KEYNOTE: Diversity 2019: Diverse Forms of Story, Not Just Diverse Faces
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Tara Kennedy: Welcome! You’re listening to a 2019 WriteOnCon podcast. This is Tara Kennedy from the WriteOnCon team and I’m really excited to chat today with author Henry Lien about diverse story forms. So you have a wide-ranging list of works. There is a middle grade novel, adult sci-fi short stories, songs. Were you always planning to be such a wide-ranging storyteller?
Henry Lien: Oh no, I wasn’t. I think the thing is I never got over school. And in school we are all tasked with having to learn mastery of multiple subjects at once. And I love school and I miss school. And so using different parts of my brain, that’s something that I miss. And when I started to become a writer, I wanted to be able to use all the parts of my instrument so to speak as actors say. So yeah, diversity and versatility, they are things that I think all of us learned at one point. And then to be able to get ahead in the world in particular things we have to focus. But I guess I lack focus.
Tara Kennedy: Seems to be working for you. So probably not all writers are ready to go become songwriters, to use an example, but how can writers think more widely about how they tell stories?
Henry Lien: Okay. Yeah. This is something that I think a lot about. It all started with a question that was posed to me and a couple of other writers on a conference for the Nebula Awards a couple years ago. The Nebula Awards are the top science fiction and fantasy award for adult and kidlit science fiction/fantasy. And the conference was that the panel was made up of me, Nnedi Okorafor, Daniel Jose Older, and Ken Liu. And it was putatively a diversity panel, but we were all kind of sick of the regular topics that we get on diversity panels. And so we aggressively branched out.
And one of the things that I talked about is I wanted to see not just diversity in the types of main characters and the types of writers that were publishing that were in books, but also diversity in the types of stories. Particularly drawing from other cultures. And I gave the example of Roger film critic Roger Ebert’s famous two reviews of the Miyazaki film, My Neighbor Totoro. And the first time that he saw it he said I do not get this movie. It doesn’t seem to be a movie. It seems like they made it up as they went. And he gave it an unfavorable review.
And then he was dragged to see it with a young person. I think niece or a nephew with a crowd of other kids. And it was a revelation for him because he saw their reactions to the crests and the troughs and the crescendos and the quiet moments of the film. And saw that the cues and the rhythms were entirely different and he made a note of this. He said there is no villain. There are two siblings but they get along. There is a mother and she is not dead. There is a father and he doesn’t quite understand what the children are going through but he accepts it with an open mind and an open heart. There is no narrative arc where the children have to teach the adults a life lesson.
All of these things that are hallmarks of conventional Western storytelling were completely absent in my Neighbor Totoro. And after that I did some research I found that it was not just some sort of experimental form. That it actually did conform with traditional Japanese four act story format. And when you analyze it in that way, it made a lot of sense. But the idea of what a satisfying story is varies from culture to culture.
And so I started looking at the things that I had read with a more critical eye in that way and I think it is a powerful tool for writers to utilize. I think that there are a lot of ways to tell a satisfying story and I for one get tired of the taste of a traditional Western three act story with, you know, a handful of common themes. You know self-esteem arc. And all of these things that we just expect from children’s literature. I think that those are great and important and there’s a reason why they are so widespread and popular because they resonate on a deep psychological Jungian level as an archetype.
But I also think that there is room for different types of stories. Different forms of stories. And I think that can take shape in either the story arcs or the rhythms or the actual formats. So I’ve been looking at that a lot and challenging myself in my own writing to not fill in the blanks with a knee-jerk reaction meaning a knee-jerk story form, story arc, character arc that I picked up through osmosis from 48 years of living in this particular culture. There are other ways to tell a satisfying story. And the kids get it. And I’ve looked. I’ve gone back to look at some of the more experimental things that have flown under the radar, but are really quite avant-garde when you look at them. I mean, I don’t want to wander off topic because you’d probably have a nice planned itinerary for us to travel along, but I have been finding a lot of treasures in children’s literature of the 20th century that are really quite radical.
Tara Kennedy: That’s so cool. So when you’re telling an unusual story form, what are things that the author can do to let their reader know they’re on a different kind of journey?
Henry Lien: Ah, that is a really excellent question. Because from the anecdote that I just gave, part of the problem with trying something new is that you run the risk of not signaling to readers early enough that this is all very deliberate. This is not sloppy writing. This is not ignorance of form. These are deliberate, conscious departures from those forms. And I mean there are a couple of ways you can do it. You can set up something expected like with a lot of fairy tale re-tellings. You will set up what seems to be the protagonist and the antagonist and very, very quickly subvert that. For example, in School for Good and Evil, it’s set up if there is a hag and a princess very early on and within like the first chapter or two chapters you realize, okay these roles are going to be challenged and inverted. So that is one way you set up the conscious model that you’re subverting. And very early on, subvert them. So that is a warning label saying caveat reader, this is going to be something different and I know it’s different. I am conscious of that. I’m doing this on purpose. So that is one way. You quote the familiar trope, the familiar story arc, familiar character arc into character type that you are playing with. You quote early on and you signal early on that we’re going to do something a little bit different. That is one way to get the reader informed so that she can sign the contract with the writer and be informed about what she’s signing up for. That’s one way to minimize a lot of the frustration that readers have with experimental formats and extend different types of stories.
Tara Kennedy: So I know some people worry well, in writing we’re told a lot that you want to do something sort of fresh and new, but also that ties into other things. Is it worthwhile worrying in the writing process about if you’re breaking too many, you know, including too many genres or breaking too many rules, or is that sort of an aftermarket problem?
Henry Lien: I am so the wrong person to ask that. Because my approach has been for everything that I’ve written it has largely been take everything that I am interested in at that particular moment and mash them into one convenient place so that I have everything I’m interested in one place. But challenge yourself to find the natural connections between them. So for example my current series of books, a middle grade fantasy called Peasprout Chen, is about Kung Fu figure skating in a fantastical city that is made out of a substance that looks like ice but isn’t actually ice. And that came about originally because I was interested—it was the Winter Olympics. I was really into figure skating. I was really enchanted by Kung Fu, especially arthouse Kung Fu movies, especially Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which I have never gotten over. And I was and will always be fascinated by architecture. So I just put them together in one place. You know, on a lark. For a laugh. But I also knew that that was just the start of how I come up with a story.
I asked myself, well this sounds wacky as a concept. I don’t do wacky. I don’t like wacky, so treat this absolutely seriously. What would the natural interaction be between Kung Fu and figure skating?
So I actually did do some research in that I took figure-skating and Kung Fu lessons with the idea of asking myself what would the natural connections be between these two sports? And I found that there were many natural connections. That if you close your eyes and you picture figure skating and then you close your eyes and picture Kung Fu, there is a family resemblance between the two sports that makes them something that would naturally be married together. And so that was one way that I challenged myself to bring these genres and these tropes together. I didn’t treat them, I wasn’t capitalizing upon their dissonance. I was looking for natural connections between them, and I think that that is a good way to go. Same thing with the architecture. I thought, okay well, you got comfortable in figure skating. But what is it about these sports that could connect them with architecture?
And one of the things about skating, if you’ve roller skated or skateboarded, is that your surface is limited and you can’t go anywhere that you want to. Grass, dirt, gravel, none of those things are available to you. Well, what if there were a city where you could skate over everything? Which is the dream of every skateboarder. What if there was something that was entirely made up of a substance you could skate over? So that’s how the architecture came into it.
I decided to come up with a city, build a world, where the entire city could be skated on. And so suddenly all these three elements that seem so disparate started to come together in a natural way that I invested with a lot of seriousness. And that I treated as real world building rather than as something that was wacky. So I found this that is one thing that I that has served me well. So I am not the right person to ask about whether you put too many things into a story. I think the thing is, if you feel that you can if you feel that you have the lifting power to take on more than one thing. By all means do that because that is just one way to differentiate your story. I believe very much in writing stories that only you can come up with. And there are not many people that are likely to come up with the same three or four things that you love right now and take a particular spin on it that you would come up with. So I would I would encourage writers to test their muscles by trying to put more things into a story rather than fewer things. And one tip to help you take on this challenge is research. Research helps you write half the story in my opinion. The world is a fascinating place and it’s filled with things that can help make your story rich. Give it heft. Give it granular detail. And that helps you to tack on multiple genres and multiple tropes at the same time in a way that’s fresh and realistic.
Tara Kennedy: Excellent. So in addition to cramming all of your favorite things into your works in progress, are there other techniques or sources you would suggest for writers looking to further broaden their horizons?
Henry Lien: I’m sorry, did you say tips or sources?
Tara Kennedy: Yep.
Henry Lien: One tip is the opposite of what I just said. And that is take a genre that you want to work in. So let’s say fantasy. And take out the defining detail of that genre. So write a fantasy with no magic in it. You can always put it back in after you’ve built up the rest of the world. But the really interesting thing that I have learned from some of my students in my writing classes is that once they’ve gone to the excruciating work of trying to write a fantasy without magic in it and done all the world-building and the thinking and the vivifying that goes into that, they often find they don’t need they don’t need the magic. The magic acts as a crutch, and if you take away the crutch, you build up various muscles that you wouldn’t use otherwise. And as I said, you can always put it back in. If you find that it’s richer because of it. But I think that is one really interesting exercise. So with science fiction try writing something that does not have greatly advanced futuristic technology. With mystery try writing something that doesn’t have a dead body in it. Force yourself to do that and see how you can grow the other parts of the story. Because you might end up with the freshest mystery or science fiction story or fanfic anybody has seen in a while. And I actually, I mean with my Peasprout Chen series, I deliberately said no magic–there’s going to be no magic in this story. I wanted to use culture, history, and athletics in place of magic to show that those things could be as cool and as transporting his magic with the proviso that I could always insert magic back in after I had built up those parts. But I found I didn’t need it.
And to look at another example, Harry Potter does have magic in it. But my feeling is that Harry Potter is successful not be not as fantasy. Not because of the magic. Not because of the magical world building which draws from a lot of existing stuff. And as I mean as much as I love Harry Potter that’s not the most original thing about it. What is original about it is that they are beautifully, ingeniously constructed mysteries. Especially the first four books. They are clockwork puzzles with no dead body. At least the dead body is not the mystery that needs to be solved. So I think JK Rowling succeeded in part because she created a mystery that was not about a dead body. And she inserted it in another genre where you weren’t expecting it. So it became a delight because you weren’t expecting these to be these ingenious puzzle pieces. So I think that that is another example of taking the crutch away from a particular genre and forcing yourself to grow other parts of your story that might end up be being more interesting than the defining feature of that genre. So that’s another piece of advice that I would absolutely encourage writers to try.
Tara Kennedy: Excellent. So to go on a little bit of a subject shift, I saw that you had some experience as an art gallery owner and were able to use that to help create your cover for your book. Tell us a little bit about that.
Henry Lien: Yes. I was an art dealer for 11 years primarily, and I still am on the side. I’m primarily an author now, but I still deal art. And I’m a very visual person—I love visuals. And I was involved with the artwork for my Peasprout Chen books. I think my publisher knew that I was going to make myself involved whether I was welcome or not. But they luckily were very inviting towards my input because the world was so specific and the visuals in the world are very vivid. And I had a very specific vision of what this world looked like. So I was welcomed into the conversation to be part of that. And there were lots of specific details that I had opinions about, but the most important thing was conveying a sense of the book in a visual form. Which is the purpose of any good cover, especially an illustration cover for a genre such as children’s literature. It was meant to convey the flavor of the book. Which was, in a word, fierce and adorable at the same time.
And so that’s kind of what we were aiming for. Because this was a book about girl power. But it also wasn’t—there’s a little bit of a spoiler, nobody dies. There is no dead body in this book. And the violence that is in the book is not violence, its action in the form of athletics. So there’s a whole there’s a whole lot of symbiotics that have to happen here. And I wanted to be able to hit all those marks. Convey all those things subconsciously. But also create something that instantly conveyed Kung Fu figure skating for the kids because that is the that is the entry hook into the series. The series that is about much, much, more than that, but that is the entry hook.
So I was involved in that. They were wonderful about including me in that. And on top of the cover art, they also included me in the process of creating the map of the school that the story takes place in. And that was an even more involved and fascinating process because unlike many of the maps from fantasy books that I grew up with and loved, this one was extremely detailed. I mean down to the proportions of particular buildings with relation to each other and the scale of the map had to be extremely specific. Because there are particular plot points that happen that depend on a 14-year-old, 85-pound girl being able to skate at 100 percent of her strength across a particular distance. How much distance would that cover would dictate the scale of this particular feature on the map, which dictates the scale of all the other features on the map. And they would have to be placed in. They would have to be placed in relation to each other so that particular action sequences could happen where a student would leap from one building to another. So they couldn’t be so far that they couldn’t leap from one building to the other.
And on top of that, there were all these cultural issues that we had to be sensitive to because I don’t know if everybody knows, but there is a lot of superstition in Asian cultures—particularly Chinese and Taiwanese culture—regarding placement of buildings and traffic paths and water paths. And there’s water all over this campus. So we had to be worried about the Feng Shui in the map. And the paths had to not do things that would be considered extremely unlucky in the culture that I was drawing from to create this fantasy culture. We had to avoid the occurrence of the number 4 in the architecture of the map. Because the number 4 sounds like the word for death in Chinese so people avoid it like they do number 13. So you wouldn’t see 13 stories on you might not see 13 stories on a Western building. The elevator would skip the 13th floor in older buildings. Which I can understand. But four is kind of hard to avoid. So that was another issue that that we were involved in. So that map has a whole lot happening under the hood. And I was invited to be a part of that to make sure that those things were true to the to the world that I was creating. That was a lot of fun.
Tara Kennedy: It sounds like it was. You mentioned earlier you had some recommendations for great stories that writers looking for unusual story forms might want to check out. Do you want to talk about those?
Henry Lien: Could you repeat that I didn’t hear a word you said.
Tara Kennedy: Sure. You mentioned earlier you’ve got some recommendations for stories that might be a little bit under the radar that had some unusual storytelling. You mentioned earlier that you had some story recommendations that might be useful to people looking for more unusual stories.
Henry Lien: Yeah I have a lot. Regarding unusual story arcs and pacing I would really recommend Nnedi Okorafor’s fantasy series Akata Witch and Akata Warrior, which are classified as upper middle grade and younger YA. And they are described kind of sloppily as a Nigerian Harry Potter. And there are elements of that. But what I found so interesting about them is that their pacing and their rhythms are completely alien to me in a delightful way.
There are, I mean, there are recognizable arcs. And you think that it’s going to be something that you understand. It is about magic and it does draw from Nigerian lore. And there is a, there is a magical school. So you think you know where this is going and it just doesn’t go there. And it does not end up being a self-esteem arc. And it’s not about a chosen one. And it’s not about all these things that you expect. And then there’s a serial killer subplot happening that it disappears for long stretches of time so forget about it and then it pops up. And you might, some people might say oh well, that’s just sloppy plotting. But no, for me it felt much more realistic because it was not broadcasting at regular intervals. It was popping up when it felt like it, sporadically. And so I got, I kept getting the sense that this is something they could fly off the rails at anytime. And there was a sense of reality about this world that she created and that was in part because of the unusual plot arcs, character arcs, and pacing. And I love that. I did not know what was coming next because of that. Also her world building is just phenomenal and delightful and charming and witty. So I would definitely recommend the Akata series by Nnedi Okorafor.
Another one that I was thinking of an older book that everybody knows that is actually quite radical is Choose Your Own Adventure. This is a completely metafictional book. It’s second person which usually only occurs in literary fiction for adults. So second person and completely nonlinear. And completely driven by the reader. I mean wildly avant-garde when you think about it. And here this is something that is happening in the day they first came out in the late 60s or early 70s. So that’s a perfect example of something that is quite radical and empowering to the reader in a fun way that has flown under the radar as mass entertainment. And has managed to slip itself in completely painlessly and helped kids understand that linear narrative is not the only game in town. So I think the kids are prepared for a lot of things. I mean we don’t, I don’t think we get enough experimentation in children’s literature in terms of format. But if you look at other formats such as video games especially adventure video games like The Legend of Zelda games. The kids are juggling or juggling them but multiple narratives, sometimes literally dozens of narratives, that they can hop on or hop off of or prioritize as they see fit. And I think that that is actually descended from Choose Your Own Adventure stories. Where children understand, okay, I have options here. I have agency. I am able to direct this story.
And so I think that Choose Your Own Adventure is an excellent example of something early on that was really quite radical and experimental but that people were kids were able to absorb painlessly without realizing that they were being exposed to metafiction. And so that’s a great example. Another one is Chris Van Allsburg illustrated book The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. I don’t know if you know it or if the readers know it, but it’s a wonderful book. And there’s a backstory to it. Which I think is autobiographical. But I don’t really care if it is. And that is that in the 1950s in Providence, Rhode Island supposedly some man came in off the street to a children’s book publisher with a shoebox full of titles for various short stories and little sketches that he had done to accompany each short story. And he left them with the publisher and said he would be back the next day after the publisher had to look at them. And the publisher looked at them and they were wonderfully evocative.
I have one example is there’s a man and he’s got this chair raised over his head and there’s a rug and there’s a little bump under the rug and the caption is “And the next day it happened again.” So they’re all very evocative and mysterious. And there’s another one with, oh a wonderful one of a nun on a chair in the middle of a Cathedral in the nave of the Cathedral. She’s floating the Cathedral and the caption is simply “And the sixth one ended up in France.” And that’s all that they were. These little snippets little glimpses into these stories. So the publisher says this is fabulous. And the publisher waited for the guy to come back with the actual stories and he never came back. So this celebrated an award-winning children’s book illustrator Chris Van Allsburg took these little vignettes and created, recreated these visuals in his beautiful signature pastel style. And the result was that after this book was published school children across the country started sending in to the publisher their own versions of what the stories were that went with these captions and these visuals. Again, giving these kids agency. Sparking their imagination in the most delicious and painless way. Making them into the storytellers.
So that’s another example. So it was really pretty radical, but that was welcomed as just fun. I would also recommend anything by Shaun Tan. Who is this living master? Shaun Tan is probably best known for a wordless illustrated book/comic book called The Arrival. Which is, I won’t tell you anything about it. The Arrival by Shaun Tan is a masterpiece. It’s one of the most inventive, most moving, most relevant today in 2018 books I’ve ever encountered. And everybody that reads it comes away with that impression. I do not know anybody who has who has read The Arrival who does not light up the minute he mentioned Shaun Tan, The Arrival. So that I would absolutely recommend. Without any description to that please, please if any if any writers out there get The Arrival and they are not happy to with it, I will personally write you a check to refund you. And I will take your copy because I give them as gifts all the time. But there’s also another story by Shaun Tan that I think is a great example of, it’s a wonderful example of, something that’s really quite experimental but that harkens to some non-western storytelling traditions and also does something really emotionally powerful. And he’s got this collection called Tales from Outer Suburbia. And there’s this one story in there, it’s a written story but there are illustrations, called Eric.
And Eric is about a foreign exchange student who comes to live with his family. And the family talks about how excited they are to have this foreign exchange student. And all the preparations that they make to make him feel welcome. And how they want to learn his name is in his native language but he says I was too hard just call me Eric. And the things that they show him that they think will be delightful to him. But how he doesn’t really care about them. And instead he’s collecting bottle caps from the street. And so there’s this story happening in the text that is all about cultural clash and confusion. But what is happening in the illustration is completely different. What is never mentioned in the text is that this foreign exchange student is a four-foot-high leaf. And it’s never explained where he comes from, so it’s happening on a surreal level, but it ends up, that tension between the text and the image, ends up feeding into the ending the grand finale of the story. Which is just so magical. Which I’m not going to spoil from you. But that was an example of something where the illustrations were not illustrating. They were illustrating but they were also in some ways at odds with the text. And that is something I hadn’t seen before. Because usually illustrations are meant to cradle the text. To supply emotions and a glimpse into the text well this is supporting emotion and it is supplying a glimpse, but not the one that you expected.
So another example of Shaun Tan doing something that was radical but that was just effective. I would also recommend another classic book The Neverending Story which many people have read. But again. that’s another one where the reader or the stand in for the reader really is the hero of the book or the heroine of the book. And there’s a wonderful addition a reprint edition and hardcover that was printed in two colors. And in case anybody has not read it, the book is printed in two colors because something happens in the middle of it. And when that something happens the color of the text of the print changes to signify to underscore that the importance of what has just happened and the readers involvement in that. So that would be another example of something that was really quite unusual and experimental but that is beloved by millions of children around the world and has been for decades. And I would also suggest that people take a look at some of the interactive books that are coming out especially on iPad. There are two companies that I follow. One is called Loud Crow and the other is called Moving Tales. And they are doing these beautiful illustrated, interactive books that have elements that harken to old pop-up books and other things that are only possible on digital. For example, their gravity sensitive, so some of the books if you took them wrong all the text is cascading down to one side. And they’re just wonderful examples of how to use technology to break that fourth wall. To engage readers and give young readers a sense of involvement and agency. So those are the ones that come to mind.
Tara Kennedy: Wow, that’s such a great list. All right, so you know I’m we’re talking now in 2018 but I think this is coming out in 2019 and you have your sequel coming out then. Do you have other things planned for 2019?
Henry Lien: That is it for right now that I can talk about. I am working on another series that is also somewhat experimental in form. But I can’t talk about it publicly yet. But I can say it does mash together everything that I’m interested in right now.
Tara Kennedy: And do you want to talk a little bit about the sequel so people know with what’s planned for Peasprout Chen?
Henry Lien: I would love to talk about the sequel to Peasprout Chen because it’s my favorite book of all time right now. Peasprout Chen, the first book, it was very much an immigrant story. And it’s about a girl who comes to an island from her own vast but rural country. And she comes to this glamorous island to this wealthy Academy to study this fantastical sport/art that combines figure skating with Kung Fu. And she is a fish out of water. But she doesn’t have the regular story arc. She has no self-esteem issues. In fact she needs a bit of self-esteem reduction. That’s part of her story arc. She comes in saying, I did not come from here but that doesn’t mean I don’t belong here. And that is a central message in the first book. And she accomplishes that. But then the second book becomes something even more advanced regarding the issue of immigration. And that is it.
Now that Peasprout is in her second year in this place that is foreign to her but has to come home to her. What happens if her home country and her adopted country are in conflict with each other? I was drawing very much from the experience of Japanese Americans during World War II and they’re being asked for pledges of allegiance and demonstrations of allegiance and being forced to choose one culture over another.
So I was very much inspired by the experience of Japanese Americans in World War II. And their being faced with having to choose allegiance between one country or another. And so that is a very much a big part of the second book as well. And we got a nice review, a stared review in Kirkus recently. And it points out that the book is really about so many things that come with crossing a border. Once you cross into another country there is there’s a whole experience that comes with it that stays with you your whole life, that challenges your idea of identity. And the review picked up on that. And that is very much baked into the second book.
Now that is all very abstract and academic, but I think the thing is that with the second book, I knew that I had set a high bar for myself with the first book. It was my favorite book of all time. And I was very concerned about the sophomore slump. So I poured all my firepower into the second book to make sure that I sailed over that sophomore slump. And I’m really happy with the book. I’m in love with the second book. Right now it’s my favorite book of all time. I might have completely shot all of my ammo for creativity for the next ten years but it’s in that book so people would get their money’s worth. It’s fun. It’s gripping. It has I think the best action sequences I’ve ever read in a book. Some of the most complex relationships between girls that I that I think I’ve read in a long time. Because I wanted to, I thought very, very hard about representation of girls. As, as a person who does not identify as female, I felt the responsibility to help the effort to represent girls with complexity. And there are many girls in the cast of the Peasprout books. In fact, most of the cast is female. The villains and the heroes are female. The people that are making history are female. And I wanted to very much to honor that, do justice to that by making them realistic. By making them various. And by making their reactions to different things, I mean there are they all react differently to the same to the same stimulus.
The idea of crossing an ocean to come to another culture. Not every immigrant reacts the same way. Not every immigrant votes the same way. And I wanted to reflect that in the girls that are the stars of the book. So there is a lot of girl-on-girl relationship in the book and that’s something that is a feature of the book that I think has been one of the most important things. The way that girls find their relationships with each other. Whether they are rivals or long-lost best friends that have never met yet. Or romantic partners or teachers to each other or just two people in a room who don’t have to have a relationship with each other. Those things were all things that I thought about very hard for the second book. But it also is just a great adventure tale in my opinion. I tried very hard with the help of my brilliant editor Tiffany Liau at Henry Holt Books. And my ingenious agent Tina Dubois at ICM. They really sculpted both the representation of girls and women in the book as well as the plotting of the book. So I’m in the messy proud of it. I know I’ve probably done something very gauche to gush about my own book. But I am very much in love with the book. It is the thing on this planet that I am most proud of so far. So forgive my immodesty on that.
Tara Kennedy: No it’s great. Alright, so thank you so much for talking with us today.
Henry Lien: Thank you! I had a great time.
Henry Lien is a 2012 graduate of Clarion West. His short fiction has appeared in publications like Asimov’s, earning multiple Nebula Award nominations. He is the author of the middle grade fantasy series Peasprout Chen (Holt/Macmillan) on which he was mentored by George R.R. Martin, Chuck Palahniuk, and Kelly Link. Born in Taiwan, Henry currently lives in Hollywood. Henry has worked as an attorney, fine art dealer, and college instructor. Hobbies include pets, vegan cooking, writing and performing campy science fiction/fantasy anthems, and losing Nebula awards.