PaperTigers is delighted to be hosting author and illustrator Grace Lin on Day 2 of her Blog Tour to introduce her latest book, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, which, as Aline pointed out last week, has already received its first award! We’ll be publishing a full review in our next issue of PaperTigers… in the meantime, Grace has kindly answered some questions and shared some pictures with us.
Welcome, Grace: thank you for joining us!
In an article you once wrote called “Why Couldn’t Snow White be Chinese?”, you talk about an experience you had as a child when your school put on a production of The Wizard of Oz and you were told by a friend you couldn’t be chosen to play Dorothy because “Dorothy’s not Chinese”. How would you relate that experience to your writing of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, which has been described as being written in “the Wizard of Oz tradition”?
Wow, that is a very astute observation of my work. While I did not write Where the Mountain Meets the Moon as an attempt to create an Asian Dorothy, it is probably one of the reasons why I felt so strongly that the main character needed to be a girl and why this book is an Asian-inspired fantasy (a story influenced by my Asian-American values rather than an attempt at a traditional Chinese tale).
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is very, very loosely based on the Chinese folktale “Olive Lake,” Aside from adding many layers and changing plot points, I also changed the main character from an adult male to the girl, Minli. In some ways it may have been easier to leave the character male; I would not have had to worry about how I bent /ignored some Chinese customs that inhibit women — like the fact that there is no foot binding, for example. But I very much wanted the main character to be a girl, a strong and brave and clever girl who (now that you mention it) was someone I would’ve wanted to pretend that I was as I child.
You have referred to your illustrating of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon as being “like the classic books of yore” – do you think illustrated books for independant readers are starting to be published a bit more nowadays and how important do you think they are?
I loved the illustrated Middle Grade books when I was younger and I still do. I think they add so much to the experience of reading. To me, they are perfect — they give a glimpse of visualization into the world you are reading, but not so much that you aren’t left without anything to imagine. Also, they make the experience of owning and holding a book feel that much more special — turning the page and seeing a full color illustration is almost like discovering a jewel and the book itself feels like a little treasure.
I hope these days, in the age of technology with browsers and kindles, these kinds of illustrated books will be even more cherished. With so much doom and gloom about the future of publishing, to create books that are not just cheap throw-aways, but are beautiful objects to enjoy is something to consider. It is being done; my editor was able to convince her boss to print Where the Mountain Meets the Moon with full color illustrations by using Castle Corona by Sharon Creech as an example, but it is uncommon. I’d like to see a little more of it.
And on a different tack, can you tell us a bit about your A Painting A Month project?
Well, the Small Graces project began a bit out of guilt. I do a lot of school visits. I am so grateful and honored that schools invite me. But a great portion of my income depends on the fees I receive from these visits; AND my most natural state is introverted -there are only so many visits I can do in a year without stammering incoherently. I’m kind of like a jar of marbles -every visit I do I am less one marble until I am empty. So, I can’t give away my marbles for free.
… But many times schools ask me to come for free. Most of the time it is because they can’t afford to pay me, or any author. I feel horrible that I have to say no. I realize that it isn’t fair that the only schools that get authors to visit are the ones that can afford to. Every visit I do, I can see the excitement in the students and a newfound appreciation and love of books. But, at the same time, most authors (the usually financially-strapped author) depend on school visits as a part of their job, to help support them so they can write; the reality is, people need to get paid for their work.
So that is why I decided to create the Small Graces project. It benefits The Foundation of Children’s Books, an organization that funds school visit programs for low-income schools. So, schools that usually can’t afford an author to visit get one; and the author doesn’t have to suffer financially either.
Supporting the Foundation is a win-win for everyone. Students of all incomes get wonderful programs; fellow authors are able to make a living to keep creating books; and I am alleviated of my guilt. So please bid on one of the paintings, you can be winner too!
Absolutely! The June picture has already sold but check in at the beginning of July to see what treat Grace has in store: in the meantime, browse through the gems from the first half of the year.
And before Grace wends her way to her next stop on her Blog Tour, which will be over at Mother Reader (I’ll change it to the direct link tomorrow), let me just share these three images with you – I am always fascinated by the artistic process and love to get behind the scenes. The first is a photograph Grace took of a temple in Shanghai, on which she based her beautiful illustration of the Imperial Garden in Where the Mountain Meets the Moon – the second is her sketch and the third, the final illustration from the book. Stunning!
So, 1) get out there and find a copy of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon – or 2) leave a comment here: we have a copy of the book to give away following the official launch on 1 July – or 3) send us a photo of your child’s bookshelf for our Around the World in a Hundred Bookshelves, which will include a copy in next month’s draw…
And do join Grace for the Official Online Launch on July 1 – further information about the book AND the party can be found on Grace’s Party Graces blog… Meanwhile, you can follow the rest of the Blog Tour via this post on Grace’s gracenotes blog.