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New Books Network Interview: Kate Quinn and Janie Chang

Writers, as a rule, enjoy quiet time. People who thrive in the midst of a crowd aren’t likely to confine themselves to the computer for months on end, surrounded by imaginary people desperate to tell their tales. Of course, many writers enjoy talking about their work or just chatting with friends, but by definition, those are things that take place while not writing. What happens at the computer typically involves the author alone. In my latest New Books Network interview with Kate Quinn and Janie Chang about their recent release, The Phoenix Crown, we discuss the advantages and disadvantages of breaking out of that box and creating a novel that incorporates another person’s point of view.


Now, if you’ve been following this blog or my social media accounts, you’ll have noticed that I recently published a co-written novel with fellow historical novelist P.K. Adams. So I was particularly interested to hear how Kate and Janie handled the challenges of crafting a story together—and why they made that decision in the first place. Read on, and listen to the interview, to find out more.


A woman seen from the back wearing a brilliant blue ballgown adorned with jet beads. Long chains ornamented with enamel objects dangle from a phoenix crown.

As usual, the rest of this post comes from New Books in Historical Fiction.


Kate Quinn and Janie Chang are independently acclaimed authors of historical fiction, both of whom I have previously interviewed one-on-one.


Here they combine their skills to tell a story about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake from multiple points of view. One line follows the story of Alice Eastwood, a botanist whom we meet in London five years after the tragedy. Her perspective is contrasted with that of Gemma Garland, an aspiring opera star whose unique voice can’t quite compensate for the migraines that sideline her just as she’s about to make her mark on the world. The third narrator is a young Chinese-American named Feng Suling (“Susie” to the rich white customers who can’t be bothered to learn her name), with a gift for embroidery and a grand ambition: to escape the arranged marriage her uncle plans for her and reunite with Reggie, the love she has lost.


How these three stories intersect and overlap, united by the Phoenix Crown and the man who owns it, I’ll leave for readers to discover. Each chapter is marked by its proximity to the forthcoming earthquake (unknown to the protagonists, of course), but even without that impending threat, the story will draw you in and keep you hooked.


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