We love any opportunity to get to know our favorite authors better. So a lightning round of questions sounds like a good place to start. Here, we ask five quick questions (with one wildcard) about books, genres, reading preferences, writing style, and their secret to success.
Jessamine Chan carved out some time to answer a few questions for us. We’re excited to kick off Women’s History Month by highlighting her and her debut novel, the riveting dystopian drama The School for Good Mothers. It’s been a hands down, page-turning triumph — including being Jenna Bush Hager’s January book club pick as well as an instant New York Times bestseller — and gets at the heart of real issues that confront parenting, for mothers in particular. It’s an especially timely piece of fiction that hits very close to home these days.
1. What are your all-time favorite books?
Jessamine Chan: In no particular order:
- Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
- Mrs. Caliban by Rachel Ingalls
- Man V. Nature by Diane Cook
- Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
- Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
- The Lover by Marguerite Duras
- Karate Chop by Dorthe Nors
- Plainwater by Anne Carson
- Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje
- The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
- We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
2. What’s your favorite genre to read?
JC: I primarily read novels and story collections by female authors who are telling twisty, daring stories about girls and women. That’s been true for pretty much my whole adult life.
3. Which do you prefer: ebook or audiobook?
JC: Audiobook. I hear that ebooks are incredibly convenient, but I’ll likely never experience them because I have terrible vision.
4. What’s your writing routine or process?
JC: I always write longhand because I can better avoid the distraction of email/text/social media when all I have is a pen and notebook. On the physical page, I feel much more free. I also did much of my revising/editing/proofreading of this book on paper (sorry, trees). My process begins with all the puttering, snack eating, tea drinking required to shut down my worrying brain and get to the quiet, secret part of my mind that creates. This writing routine/process is very dependent on having steady childcare and a supportive spouse.
5. How much of your writing success is due to hard work, talent, or luck?
JC: Given that I’m publishing my first book at 43, perseverance has been a big part of my recent success. However, there are so many equally talented and hardworking writers, and I’ve been tremendously lucky to have had great teachers, supportive family and friends, a superb agent, and visionary editors and publishing teams working on behalf of my book.
Wildcard: If you could have coffee/tea with anyone alive or dead, who would it be and why?
JC: I would be overjoyed to have tea with my late grandmothers, introduce them to my daughter, catch them up on the last many years of my life, and show them my first book. Of course, it would be even better if everyone could be there, so perhaps I should say the bigger fantasy would be a family party with tea and a ton of Chinese food.
About the Author: Sarah Sung
Sarah is the Editorial Director at Scribd who obsesses over content strategy and brand building, and has written lifestyle content for AFAR, San Francisco Chronicle, and Under Armour. In her spare time she teaches indoor cycling and consumes podcasts, audiobooks, and ebooks at all times of the day and night. Traveling and dining out are always high on her to-do list