This next lovely was introduced to us by the powerhouse Ellen Oh. Anyone who knows us knows we don't take any suggestions from Ellen Oh lightly, so when she recommended we read this book, we went out and got it as quick as you can say "Light Speed" a million time fast. So check out her words and hopefully by the end of the interview we've made you a fan!
1. Since you're a first timer on Twinja Book Reviews, you have to go to the front of the class and awkwardly introduce yourself XD What can you tell us about yourself, and your journey as a published author?
Hi, class! I’m Maurene Goo, author of SINCE YOU ASKED…, I live in Los Angeles, where I was born and raised, with my husband and twenty-year-old cat. About ten years ago I was applying to a grad school MFA program and I needed to turn in a children’s book writing sample. The voice that came to me was a snarky teenage girl and my sample became the first few pages of SINCE YOU ASKED. Many years later, after grad school and publishing jobs, I went back to that sample and finished the book—and then sold it. Tada! Sounds much easier said than done, I think…2. What are some of the books that inspired you as a writer growing up, versus now? Are there any strong differences between the years?
Growing up, I was obsessed with The Baby-Sitters Club, Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables—basically anything in series form. I loved stories of friendship and growing up, and it’s what I try to capture in my own writing today. Now, I like to read a lot of contemporary literary fiction, some of my favorite authors being Aimee Bender, Jhumpa Lahiri, Zadie Smith, Junot Diaz, etc. I’m also obsessed with The Game of Thrones (who isn’t, though?). And obviously, reading a lot of YA all the time. I definitely think I’ve gone through stages in reading—I’m basically an equal opportunity reader and have read a bit of EVERYTHING. I went through my Nabakov/Fitzgerald phase where all I wanted to do was read beautiful writing. Then I read a ton of romance. Then a lot of sharp, funny short stories and essays by David Sedaris, Dorothy Parker, etc. Then YA. Then very masculine American angsty man stuff. So I would say that I’m the same reader I was as a little girl in that I just want to read everything GOOD and FUN.3. You know Im going to mention it. That you're homegirl's with my homegirl. You know? Ellen Oh. Only one of the heads of the "We Need Diverse Books" campaign. Clearly her support in you is strong, so the world needs to go out and buy your book "Since You Asked." I want to know what prompted you to write this book, and did you suffer any particular challenges getting it published?
When I started writing this book, I was not impressed by the diversity out there in YA. Not necessarily just racial diversity either—it seemed like all the realistic fiction for YA were about rich prep school kids who talked like Aaron Sorkin characters and were having mad sex all the time. I just didn’t remember high school being like that and wanted to write something closer to my experience. Which happened to include a lot of diversity (growing up in LA that’s a no-brainer), clashing with well-meaning parents, small dramas that seemed huge, and an almost obsessive attention to friendships.
I was lucky in that I didn’t face any huge challenges—I was referred to my agent and had a Korean American editor help me develop the book. And then…it sold! But while it was out there, I remember worrying about how sellable a story about a Korean American teenage girl would be, if that alone would turn off publishers. In the middle of all the other anxieties of being on submission, I had that one, too, and I found it incredibly frustrating and ludicrous to have to worry about that.4. If Im being honest, a part of me judged the cover of your book. I initially assumed the cover was a Caucasian girl because her face was partially covered with sunglasses. How silly of me, I know, but do you think readers typically give different reactions to PoC or diverse main characters on covers? Do you think there are pros and cons to diverse book covers?
I totally understand your frustration. I will say that I personally don’t like when you see someone’s entire face on a book cover—it leaves little mystery and nuance as to what your character looks like you know? But that’s not to make excuses! I’m not sure if readers have different reactions to PoC on covers but it sure seems like booksellers and publishers have an opinion on it. Whether or not there are hard numbers to support "white-washing" covers, I have no idea. But I find it incredibly disheartening that it’s even an issue. The more PoC we put on covers, the more normalized that gets, and the less “shocking” or repellent it is for non-PoC readers! Get used to it, people.5. Many diverse authors that I've spoken to amongst the round table have voiced their challenges of getting their novels to gain the reach of their mainstream counterparts. Do you think there is a disconnect between the industry and the diverse author? What can we do to make "diverse" books, just books?
I do think there’s a slight disconnect—I think there are a lot of negative perceptions about “diverse” books. That they are about something foreign and alienating for one thing. That they are published as a “token” diverse book and therefore aren’t as good as other books. I think there’s only one thing we can do to make “diverse” books just books—and that’s to keep writing them as authors and publishing them as publishers. Sounds so basic, but how else can people get used to seeing diversity in literature? You have to reach that stage where diversity is normal.6. Lastly, where can readers get updates on blog/twitter posts, book events or anything and everything Maurene Goo?
You can find me on twitter as @mauxbot and get updates on what’s on my mind and book events via my website, www.maurenegoo.com. And if you like pictures of cats, follow me on instagram as @mauxbot!
About Maurene Goo:
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