This month, I got to sit down with a fascinating and very busy author: Xiran Jay. Xiran writes YA and hopes to increase the diversity of that genre. Xiran wants to make YA literature as diverse as the “Turn Down for What” music video. When not writing, Xiran is a Life Sciences university student. I’m very honored to have gotten a few moments of this author’s time.
Without further ado… Xiran Jay
Thank you for taking the time to talk with me. Let’s start with the most basic question all writers get: Where do your ideas come from?
All over the goddamn place, which I’m sure is the same for most writers. But I think my idea origins are a bit more hilarious than usual. Just for fun, and since I haven’t written a lot, let me be specific:
The Burning Ones: Now-trashed supernatural fantasy about an immortal dictator who’s taken over the whole world and a group of reincarnating rebels that oppose him generation after generation. This one went through one hell of an evolution (doorstopper first fantasies often do), but it originated from the mental images I got from listening to–wait for it–the vocaloid song Cendrillon (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6A9AV1KI07c). Yes, I’m a huge weeb.
Artificial Oblivion: A near-future thriller about an inner-city girl who discovers she’s actually a cyborg when a killer android establishes a direct link to her mind. Inspired by–drum roll–a TOONTOWN FANFICTION. I don’t even want to name which one to protect the innocent.
The Sapphire Age: A sci-fi mermaid story set in the South China Sea, about a thousand years in the future. A whole mega-ton of worldbuilding brought on by one picture: http://i.imgur.com/5jLWFZZ.jpg. The caption said they were “Functional Jet-Propulsion Swimming Robot Legs”. That was a lie. After I finished writing the book, I discovered those goddamn things were just cool kneesocks.
The Elemasters: A new WIP about a group of people who can each control one unique element on the periodic table and the United Nations agency that tries to deal with their endless drama. The process for this one was years of me going “haha, wouldn’t it be funny if Avatar the Last Airbender was about the periodic elements instead” and then one day “Wait. That could actually work.”
Wow, so pretty much anything could spark a story. That’s the easy part. What’s the hardest thing about writing?
Portraying emotions. I struggle a lot with it, since I’ve conditioned myself to never mention any emotion by name (show not tell, blah blah blah). But, well, that leaves me to painstakingly think of new ways to describe how heat floods into my POV character’s head or how adrenaline charges through their bloodstream and OH, LOOK, I’VE DUG MY OWN GRAVE.
That does make for a challenge. Did you come across any specific challenges in writing The Sapphire Age? What would you do differently the next time?
Leaping off my last answer, you know how I only portray emotions with physiological reactions and body language? Imagine doing it WITHOUT MENTIONING HANDS AND ARMS. BECAUSE MY CHARACTERS ALL USE SIGN LANGUAGE. Every conversation is an absolute pain to edit because I don’t like repeated phrases either. I, uh, don’t know what I’d do differently. NOT set a story underwater?
You do like to set yourself up with challenges. Including trying to write and attend classes at the same time. How often do you write, and do you have a special time during the day to write?
Time is pretty much never on my side, so… I write on the bus… during class when no one’s sitting behind me… when there’s a lapse in my work tasks… ;_;
So it’s a little here and a little there. Now, we all know that as important as the story is, there’s more to publishing than just the writing. So, do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
Oh, for sure. I’m a huge ereader (I don’t like exerting my muscles. Not even to keep a book open.) so I would ONLY buy a physical book if it has a pretty cover. Sometimes I’m BAFFLED by the kind of covers that make it past the publisher’s eyes. When it’s blatantly a bunch of stock photos thrown together, I just don’t know what to say anymore.