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  • Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated through the letter "K" as of 3/28/2024 and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for more information as I find the time to update more agent spotlights.

Debut Author Interview: Chloe Gong and These Violent Delights Giveaway and IWSG Post

Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I have debut author Chloe Gong here to share about her YA fantasy These Violent Delights. I’m super excited to read it because it’s set in 1926 Shanghai.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads

Perfect for fans of The Last Magician and Descendant of the Crane, this heart-stopping debut is an imaginative Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai, with rival gangs and a monster in the depths of the Huangpu River.

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.


Before I get to Chole’s interview, I have my IWSG Post.
Posting: The first Wednesday is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group Day.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

The awesome co-hosts for the October 7 posting of the IWSG are Jemi Fraser, Kim Lajevardi, L.G Keltner, Tyrean Martinson, and Rachna Chhabria!

I want to start out by sharing two great online writing conferences that you may want to take advantage of:

  • YALLWrite Festival: The YALLWrite Festival is a free conference on November 13th and 14th presented by Fierce Reads. There are some awesome classes and panels that can benefit writers even if you don't write in MG or YA.
  • WriteOnCon: WriteOnCon is coming February 19-21, 2021. This conference is low cost--less than $50--and is jam packed with panels and classes. They also have presentations by agents, and some of them represent adult authors too. They offer a lot of other benefits, like paid critiques and groups where you can get feedback on your manuscript or query from other conference members.
Optional QuestionAlbert Camus once said, “The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.” Flannery O’Conner said, “I write to discover what I know.” Authors across time and distance have had many reasons to write. Why do you write what you write?

Sometimes I wonder why I write at all since I'm not sure I ever want to be published. I think one reason I write is because I enjoy it and am finding a creative part of myself that I didn't know was there.

I write what I write--MG and YA fantasy--because I enjoy reading in the genre and thinking about a world that has magical creatures and magic. I also have really been enjoying mysteries and may want to try one of those soon too.

I'm only on my second manuscript. Both stories have an adopted main character. I think that's another reason why I write and why I might try getting published some day. As an adoptive mom, I don't see enough books with adopted kids as the main character where the adoption is not the main theme of the story. Like other minorities, these kids, including my daughter when she was younger, need to see themselves in the stories they read. 

And not only are there not enough books featuring these kids, but many of the stories are about "poor orphans" who often have unhappy living situations. I know that the "poor orphan" theme lends itself to good plot, like the Harry Potter series. But I don't think it's a good portrayal for kids in adoptive and foster homes. That's just my two cents on it, and one of the reason that I feel more compelled to continue writing.

What about you? Why do you write what you do?

Interview With Chloe Gong

Hi Chloe! Thanks so much for joining us.

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

Thanks so much for having me here! I’m a YA author and a senior at the University of Pennsylvania. I’m originally from New Zealand, but now I’m here in the States studying English and International Relations. I first started writing in high school, mostly just as a hobby to occupy my time. I was an avid reader, and I tore through my piles borrowed from the library at frightening fast speed. When I was short of good reading material, I decided to start telling my own stories just as a way to pass time. Because I didn’t take myself very seriously (I was 14, after all) I wrote incredibly fast, pumping out manuscript after manuscript that had no purpose except to tell a semi-incoherent first draft story. From there, eight manuscripts later, my craft kept growing and developing to bring me where I am today!

 2. Writing all those stories must have been great practice for what you write now. Where did you get the idea for These Violent Delights?

These Violent Delights started from two separate puzzle pieces. First, I was really interested in the

concept of a blood feud, and what sort of story I could draw forward from that. I had this image in my head of two families at war, and star-crossed lovers who are forced to choose sides, except they have a certain bitterness toward each other too because of the circumstances they have been slotted into. The second puzzle piece was about the 1920s, because I adored the aesthetic, but I was tired of seeing the setting being used without engaging with the colonial and racial tensions of that time. Eventually, those two things clicked together, and I thought I could tell a story about a blood feud set in the 1920s, grappling with both the question of hatred between two equal groups, and then hatred from exterior groups when oppression and imperialism are in play.

 3. This is a retelling of Romeo and Juliet. How did you plot it out and what challenges did you face writing a retelling?

Once I knew I was telling a story about star-crossed lovers and a blood feud, I also knew I wanted to engage directly with Romeo and Juliet, because that’s the very touchstone text about star-crossed lovers and blood feuds! Instead of circling around the play’s themes and trying to insist on my originality, I decided to embrace the idea of a re-imagining by taking the very heart of Shakespeare’s ideas and then entirely changing the context to give the story a breath of fresh air. The plot, the arcs, and the character traits came from my head, but I worked this around certain original scenes and symbols that I wanted to adapt for a modern era with more modern relevance. But it was challenging at times to remember that I was allowed to stray as far from the original play as I needed to! Sometimes I would grow really attached to the way I wanted the scene to play out in reference to Romeo and Juliet, before realizing that it wasn’t working as effectively for my story, and then I changed it for the sake of the larger arc.

 4. That's a great way to make a retelling fresh. I love that your story is set in 1926 Shanghai. What research did you do into the time period and setting?

A lot of academic reading! To start with, my parents are originally from Shanghai, as are just about all my family on both sides, and I used to visit the city often in a pre-COVID world, so I had a general idea about the culture, the history, and the small little things that you can only really pick up from direct experience and interaction. Of course, since I was setting this in true history too, I wanted to make sure I had my facts straight and I had the right vibe. 1926 was just before the outbreak of the Chinese Civil War, and it was right in the era of warlord rule, after the imperial dynasty fell but before a true government was installed. There was already so much going on domestically, and then there was the foreign influence too because the British and the French held huge sway in the city after the Western victory in the Opium Wars. While not every detail I researched made it into the book, I don’t think any of the time I spent in the library was wasted, because knowing all these historical details helped guide the atmosphere of the content I was writing. Shout out to my school library for letting me sit in its stacks for three hours, flipping through every book in the 1920s China section!

 5. That's awesome that you have family in Shanghai and visited there regularly. Talk a bit about your world building and the two gangs that control the streets.

I’m a very visual writer, so I love to be able to “see” what I’m writing. Setting the scene is always at the top of my agenda, and that way, the reader can also feel very solidly rooted into this world I’m throwing them into. When it came to the two rival gangs too, it was the visuals that influenced how they came to life. I wanted the two gangs to look distinct, and that presented itself first in the colors (which is where the names—the Scarlet Gang and the White Flowers—developed from). The more I thought about the colors they would use to differentiate themselves on their territories, I also started thinking about the spaces they occupy: the Scarlet Gang operates from a large mansion; the White Flowers operate from crowded city apartments. The Scarlet Gang have been around since before the imperial dynasty fell, the White Flowers are relative newcomers who fled civil unrest in Russia. By first finding a few core values and traits that each gang values as a result of their position in the city, I could then expand outward to determine how the gangs operate differently and what their goals are.

6. You are an undergraduate pursuing a double major. How do you organize your time so you have enough time to write and market your debut as well as do the work you need to in college?

So many to-do lists! It’s the only way I keep on top of everything, because doing an undergraduate degree and debuting a book at the same time means there are so many deadlines coming from so many sides. It ultimately comes down to making sure I know what’s the most immediately pressing thing on my plate and prioritizing so that I’m not letting school fall to the wayside when I have heavy edits or let my promotional content suffer if I have midterms going on. Sometimes this means that I’ll be working late into the night and writing at 3AM, but it is what it is. I love everything about being an author, so I don’t mind too much!

7. Your agent is Laura Crockett. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

I started my road to publication by participating in #PitMad, which is a Twitter contest where you pitch your manuscript and agents like the tweet to show interest. I definitely sort of threw my lot into that, because I had just put the finishing touches on the earliest version of These Violent Delights when that pitch contest rolled around, so I figured there would be no harm in doing it, and cold querying on my own alongside it. The funniest part is that most of my cold queries were responded to faster than my #PitMad queries! I had researched agents very carefully, because I wanted to be sure that my book was something they were looking for, and the sort of books I wanted to write were the genres that they represented. Laura was the very first agent I queried because my manuscript fit her wishlist really, really well. Less than a month later, she offered, I notified other agents who were reading, and I ultimately signed with her after considering a few other offers because I loved the vision she had not just for the book but for my long-term career. We also just clicked as people, which is super hard to explain in words, but it was just a feeling! After signing, we revised the book, and then it went on submission when I started sophomore year of college. By second semester of sophomore year, we had one offer came in, and then multiple, so These Violent Delights ended up selling at auction to Simon & Schuster.

8. What a cool road to publication story! What are you doing to promote your book given COVID-19? What advice do you have for other authors with book releases?

The COVID world has forced all of us online, which is definitely the new playing ground for book promotion now. I’m very comfortable with the internet as a marketing tool because I grew up on the internet, and I’m always fiddling with something new, whether it’s making graphics or filming TikToks. My best advice for upcoming authors in this landscape would definitely be to get creative with what is within your capacity: the internet arena is huge and it often feels like you’re shouting into a void, but when you hit your right niche and enjoy what you’re doing, I promise your audience will come to you.

9. What are you working on now?

I just turned in the sequel to These Violent Delights! So now I’m working on a secret project that I’m super excited about, because I can’t go a day without thinking about some sort of story!

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Chloe! You can find Chloe at www.thechloegong.com, Twitter, Instagram, or TikTok.  

Giveaway Details

Chole has generously offered a signed hardback of These Violent Delights for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by November 21st. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is U.S. only.

Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways

Monday, November 9th I have an interview with debut author Sheila Averbuch and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Friend Me

Tuesday, November 10th I'm participating in the Super Stocking Giveaway Hop 

Monday, November 16th I have an interview with debut author Rachel Short and a giveaway of her MG spooky mystery The Mutant Mushroom Takover

Wednesday, November 18th I have an agent spotlight interview with Tori Sharp and a query critique giveaway

Monday, November 23rd I have an interview with debut author Carol Coven Grannick and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Renni's Turn

Hope to see you on Monday!


Jennifer Hawes said...

What a great interview with Chloe! Her book sounds simply amazing. Thanks for sharing and for sharing info on the writing workshops!

Jemi Fraser said...

Great interview - and the book sounds fascinating!!

Totally agree - all kids need to see reflections of themselves in books and stories. Magic and mysteries are 2 of my favourite things!

Nancy Gideon said...

I SO agree with your reasons for writing. You can't NOT tell those stories. Chloe's book sounds awesome - just what I need. I appreciate you mid-grade authors. I encourage my grandguy to read by taking him to buy a book every time he visits - whatever he likes as long as it has words. He reads it before bed then we discuss it the next morning. It's something we both look forward to.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Natalie - I love that you write for the enjoyment of it. I think, if you decide to go for publication, that will show up in your writing and make your work fun for your readers. I agree, we need more stories where the adoptees have a good home and an adventure. :) I've met many happy adoptee teens and adults, maybe a few of them have searched for answers about their adoption, but they did grow up in loving homes and they have good lives. It would be nice to see a portrayal of that.
I loved the interview with Chloe. I am a Shakespeare fan, but it took me a while to appreciate Romeo and Juliet. I'm always glad to see the story re-worked and created into something new. This book sounds fabulous!

Nicki Elson said...

Those are all GREAT reasons to write. Very good point about a lack of representation of adopted children living happy lives in books.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Natalie, then you definitely need to be writing those stories so adopted kids can read about a character like them.

Cathrina Constantine said...

I love your ideas and thoughts about writing stories about adopted kids!
I couldn't place my finger on why? I like to write. But, after reading your post, I guess I feel somewhat similar. I like to get away from the harsh reality of life and enter a world of fantasy, both in writing and reading. I also like mysteries too!

nashvillecats2 said...

Wonderful interview with Chloe, in fact a great post altogether Natalie.
Have a good Novemeber.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Hi Natalie, the fact that you enjoy writing is one half of the battle won, you will somehow find the time to write because you enjoy it so much.

Rachna Chhabria
Co-host IWSG
Rachna's Scriptorium

Jacqui said...

Writing for fun--I love that reason. I think I avoided that when I started because--who has time for fun? But I need to revisit it.

Danielle H. said...

I love the setting of this book and can't wait to learn more about this culture and time. Thank you for the interview and chance to win a copy. I have this book on my wish list and shared on tumblr: https://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/633876276543913984/debut-author-interview-chloe-gong-and-these

cleemckenzie said...

I didn't set out to write for publication, and I'm still scratching my head over how that happened. A whim? Someone said, why not? I'll be interested in finding out what you choose.

I'm enchanted by the 1920s in Shanghai. I'm sure this Romeo and Juliet story is one I'd enjoy.

Lynn La Vita said...

I completely agree with you about adopted and orphaned kids. My only frame of reference are the stories I've read and they focus on the loss. Breaks my heart.

I encourage you to follow your instinct and continue writing stories that include adopted & orphan children. Wonderful idea to focus the stories on events with the adopted/orphan kids be normal well adjusted young people.

Loni Townsend said...

Grats to Chloe!

I love your reasons to write! My MC in my big books has a thing for adopting children. Would I be able to pester you for your input on a 351 word snippet to see if I do proper justice to someone who would adopt a child?

Ellen Jacobson said...

I love that your writing features characters who have been adopted. I never thought about the fact that this group is underrepresented.

Sandra Cox said...

Chloe's book sounds intriguing.
Take special care.

J.Q. Rose said...

How interesting to add a twist to an old favorite. That would be challenging and fun to try. Best wishes with new release, Chloe.

Fundy Blue said...

Writing because you enjoy it may be the best reason of all for writing, Natalie! Please put me in the drawing for Chloe Gong's book. This is one that I have to read! And thank you for another fascinating interview, my friend! Take care!

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Great interview and story idea of an adopted girl as the main character. The kids do need to see themselves in the story. My mother was a foster child, and for some odd reason, the main character in my current story discovers she is adopted. This was a surprise to me so I'm not sure what happens next. Will find out soon. Have a good rest of the week.

Rebecca M. Douglass said...

Good reason to write what you write! As for me... the voices told me to?

I write cozy mysteries because I like to read them, and because they lend themselves well to my sense of humor.

Pat Hatt said...

Allowing the reader to see the world sure is great.

Enjoying writing is the way to be.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Writing what you love to read is the best way to go.

These Violent Delights sounds like an interesting read. I love that it's set in 1926.

Erika Beebe said...

What a sweet reason to write :) And wow, These Violent Delights sounds really intriguing :)

Nicole Pyles said...

I love that you write because you want to! I think that's a wonderful reason to write. And this book sounds amazing by the way!

PK HREZO said...

Hi Natalie! Great to see you still holding down the fort! I'm so surprised to learn you haven't published yet, but that's ok cuz it's not a race. I love that you're writing about adoptive kids--so so important. I hope to read them some day!
These Violent Delights sounds fantastic! See ya around soon. :)

kimlajevardi.com said...

Writing for you is a fantastic reason. Creativity and expression matter a lot. Great post!

Purple Assassin said...

Hey Natalie!

Beautiful post. I think its lovely to see how you see writing, I think its about hearts too! Yes, there is scope for so much beautiful literature about kids, who are adopted. Its time we got the right kinda conversations in the main stream. Your blog is beautiful, please keep posting!

Have a great week ahead!

emaginette said...

I also love middle grade to read and to write. It's the sense of wonder and humor that draws me in every time. :-)

Anna from elements of emaginette

Shannon Lawrence said...

I definitely don't think Harry Potter's a great story for kids who've been adopted. My husband was adopted, and it was an unusual situation, so I've thought about writing about it. I love that you have adopted characters where it's not about the adoption.

Chloe's book cover is lovely. She had me at flapper!

Melissa Miles said...

I loved this interview! My grandparents lived in Shanghai in the early 1930's and I grew up hearing about China and surrounded by the beautiful handcrafted treasures my grandmother collected there. I've recently been reading a journal she kept while living there and I can't wait to read Chloe's book and immerse myself in the city during a similar time period!

Out_In_A_Cornfield said...

If there are any of us that thought about writing, Chloe gives us many reasons to get excited about doing just that!

Beth Camp said...

Wow! An amazing amount of work going on here, both for your own writing and in bringing resources together for other writers -- including that stunning interview with Chloe Gong that shows both her 'path to publication' and her creative process (writing and marketing). And, yes, I agree we need more positive stories about adopted kids!

KatiZee said...

I cannot WAIT to read this one. Thanks for the giveaway chance. kati_z@hotmail.com

Angie Quantrell said...

Wow, great interview! I love how you have so much background about Shanghai. Perfect! Best wishes and congratulations!

I write picture books because I LOVE reading them aloud to young readers. Preschool and kinder are my favorite target ages.

I will share this on Twitter. :) angelecolline at yahoo dot com

Brenda said...

What a wonderful interview and that setting, with Romeo and Juliet influences, just love it. I love that you write because you have a passion for it Natalie and would especially enjoy seeing you publish one of your stories one day. Have a lovely weekend!!

diedre Knight said...

Hi Natalie,

Another fabulous post! Great interview - as always, and thanks for the conference tips.
You have one of the most compelling reasons to write I've heard in a very long time, and your approach is perfect. I don't need to wish you all the luck in the world because I think you have it by the tail ;-)
Have a wonderful November!

Leela said...

I'm a follower.

tetewa said...

Thanks for introducing me to another new author! Enjoyed the interview, sounds like my kind of read! tWarner419(at)aol(dot)com

Rosi said...

What a fun and informative interview. Thanks for that. I will pass on the giveaway. I'm up to my eyeballs in books right now.

Megan said...

I really enjoyed this interview!!! (Not entering the giveaway as I am not in the US? :)

Anonymous said...

I've heard good things about this one! I look forward it.

Tamara Narayan said...

An adopted child that isn't miserable and in constant peril? That would be different!

Empty Nest Insider said...

I also like your idea about writing a more relatable story featuring an adopted child. Your daughter is lucky to have you, Natalie! Chloe’s book about a Shanghai flapper sounds like a fabulous read. It’s incredible that she became a published author while juggling a double major!


Nick Wilford said...

Congrats, Chloe! I think any Shakespeare reinvention takes guts because it's not easy to put a fresh spin on it, but this sounds fantastically creative. I also like your answer to the IWSG prompt, Natalie. You can bring your personal experience to tell a great story about an adopted kid.

Angela Brown said...

Congratulations, Chloe!

I love the Romeo and Juliet story so this sounds like something up my my alley.

And Natalie, your reason for writing is so familiar. It's often great to write the stories we want to see out in the world. :-)

Stephanie Lau said...

Whee! Congrats! I'm super excited about this book.

Chrys Fey said...

WriteOnCon sounds like a great online conference!

Yes, I would love to see more MG/YA books about adopted kids. And foster kids!

Leela said...

I'm an email subscriber.

♡♥♬ Carolsue ♡♥♬ said...

I follow you on GFC as Carol Ezovski.
The cover of this book is so cool! I hope to read it.
digicats {at} sbcglobal {dot} net

Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

I've added the book to my TBR after Ruby Rose recommended it -- can't wait to read it!

Ronel catching up for November IWSG day Achieving Kick-Ass Goals