Interview with Malinda Lo

AE:
Did the queer aspect of Ash pose any
problems with trying to sell the book?

ML: I had interesting reactions. I had one agent tell me the fact that she is just gay didn’t make it
different enough. My agent, obviously,
thought it made it just fine. I think
that people reject books for a variety of reasons. My agent and publisher have been behind it
from the beginning in the state that it’s in. 
They always wanted it to not be a coming out story.

AE:
Why is that?

ML: I think there’s a feeling that coming out stories have been
done. Not that we have enough of them, but if you’re going to do a coming out
story it has to be a little bit different now. 
I think they want to move beyond the idea of the problem novel,
especially in YA fiction where you realize you’re gay, you have all these
problems, you deal with it, you come out. 
But I think that my book is different in that respect because you don’t
have a big coming out.

AE:
I think it’s interesting that someone would think a lesbian Cinderella is not
different enough.  That’s pretty damn
different.

ML: [Laughs] I thought the same thing.

AE:
What’s your new book about?

ML: The new book is a companion novel. It’s set in the same world
but several hundred years before Ash.  It is about the first Huntress in that
kingdom.  The origin of the huntresses is
explained.

AE:
So you’re not re-telling another fairytale?

ML: Right.  It’s basically a
quest novel. A typical, fantasy quest, but this time with gay people.

AE:
Do you think you’ll do anymore fairytale retellings?

ML: I’d like to.

AE:
Any story in particular?

ML: I do have a story in mind for an adult novel, but it’s just an
idea now so it’s probably better that I leave it in my head.

AE:
You are obviously rewriting these stories from a queer perspective but you’ve
also written a lot about the representation of race in the media and in
literature.  Do you feel responsible to
change other aspects of these stories, whether in terms of race or culture and
even class?

ML:
The race question is interesting because I kind of envisioned
Ash and Kaisa as being Asian. I describe Kaisa as having dark hair and
green
eyes, so she couldn’t be fully Asian, but she could be half
Asian. And Ash as
well. I didn’t describe it specifically partially because I
thought the gay
thing was going to be enough of a problem. I didn’t want to add race on top of that so I
didn’t make the race
obvious. I did tell my editor. She did know that I
envisioned her as Asian
and the book cover, I’m happy to say, does not exclude that
possibility.  

For my next book, it’s clearly based
on ancient China so I kind of threw caution to the wind and I hope that it works out.

AE:
What’s one question that
you wish people asked you about the book?

ML: I always ask everyone I interview that question, but I cannot
come up with a response myself. I’m
really excited to have everyone reading it and I’ve gotten some comments from
queer readers now that I just love. I’m
happy that people like Kaisa. I was
worried she wasn’t going to work for people. I really thought it was important she was a charming figure.

AE:
It would never have occurred to me that she wouldn’t work.

ML: A lot of the responses that I get from straight teen readers
don’t mention her name at all. They mention Sidhean a lot, which makes sense,
but I hope she works for more people than gay people.

AE:
It’s great that [the book was released] in September. Full circle. Nine years later.

ML: That’s right.

Learn more about Malinda at MalindaLo.com

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