Hi everyone, Petrik from Novel Notions here. Today, I’m bringing you an interview with Rebecca Kuang, the author behind my favorite debut of 2018, The Poppy War, and soon to be released sequel, The Dragon Republic. I’m incredibly honored to have the opportunity to read The Dragon Republic early and for the fans of the first book, I can assure you that it WILL live up to your high expectation; brutally.
Now, without further ado, here is my interview with Rebecca Kuang!
- Hi, Rebecca! It’s been a year since our last interview. Thank you for doing another one with me. Please tell us about your newest book and its main theme. Any message you want to leave for readers?
“Brace yourself” – Fonda Lee.
- The Poppy War was heavily inspired by the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Rape of Nanking. What would you say is the main inspiration behind The Dragon Republic?
The Dragon Republic spans more historical territory than The Poppy War, which was quite narrowly focused on WWII. You’ll find shreds of more recent episodes like the Chinese Civil War and the Opium Wars in addition to old old battles like the Battle of Red Cliffs. So in that way TDR is more of an original story, because it stitches together stories from so many different eras into an independent narrative, as opposed to TPW, which grafted quite heavily onto events from 1937-1945.
- What were the biggest differences or challenges you experienced between writing The Poppy War and The Dragon Republic? Was there any criticism from readers/reviewers about The Poppy War (if there’s any) that you took into consideration?
Wow, where to start? “Second book syndrome” hit me hard for a lot of reasons. I really struggled with figuring out how to replicate what had worked with TPW. TPW was the first book I’d ever attempted or finished, full stop. I didn’t write those proverbial ten failed novels before the first one sold. So I had no experience starting over with a new book, and there were a lot of points where I felt utterly clueless about the writing process. I basically had to learn all over again how to write. I started reading at least one book a week and taking notes on everything that worked in it and what didn’t. I read across genres and marketing categories to broaden my skill set. I went to Odyssey, which was tremendously useful and highly recommended to anyone thinking about writing workshops. I kind of did TPW by instinct; I was much more deliberate with everything I did in TDR. I hope it worked.
I don’t generally look at reviews (I’ll take a peek when people tag me in really nice ones!) so I don’t let reader response affect my writing process. I only take editorial feedback from a small number of people I trust–my agent, my editors, and my best friend. I’m sure other people have valid critiques but I have to shut the rest out or I’ll never get anything done.
- I could be wrong of course about this, but I feel like there’s more Asian-inspired fantasy to be found in the market now ever since the release of The Poppy War and Jade City. What do you think about the current state of Asian-inspired fantasy? Has it gotten better in terms of quantity and quality?
I think there is definitely more Asian-inspired fantasy on the market now compared to five years ago–EMPIRE OF SAND, GIRLS OF PAPER AND FIRE, DESCENDANT OF THE CRANE, GUMIHO, and THE TIGER AT MIDNIGHT all came out in the last year or so, for example. I absolutely adored GOPAF. What I’m even more excited about is the rising prominence of Chinese SFF in translation, where Clarkesworld and Storycom are very much leading the way. I’m delighted that Liu Cixin has found such an audience in the west, which has paved the way for other Chinese sf writers like Xia Jia and Chen Qiufan. Their work is excellent.
- It’s been over a year since your debut, I imagine there must’ve been a lot of changes in your life. What would you consider to be the happiest, saddest, or simply the most memorable moments as an author?
Certainly the most happiest and memorable moments were when I got to meet other writers I admire so much. At DCC and SDCC, I got to talk to heroes like Tomi Adeyemi, Charlie Jane Anders, Tamora Pierce, Delilah Dawson, Peter V. Brett, Katherine Arden, Pierce Brown, AND Christopher Paolini. They were all so kind and wonderful. My heart exploded.
A close second is when I got the call from SFWA about my Nebula nomination. That was WILD.
- I can’t believe I forgot to ask you this last year, but which author would you say is the most influential on your work and writing?
I can’t answer that question. I have a really hard time picking just one. I’ve recently fallen into a habit of finishing one book every two days; this is because I read a hundred or so pages between every writing session to jumpstart my own writing engine. (I find it easiest to write when I’ve just seen an example of good writing.) So I could list fifty people right now who have most recently impacted my work. I’ll give some names (all whom I recommend) from just this past month–Sally Rooney, Nnedi Okorafor, Sylvia Plath, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Ian McEwen, and Liu Cixin. I try to read as widely as possible. I think it’s important to keep pushing your own writing into uncomfortable territory.
- I’m going to be an asshole and ask you this question… which book do you love more between The Poppy War and The Dragon Republic; both content and cover wise. Another spectacular cover by JungShan by the way, did you have any input on it or was everything up to the artist and art department?
I will always have a soft spot for TPW as it was my debut–the book I invested all my hopes and dreams in. TPW marked a number of firsts for me–first time speaking to a literary agent, first time seeing cover art for my own work, first time making all those awards lists, first time seeing my name in bookshelves! But to be quite honest, I think TDR is the better book. I’m going to look back on this answer when I’m 30 and laugh at myself, but the difference between 19 and 22 is huge.
The design team surprised me. I think the only thing I said was “maybe blue this time?” and they told me they’d already decided to go with blue. It’s nice when creative visions align.
- Well, I’ve kept you long enough. Last question. When’s the next and last book of the trilogy coming out? (I have to know of course after that incredible ending.)
It’s out when I’m done with it 🙂
Whenever that is, I’ll be ready to devour it ASAP! Thank you so much once again, Rebecca! Best of luck as always! 🙂
If that’s still not enough to convince you to get The Dragon Republic, allow me to re-share my spoiler-free review of the book HERE!
Official release date: August 8th, 2019 (UK) and August 6th, 2019 (US)