a quest along a reimagined silk road in search of the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Goodreads/Preorder Here

  1. Thanks so much for joining me Elizabeth! I am beyond excited to have you and talk about Spin the Dawn. Let’s start with how does it feel knowing that this book will be out in the world next year?

Elizabeth: Thank you so much, Megan! I’m excited to be a part of your blog and talk about Spin the Dawn. Honestly, part of me is still in awe that Spin the Dawn comes out next year! The deal was announced in November 2017, so I’ve had a long time to anticipate its release, but every time I think about it I’m still nervous, excited, worried, and ecstatic all at once!

  1. What is a major theme that you explore in your book?

Elizabeth: Family is a major theme in Spin the Dawn. Maia embarks on her quest to disguise herself as a boy and compete to become the imperial tailor in part to save her father. Breaking the glass ceiling is another theme; the other reason Maia enters the competition is because she wants to prove that she’s an amazing tailor and being a girl is no impediment to her talent.

  1. Lady Sarnai demands a dress made out of the laughter of the sun, one from the tears of the moon, and one from the blood of stars. If you could have an outfit crafted from anything in the universe, what would it be?

Elizabeth: Hmmm…I’ll go with an outfit crafted from film of my favorite memories. Extra points if they can play all at once.

  1. How are you and Maia similar – if at all? How are you different?

Elizabeth: Maia and I are both very serious about our crafts: hers, tailoring, and mine, writing. We are also family oriented, and total introverts. I like to think of her as a fellow INFJ. We’re different because Maia’s a lot less of a worrywart than I am, and she’s much more of a risk-taker.

  1. Describe your book in three words.

Elizabeth: Enchantment. Journey. Lies.

  1. What was your favorite part about writing Spin the Dawn?

Elizabeth: My favorite part was incorporating allusions to fairytales. The most obvious ones are to East of the Sun, Donkeyskin, and the Chinese legend The Cowherd and the Weaver. I also loved creating new mythology for the world, and writing romance. I love romance.

  1. If you were a character in your Maia’s world, who do you think you’d be?

Elizabeth: Realistically, I’d probably be a zither teacher in Gangsun. But if I could choose anyone, I wouldn’t mind being a chef for the emperor with some magic spices.

  1. I read in your bio that you wrote Sailor Moon fanfic? Who was your favorite character?

Elizabeth: Ahh! I had a soft spot for Rini (the pink hair!), and Sailor Neptune because she was so awesome at the violin. But I think my favorite’s Sailor Mars – always loved her fire and her fierce loyalty to Sailor Moon J

  1. Do you have any fun facts about yourself or about your book that you would like to share?

Elizabeth: Me? I used to be a film and video game composer before becoming a writer. I also used to be a serious hoarder when I was really young: trading cards, pogs, beanie babies, Happy Meal toys…you name it, I probably collected it.

About SPIN THE DAWN: I rewrote the ending multiple times. It was the most difficult part of the book because it just didn’t feel right, but my agent Gina came to the rescue with some ideas, and what’s in the book now feels perfect to me. Without spoiling anything, the original ending inspired the beginning of the sequel…

About the Author

Elizabeth Lim grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she was raised on a hearty diet of fairy tales, myths, and songs. Before becoming an author, Elizabeth was a professional film and video game composer, and she still tends to come up with her best book ideas when writing near a piano. An alumna of Harvard College and the Juilliard School, she now lives in New York City with her husband and their daughter. She is also the author of Reflection: A Twisted Tale, published by Disney Press.

Please don’t hesitate and preorder this book asap. I know that’s what I’ll be doing. And once again, a huge thank you to Elizabeth for joining me.

For The Readers Who Need This Book and The Cheesiest Joke of All Time: A Q&A with Mason Deaver

Happy Monday Readers & Writers,

Today I’ll be featuring Mason Deaver and their novel I Wish You All The Best, releasing in May 2019 from Scholastic. If you’re looking for enby rep and the sweetest characters to ever exist, this is the book for you.

Before we jump into the interview, here’s what you need to know about I Wish You All The Best.


When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.

But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.

At turns heartbreaking and joyous, I Wish You All the Best is both a celebration of life, friendship, and love, and a shining example of hope in the face of adversity.

Amazon / IndieboundGoodreads

  1. Before we begin, I just wanted to say thank you so much Mason for taking time to speak with me! I’m so ready for I Wish You All The Best to be out in the world. How does it feel knowing readers everywhere will be able to follow Ben’s and Nathan’s story?

Mason: It’s actually a very scary feeling, but in the best way possible if that makes any sense at all? I Wish You All the Best might be the most ‘me’ book I’ll ever write. I put a lot of my own self in this story, and in Ben. Ben is my anxiety, my depression, my feelings towards my own gender.

Because of that’s it’s almost like people have the ability to buy or check out my diary. But I’ve already heard from so many that it’s a story that touched them and helped them come to terms with their own feelings towards their gender. So it’s an incredibly scary idea, but in a way, it’s incredibly exciting.

  1. What is your writing process like and did I Wish You All The Best challenge that in any way?

Mason: Complicated. I Wish You All the Best is actually the first book I started and finished. Which is rare for most authors it seems. So actually, writing I Wish You All the Best was just as much an experiment in discovering how I write.

Which is something I immediately switched up for the projects I’m currently writing. I Wish You All the Best was pantsed (in that I hardly plotted any of it) but everything else I’ve written since has very much been plotted out. I guess it was just a fluke?

  1. Give me some songs that fit your book and/or your characters.

Mason: Oh, this is a good one.

Ben is 100% Hard Times by Paramore

Nathan is probably Rose-Colored Boy

In writing I’ve actually realized that specific albums very much apply to the stories I’m writing. So actually, if I had to pick an entire album to represent I Wish You All the Best, it’s definitely After Laughter as you can tell. My other secret-project-albums have been Melodrama and The Steven Universe soundtrack.

  1. Describe your book in three words.

Mason: Lots. Of. Gay.

  1. What do you hope readers take away from I Wish You All The Best?

Mason: I’ve actually thought about this a lot, or non-binary, genderqueer, or trans readers, I really hope this book helps them feel less alone. I would’ve killed to have a book like this when things didn’t make sense to me, so I hope that in a way, I can help them through some of the things they’re going through.

  1. What’s one cheesy joke Nathan would tell Ben that would make them smile? I know there are probably hundreds.

Nathan: What did the scarecrow get a gold medal for?
Ben: I don’t know, what?
Nathan: He was out standing in his field!

  1. If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?

Mason: That it’s okay to be confused, and to change your labels. Deciding something that fits you now doesn’t mean it has to be permanent. People change, and so do labels.

  1. Are there any fun facts that you could tell us about yourself or your book?

Mason: Well, something about the book is that it actually started as college romance between two boys, and it was definitely more new adult than YA. But, obviously, it’s changed a lot. Though the names Ben and Nathan have always been there. I have no fun facts about myself haha!

  1. What kinds of stories do you hope to write in the future?

Mason: I want to write more stories about trans and non-binary kids and teens. To me, it’s very obvious that there’s a lack of trans and enby stories out there in the world, especially for younger readers, which can be the most formative years for trans kids.

I just want to fill the shelves with trans books.

About The Author

Mason Deaver is a non-binary author who lives in Charlotte, NC, where the word ‘y’all’ is used in abundance. Typically, they’re writing incredibly queer stories, but when they decide to take a break, they love gardening and baking.

‘I Wish You All the Best’ is their debut novel.

Twitter / Website 



Please preorder and support Mason’s important book. You won’t be disappointed ❤ And once again, a huge thank you to Mason for joining me!


Blackholes, An Alien Apocalypse, and Learning to Cope: Q&A with Laura Pohl

Hello Readers & Writers,

Today I’ll be featuring Laura Pohl and her novel The Last 8, releasing in March 2019 from Sourcebooks Fire. If you’re looking for a diverse cast of characters surviving an alien apocalypse, then this is the book for you.

Before we jump into the interview, here’s what you need to know about The Last 8.

36349389A high-stakes survival story about eight teenagers who outlive an alien attack—perfect for fans of The 5th Wave 

Clover Martinez has always been a survivor, which is the only reason she isn’t among the dead when aliens invade and destroy Earth as she knows it.

When Clover hears an inexplicable radio message, she’s shocked to learn there are other survivors—and that they’re all at the former Area 51. When she arrives, she’s greeted by a band of misfits who call themselves The Last Teenagers on Earth.

Only they aren’t the ragtag group of heroes Clover was expecting. The group seems more interested in hiding than fighting back, and Clover starts to wonder if she was better off alone. But then she finds a hidden spaceship, and she doesn’t know what to believe…or who to trust.

Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Goodreads / Indiebound 

1. I want to start off by saying thank you so much Laura for agreeing to sit down and chat with me! I’m very excited to have you and learn some more about your work. How does it feel to know The Last 8 will be on shelves early next year?

Laura: Surreal! I started this book not knowing if it would ever find any readers, and now it’ll be on the shelves and being picked up by people other than friends and my mom. It feels great.

2. From your bio, you used to write fanfiction. I did as well. Do you have a favorite fanfic you created or would you rather it remain hidden in the abyss of the internet?

Laura: Hah, I have so many different fanfictions I created throughout the years, though most of them are in Portuguese. I used to be a huge fanfic writer for the Percy Jackson fandom, but I mostly leaned toward nonsense and comedy. I still write fanfic sometimes as a way to blow off steam and work on something where there’s no pressure.

3. What was the writing process for The Last 8 like? Did you hit any bumps that took you a while to get over?

Laura: I’m usually a planner, so The Last 8 process was a bit different for me because I didn’t plan anything ahead at all. All I knew is that I wanted a team of survivors who’d bring different skills to the team, and I went from there. I was pantsing the whole time, so it was different but good. I had to rewrite it three times, but I didn’t have any particular bumps on the narrative.

4. Out of all of the ways to end the world, why did you choose an Alien invasion?

Laura: I’ve always loved movies about aliens, and I loved Independence Day as a kid. I think you can write a good parallel between humans & aliens, and that’s why I always thought it was such an interesting take.

5. Describe your book in three words.

Laura: Epic. Funny. Wholesome.

6. What’s one of your favorite elements of The Last 8?

Laura: The ensemble cast. I think it was one of the most fun parts to write, a bunch of unruly teens who survived the end of the world. Each person brings a different thing to the group, and writing their interactions and friendship was one of the best parts of writing the book. Also, Sputnik the dog. We don’t get to see that many dogs in SFF, so it was fun writing about a dog who survives the alien apocalypse.

7. What do you hope readers take away from your book?

Laura: Clover’s journey to survive the apocalypse take her into a dark path—a lot of The Last 8 is about learning how to live with PTSD and depression. I hope that readers see her journey and feel less alone, and that sometimes just surviving is more than enough.

8. Is there a character you relate most to and why?

Laura: I think I started out relating to Clover as the main character—her decision making process through thought and logic is very close to me—but I’d be lying if I didn’t say Brooklyn. Brooklyn talks too much and loves conspiracy theories, and she’s always the one making jokes.

9. You’re waking up the day after an apocalypse. What are three things you’d want to have on hand?

Laura: Huh, depends on what kind of apocalypse, zombie and alien ones can be wildly different. In general, I’d say, water, a weapon of choice, food. It sounds boring, but I think that’s pretty much what you need to survive from the start.

10. Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

Laura: As a child, I was scared of blackholes. All the other kids in my class were afraid of things like monsters under the bed, the boogeyman or werewolves, but I was just plain scared of the sun blowing up and sucking the Earth.

About the Author

DSC_0637Laura Pohl is a Brazilian YA author. She likes writing messages in caps lock, quoting Hamilton and obsessing about Star Wars. When not taking pictures of her dog, she can be found curled up with a fantasy or science-fiction book. She makes her home in São Paulo, where she graduated in Literature.

She is the author of THE LAST 8 (Sourcebooks, 2019). When not writing, she likes reading science fiction and fantasy, and enjoys deep discussions about conspiracy theories and alien life. Learn more about her on her website, and make sure to follow her on twitterinstagram, and pinterest.


I don’t know about you readers, but I’m ready to dive into this book. Keep an eye on my blog for more interviews and be sure to preorder The Last 8!



Sisterhood, Multiple POVS, and How Cool Phoenixes Are: Q&A with Nicki Pau Preto

Hello Readers & Writers,

I have another author on the blog today and that is Nicki Pau Preto! Her book Crown of Feathers will be out in this world in February 2019 from Simon Pulse. This book not only has phoenixes and warriors, but a strong theme of sisterhood.

Before we jump into the interview, here’s what you need to know about the book.

35715518I had a sister, once…

In a world ruled by fierce warrior queens, a grand empire was built upon the backs of Phoenix Riders—legendary heroes who soared through the sky on wings of fire—until a war between two sisters ripped it all apart.

I promised her the throne would not come between us.

Sixteen years later, Veronyka is a war orphan who dreams of becoming a Phoenix Rider from the stories of old. After a shocking betrayal from her controlling sister, Veronyka strikes out alone to find the Riders—even if that means disguising herself as a boy to join their ranks.

But it is a fact of life that one must kill or be killed. Rule or be ruled.

Just as Veronyka finally feels like she belongs, her sister turns up and reveals a tangled web of lies between them that will change everything. And meanwhile, the new empire has learned of the Riders’ return and intends to destroy them once and for all.

Sometimes the title of queen is given. Sometimes it must be taken.


  1. I want to start off by thanking you for joining me on the blog, Nicki. I am beyond excited for Crown of Feathers and want to ask, how do you feel knowing your book will be out in the world in a few short months?

Nicki: You are so welcome! I am honestly still in a state of shock. Every new milestone just makes me retreat deeper into my frozen, robotic state. I remember when I got my ARCs (advance reader copies) in the mail, I just stared at them, trying to comprehend how that was my cover, my name—my book. It’s still hard for me to wrap my brain around the idea that strangers will be reading it. It’s both exciting and terrifying.

  1. What’s been your favorite part about the publication process?

Nicki: I think getting my cover. I was SO nervous. I’m a graphic designer and an artist, so I felt really REALLY invested (aka TERRIFIED). Of course all authors are, and I had absolutely zero need to worry. The cover my publisher gave me is better than I could have imagined, and opening that image on my screen and seeing my name overtop…I just started running in circles, freaking out. With dignity, of course (not).

  1. Tell us as much as you can about the relationship between Veronyka and her sister. How is sisterhood explored in your book?

Nicki: Veronyka has a very complicated relationship with her sister. I don’t have any sisters of my own, only brothers, so it was fun to explore that dynamic, even if it is a toxic one (or maybe because it is). They grew up together, and in many ways, Val raised Veronyka. So, no matter how nasty and controlling and cruel Val is, Veronyka loves her because so much of who she is is tied up with who her sister is. They wouldn’t be who they are without each other, good or bad.

  1. Were there any challenges you ran into while writing Crown of Feathers and how did you move past it?

Nicki: Where to begin! COF is the first multiple point-of-view book I’ve written, and I think I, uh, underestimated how hard that would be! It can be so satisfying to read, but you have to line up timelines and character decisions and ensure everything makes sense, or else it all falls flat. It requires extensive planning, but also the ability to shift and adjust to make sure everything works together as well as separately. Just talking about it makes my brain hurt!

  1. Describe your book in three words.

Nicki: Phoenix. Riding. Warriors.

  1. Who do you relate to most out of your characters and why?

Nicki: I actually think that if Veronyka and Val were on a spectrum, I’d fall somewhere in the middle. They are both determined and strong in their convictions, but while I have some of Val’s cynicism and sense of self-preservation, I also have Veronyka’s wild hope and willingness to take risks.

  1. What do you love most about the world you created?

Nicki: Honestly, I think the phoenixes. Not that I can take credit for the mythological creature, but as I was writing the first draft, I kept stumbling on all these amazing possibilities. As soon as you introduce a creature like that into a pre-industrial revolution world, you change the game. War, hunting, travel…everything changes. Then there’s the symbolism of feathers and fire and of course, resurrection. Phoenixes are so rife with possibility, so dynamic and exciting. They’re basically like dragons but they can be reborn. Can it get any cooler?

  1. What do you hope readers take away from your book?

Nicki: I’ve had some readers compare the feeling they got when reading my book to the way their favorite writers growing up made them feel, authors like Tamora Pierce. That is honestly the highest compliment I could ask for, and exactly why I wrote this book. It was a love letter to the fantasy I grew up on: dark and vast and complex, but peopled with brave, compassionate people doing their best. I think the overall message is one of hope, and Veronyka’s strength doesn’t come from kickass fighting skills or otherworldly talent; it comes from endless determination, perseverance in the face of devastation, and above all, a fiercely defiant conviction in what is right.

  1. Tell us readers a fun fact about either you or your book.

Nicki: So, I first conceived of the idea for Crown of Feathers on a bus on the way to the airport after a writer’s retreat in Cuba. Morgan Rhodes, author of the Falling Kingdoms series, was there with me, and she helped brainstorm the initial seed of the idea. We were discussing the possibilities, and since the Game of Thrones TV show was huge at the time, she told me to call it “A Phoenix of Ice and Fire.” A lot of the things we talked about during that conversation remain—like the idea of doing multiple POVs—but alas the title did not 🙂

About the Author


Nicki is a young adult fantasy author living just outside Toronto, Canada. After getting a degree in visual arts, a masters in art history, and a diploma in graphic design, Nicki discovered two things: She loves to escape the real world, and she isn’t interested in a regular nine-to-five life. Luckily, her chosen career covers both.

WebsiteTwitter ~ Instagram



Once again, a huge thank you to Nicki for joining me and I hope you all are ready for the badass book that will be Crown of Feathers!!


Complicated Girls, Flipping the Script in Literature, and Yes, Fish: Q&A with Rory Power

Hello Readers & Writers,

I’m beyond delighted to be featuring Rory Power on the blog today with her book Wilder Girls. You can expect to see it on shelves in 2019 from Delacorte Press. If you’re looking for complicated girls, a ton of atmosphere, and survival, put this book on your TBR right now!

Before we jump into the interview, here is what you can expect:

It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.

It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.

But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.


1. Thanks so much for joining me on the blog Rory. I am so excited for Wilder Girls!! Since you comped your debut to Lord of the Flies, I have to ask, how do you feel about that book?

Rory: Thank you so much for having me, Megan! I actually love Lord of the Flies. I think just looking at it as a classic work of literature has its pitfalls, and raises the question of what exactly we consider classic and why, but I really do find it to be such an interesting representation of traditional masculinity, and of the ways it can collapse and turn toxic. Considering it through that lens has made it really valuable to me, and in that way it’s a great comp for Wilder Girls. There are similarities to the set up – both books are about islands and isolated schoolchildren – but more than that, Wilder Girls is about girls the way Lord of the Flies is about boys. It’s about our specific experiences, about the specific pressures we face.

2. Were there any scenes you enjoyed that unfortunately had to be cut from Wilder Girls?

Rory: There were a bunch! Wilder Girls is on the shorter side, and I wanted to keep it as streamlined as possible, so I did have to lose a handful of scenes. I was particularly sad to lose this one moment between Hetty and her love interest, where they had a moment to take a breath and joke around a little. Unfortunately it just didn’t quite fit with the tone of the rest of the book, so I had to cut it, but I tried to make up for it elsewhere.

3. Since we have a while until your book is out in the world, is there anything you can tease us excited readers with?

Rory: Of course! I know personally I love finding out how authors would sort their characters into Hogwarts houses, so in that vein, my main character Hetty would be a Hufflepuff With Zero Chill. Her best friend Byatt is a Ravenclaw With Too Much Time On Her Hands, and their friend Reese is a Gryffindor Who Wishes She Wasn’t A Gryffindor.

4. What is your writing process like?

Rory: Like a lot of people I prefer revision to drafting, so my process is essentially: get the first draft done as fast as possible. But even before the first draft, the most important thing to me is setting. I don’t necessarily need to know my characters before I start writing, but I absolutely cannot get a word down until I have the setting figured out.

5. Describe Wilder Girls in three words.

Rory: Sharp. Angry. Atmospheric.

6. What do you hope readers take away from your book?

Rory: This is a terrifying question, but I think really, most of all, I want readers to take from Wilder Girls the idea that girls should be allowed to be as complicated and lost as anybody else. We expect a prettiness of girls on every level, and I want people to leave Wilder Girls feeling that expectation just a little bit less.

7. If you were quarantined on an island – similar to your main characters – what are three things you’d want to have with you?

Rory: I’ll leave aside any sensible answers and just go with three separate family-sized bags of salt and vinegar chips.

8. Which character do you think you’re most like and why?

Rory: The trio of girls who star in Wilder Girls each have something of me in them. Hetty and I are both recklessly loyal to our friends. Reese and I share a complicated relationship with expressing emotion. And Byatt and I are both The Worst. But of the three of them, I think I’m most like Reese, because Reese is as angry as I felt when I was her age, and like me, she has her home where her heart should be.

9. Did you discover anything, either factual or about yourself, while writing Wilder Girls?

Rory: I learned a ton about a lot of different natural phenomena, including a few I can’t tell you about (spoilers!). The research for this book was fascinating and often gross, but I came out the other end knowing so much more about climate change and animal behavior. Like, okay, I have to share this one because I think it is the absolute coolest and that’s that fish almost never run into each other when in schools because of something called a lateral line that runs along their bodies and responds to changes in the flow of the water and I’m writing this as a run on sentence to convey to you how excitedly I would be screaming this in your ear if we were speaking in person because nature is seriously amazing.

About the Author

Version 2

Rory Power grew up in New England, where she lives and works as a crime fiction editor and story consultant for TV adaptation. She received a Masters in Prose Fiction from the University of East Anglia, and her debut novel, Wilder Girls, will be published by Delacorte in 2019.




Once again a super huge thank you to Rory for joining me on the blog! Her book sounds absolutely incredible and I hope you all keep an eye on updates as they come.


Dragons, Chinese Mythology, and A Capella: Q&A with Katie Zhao

Hello Readers & Writers,

I’m back with another author feature – this time Katie Zhao, with her book The Dragon Warrior. You can expect to see it on shelves in 2019 from Bloombury. If you’re looking for a middle grade novel with Chinese protagonists, myths, and dragons, you’ve found the book for you.

Before we jump into the interview – though there’s no cover or full synopsis yet – here is what you can expect:

 Katie Zhao’s debut middle grade, The Dragon Warrior, pitched as Percy Jackson and the Olympians meets the work of Grace Lin. In the book, a 12-year-old girl wanting to find her place in a secret society of warriors embarks on a journey to fight her way through gods and demons in various Chinatowns, in order to find a secret island where her missing father might be.


1. Before we start off, I’d like to say thank you so much Katie for joining me. I’m beyond excited for your book! Tell us a little about where the idea for The Dragon Warrior came from.

Katie: Thanks so much for the interview, Megan! I’m honored to be here. To start off, I want to give a bit of background on this book. THE DRAGON WARRIOR is a middle grade Chinese-inspired fantasy that takes inspiration from the Chinese classic tale JOURNEY TO THE WEST, as well as PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS, and sets it in an urban American setting across Chinatowns. It’s a book filled with gods and demons and dragons, food and family and fun, all steeped in Chinese mythology and lore. I wrote THE DRAGON WARRIOR because it’s a book that I, as a Chinese-American reader, would have devoured as a kid—and I think non-Chinese kids would have great fun reading this story, too. Beyond the mythology, Faryn’s story is a story about seeing people for who they are rather than what they look like; it’s a story that’s near and dear to my heart, about a girl who, at the end of the day, is just trying to find her family, found family and blood family alike, as well as her home. The Chinatown settings are specifically chosen because of my childhood experience. My parents, who are immigrants from China, would always manage to find Chinatowns in every new place we travelled to within the states. They’re truly magical places, little pockets of home. More than anything, I wrote THE DRAGON WARRIOR with the hope that the Chinese readers who pick up this book will feel what I feel when I visit or write about Chinatown – that feeling of belongingness, of home. I hope they feel proud of the rich culture and mythology of China, and of themselves. I hope they feel seen and heard and know that they, too, can be heroes.

2. Who’s your favorite character from The Percy Jackson series and why?

Katie: My favorite character would have to be Percy, as cliche as that sounds. He’s hilarious, and pretty much just your average kid who’s thrown into the chaos of Greek mythology. I find him to be really relatable and real, and that’s why I think a lot of kids adore Percy too.

3. Did you initially want to write a middle grade book or did the story wind up leaning towards middle grade?

Katie: Initially THE DRAGON WARRIOR was written with the intention of being young adult. However, several CPs and readers told me that the book read as middle grade to them, especially since I was comp’ing my book to PERCY JACKSON, which is a middle grade series. In the end, aging down my characters to fit the middle grade audience didn’t even take that much work, because they were all right!

4. What was one of your favorite parts about writing The Dragon Warrior?

Katie: I loved cracking silly jokes throughout THE DRAGON WARRIOR. That’s something that’s definitely more common in the middle grade age category, getting to poke some fun at one’s own work. I’m cheating a little by mentioning a second thing, but I vividly remember watching and absolutely loving Disney Pixar’s Coco, getting literal chills down my spine, and realizing that I had to rewrite THE DRAGON WARRIOR—but that it would be infinitely better for it.

5. What’s one piece of advice you’d want to give Faryn and one piece of advice you think Faryn would give you?

Katie: I’d tell Faryn not to leave the apartment ever!! Just kidding. I’d probably tell her to be a little kinder toward her younger brother, even though he can be annoying sometimes (all the time). I think Faryn would tell me to leave the apartment and actually go do something outdoorsy…which, tempting as it may be, I would probably have to ultimately decline. I’m an author, not a child warrior.

6. Describe your book in three words.

Katie: 1. Lots 2. Of 3. Dragons

7. What do you hope readers take away from your book?

Katie: I hope my Chinese readers recognize themselves and their culture in the pages of THE DRAGON WARRIOR, and I hope non-Chinese readers have a fun time delving into a world that they’ve likely never been exposed to before.

8. What would you tell writers out there hoping to get published in the future?

Katie: I won’t tell anyone not to ever give up, because I did give up for three whole years (and I fully believe I wasn’t mentally ready for the taxing journey of publishing back then). But to any writers who are serious about being published, you will have to try, try again, and you will have to learn how to use rejections to fuel your writing, not stall it. I still get rejected, and when I do, I get angry. I grow even more determined to bust down the doors of publishing and get my #ownvoices stories out there. This level of stubbornness is what I think ultimately allowed met to get my book deal.

9. Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

Katie: I sang in an Asian-interest a cappella group in college! We even competed in ICCAs once. We sang a lot of K-pop and our group dinners alone probably helped sustain the sushi and Korean restaurants on campus.

About the Author


Katie Zhao is a middle grade and young adult author who holds an English major and Political Science minor from the University of Michigan (2017) as well as a Masters of Accounting (2018). She is a proud alumnus of Kopitonez a Capella. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, singing, and working out. She currently resides in a cozy house in Michigan that she insists on filling with too many books and Asian snacks.


I don’t know about you all, but with Percy Jackson and The Olympians being one of my favorite book series as a kid, you can bet I’ll be getting my hands on this as soon as possible.
And once again, thanks so much to Katie for joining me!

Complex Friendships & Learning Instagram: Q&A with Katy Loutzenhiser

Hello Readers & Writers,

I’m so excited to be featuring another debut author, Katy Loutzenhiser, with her book If You’re Out There. You can expect to see it on shelves from Balzer + Bray in March of 2019. If you’re looking for a contemporary YA with a mysterious twist, this may be the fit for you.

Before we jump into the interview, here’s a synopsis:

coverAfter Zan’s best friend moves to California, she’s baffled and crushed when Priya suddenly ghosts. Worse, Priya’s social media has turned into a stream of ungrammatical posts chronicling a sunny, vapid new life that doesn’t sound like her at all. Everyone tells Zan not to be an idiot: Let Priya do her reinvention thing, and move on. But until Zan hears Priya say it, she won’t be able to admit that the friendship is finished.

It’s only when she meets Logan, the charming new guy in Spanish class, that Zan begins to open up about her sadness, her insecurity, her sense of total betrayal. And he’s just as willing to throw himself into the investigation when everyone else thinks her suspicions are crazy.

Then a clue hidden in Priya’s latest selfie introduces a new, deeply disturbing possibility. Maybe Priya isn’t just not answering Zan’s emails. Maybe she can’t.


  1. Before we get into the first question, I want to thank you so much Katy for joining me! I’m so excited to have you. How does it feel knowing your book will be out in the world in only a few months?

Katy: Well, first of all, thank YOU for having me! And to answer your question, it feels… somewhat hypothetical still. Like maybe this is all an elaborate misunderstanding? I’ll believe it when I have a hardback in my hands.

  1. From the summary of If You’re Out There, it seems like this is a contemporary novel with mystery involved. What drew you to that genre?

Katy: In this case, the story arrived, and the genre just sort of followed. I still struggle with how to categorize this book, but another author recently referred to it as a “mystery-love-story-friendship-thriller-comedy” and I thought that pretty well summed it up. I enjoy stories that genre-bend, or don’t fit into a specific mold, so I suppose it makes sense that I wrote one!

  1. Tell us a bit more about how you incorporated social media in your story as well as which social media app you use the most.

Katy: Instagram is fairly key to the story, with post captions scattered throughout. The main character, Zan, has been ghosted by her dearest friend, and watching Priya move on through these #bestlife snippets applies constant salt to the wound. This is one element of the story that readers have consistently told me they find relatable. It’s difficult to let go of someone when they’re only a few clicks away.

  1. Describe your book in three words.

Katy: Ghosted? Or worse?

  1. What are some themes that your book explores?

Katy: At its core, IF YOU’RE OUT THERE is about intense friendship and all the things that come with it: codependence, independence, history, what it means to know a person, and how to decide if it’s time to let that person go. As I was writing, I was also sort of shooting for “fun feminism,” in that the book showcases the myriad ways women can be strong and awesome and hilarious, and how guys can have their backs.

  1. If you and Zan were to meet, would you get along?

Katy: I think so, although she might hurt my feelings if she was having a bad day. I’m pretty sensitive, and she’s a bit snappy. If we met at the right moment, though, I think we’d pretty much be BFFLs.

  1. What do you want readers to take away from your book?

Katy: My hope, at the risk of sounding like that “open hearts” collection Kay Jewelers lady, is that readers reflect on the idea that it’s worth living your life in a vulnerable way—to really care about people, even if sometimes that means getting hurt.

  1. Who/What were some of your biggest inspirations for writing?

Katy: So many, from books to plays, TV to movies. Nora Ephron (You’ve Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle, etc. etc. forever), Amy Poehler (Parks and Rec is perfect), Mindy Kaling (still waiting to be best friends—call me, Mindy!) Tina Fey (my not-so-original, original career goal was to *be* her), Nick Hornby (Funny Girl, About a Boy, among others), most so-bad-they’re-good romcoms—especially ones with numbers in them (10 Things I Hate About You, 13 Going on 30, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days… I WILL NOT APOLOGIZE!) Jenny Han, Rainbow Rowell, Liane Moriarty, Matthew Quick. And good old Jane Austen and Shakespeare!

  1. Do you have any fun facts or things you learned from writing this book?

Katy: Actually, yes! I forced myself to learn Instagram so that I could write about it in the story! (Am I losing coolness points by admitting that?) EPILOGUE: I now love Instagram, which is probably a sure sign that it’s on its way to becoming irrelevant.

About the Author

Katy LoutzenhiserKaty Loutzenhiser is the YA author of IF YOU’RE OUT THERE (Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins 2019). Katy grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, attended Bowdoin College, and trained in comedy at the iO and Second City theaters in Chicago. She now lives in Brooklyn with her husband.





I hope you’re all ready for this book because I definitely am! And if you’d like to learn more about upcoming novels and their authors, stick around.