Chloe Gong Author Interview
I’m beyond excited to post my interview with Chloe Gong one week before the release of her debut, These Violent Delights (if you haven’t seen my review it is linked). Once the world reads These Violent Delights, Chloe Gong’s shooting star will burn brighter as a fireball. This interview took time to come together due to life circumstances on my side, and I can’t thank Chloe enough for being patient and compassionate. Not to mention that the below is such incredible insight, in-depth and creative responses that I am forever grateful.
Wipe It Down
Leelynn at Sometimes Leelynn Reads – knows the world of Tik Tok much more than I do and has loved Wipe It Down forevvvver.
Speaking of Chloe Gong’s Tik Tok…
Your creative side is bursting. How long does it take you to come up with and create your videos? The one you did for different books as outfits was amazing not just for the creativity but the amount of support it gave for authors throughout the community. Where did the idea come about and then take shape?
Surprisingly not long at all! Which isn’t to say that they’re super easy to make, but the thing I love about TikTok is that it’s a low maintenance app, where sometimes the humor is actually in the poor video quality, as opposed to YouTube or other social media platforms where you need to clean up and edit the footage so it runs smoothly. TikTok is the land of Gen Z, and sometimes the more incomprehensible the better, and I love it. Another thing that’s unique about the platform is that it runs in trends and communities, so once one person does something, everyone sort of hops aboard too, crediting back in the captions or using the same audio so you can find the first video. That was the case with my books as outfits video: many other creators have all been innovating and inventing in that space, and all I do is jump on and add another idea in!
PS- I love Gorillaz. That is all.
Juliette, Roma, And The Reality Of Growing Pains…
I feel like Juliette’s character arc (and Roma to a point) is a merging of their past and current selves (as well as their relationship), what they considered to be naïve vs. whether those beliefs can still exist in the context of the world they know now. Was there any of your life that inspired this arc? College is a time of tremendous growth, for anyone. You have that, PLUS you were writing a novel. That is twice the growing pains at once. Did reconciling those pieces within yourself, connect you more to how the characters needed to reconcile their different personas?
I love this question! I created Roma and Juliette as characters when I was 18, and finished drafting the first version of their story when I was 19. Sometimes it’s hard for me to contribute to debates about the YA vs. Adult market because I hear people when they discuss why certain themes are more inherent to teenagers and why certain themes are more common with adults instead, and then the observations don’t match up to my characters quite right. Roma and Juliette start the book already jaded, having done this dance between them once before, and some people want to claim that this is an adult theme. But it’s not! I literally wrote this as a young adult! And I feel like their starting points in this book is a young adult growing pain: to realize that the previous way you saw the world is no longer right, and you have to now forge a whole new space in the world and make way for this person you’re becoming. I think my personal experience was that, yes, 18-19 is time-slotted right between the hope of childhood versus the grit of reality is being slammed against each other, and this was something that absolutely colored the way I wrote my characters, without caring to water them down into what other adults think older adolescence is like.
Behind Success Is Work. Age Is A Non-Factor…
How have authors in the 2020 class responded to you and These Violent Delights, being you are in the minority when it comes to your age and current life experience? What about that discrepancy has granted you advice/warnings/ guidance that others might not have gotten till a decade in publishing? What about it has been frustrating/isolating?
All the authors I’m lucky enough to count as friends in the 2020 class have been super lovely to me and see my age as just another part of me as a person. At large, there’s definitely a lot of condescension from a segment of publishing toward younger writers, who seem to believe that because we’re young, we managed to jump right into this career and haven’t hit any failure along the way. It’s frustrating to have to remind people again and again that I’ve been working on my craft since I was 13, and that being published at 21 means that this was an 8-year journey in the making. For some reason, it seems hard for people to realize that if they only started at 21 and they are getting published at 30, that it’s the exact same concept when it comes to the quality and practice of writing.
Sometimes I want to take people by the shoulders and shake them, saying, “Just because you started at 21 does not mean I also did! Everyone’s journeys are different!” I think being treated as if you didn’t work hard to get where you are has forced me to have to believe in myself a lot. If I don’t, then who will? Certainly not the people who want to keep convincing me that I’m only here on sheer luck and shininess factors.
I would like to just note that we are very lucky your journey started at eight. Hopefully, that means many more novels from your long and blessed career.
Chloe Gong: She Will Drink Our Tears
What is the biggest shock you have had as far as reader reactions to These Violent Delights, so far… as far as the one you didn’t expect? And what has (if it is different) been the best reaction you have had so far?
I’ve been quite shocked at all the reactions to the ending! The sequel to These Violent Delights has always been guaranteed because it sold in a two-book deal, so I wanted to end the first book with as hard a punch as possible.
In my head, I was always thinking, “ah well, it’s okay, a Book 2 will follow it shortly.” But I’ve had people say that their lives were absolutely destroyed by that ending and they don’t know how they’re going to go on, so I didn’t expect it, but I LOVE it. There’s nothing an author loves more than knowing you incited some sort of feeling out of a reader. The best reactions are always the ones injected with as much drama as possible. It feeds my soul.
WE. ARE. DOOMED.
So… If Juliette Had PMS…
Pick your favorite Juliette, non-spoiler scene. Add PMS. What happens?
These Violent Delights, Colonial Pressures, And 1920s Shanghai
Can you discuss what it meant to you to include the theme of colonialization in These Violent Delights? How it feels to have that representation on the page and what others that are impacted by it being included, have intimated to you? How their response has meant to you?
Absolutely! When I set out to write These Violent Delights, the idea had come together very early on that I was engaging with a blood feud, and I was engaging with 1920s Shanghai, revolving around how that plot and setting are entangled. 1920s Shanghai, given its true history as an era of gangster rule and tumultuous colonial pressures, was a perfect setting because it gave me the range to explore the idea of senseless hatred between two equal groups—the rival gangs—and the idea of senseless hatred between two unbalanced groups—the Western colonial powers and the native citizens of Shanghai. I was trying to engage with the heart of Shakespeare’s themes in Romeo and Juliet and then pull out further nuances that weren’t present in the original play. We go past the hatred of two houses both alike in dignity to also look at colonial powers who hold more power over the other group, and then… it’s not hatred, but rather systematic oppression.
It was critical for me to be engaging with these larger social themes because it would be utterly empty to set a cool, fantastical story in a place like 1920s Shanghai and entirely ignore that political backing. On top of that, I’ve always felt the pull to write about the 1920s because I loved that era as an aesthetic but was constantly annoyed by how stories would brush the injustices of the time under the rug. True progress toward justice and equality means acknowledging the weight of the past, not ignoring it and pretending that it has always been fine and dandy, so to write all of this into These Violent Delights is to force people not to look away and realize what parallels still exist to this day and what this means for us as a modern-day society.
In Which We Wonder (hope?) If Chloe Gong Is Psychic Or Social Systems Are That Screwed (More Probable).
Right now, there are a lot of dystopian books (YA and Adult) that are in line with what is happening in the world today. However, it is quite shocking just how spot-on themes of political maneuvering, use of pharmaceuticals/fear/disease as a controlled weapon, and ways in which to continue the cycle of poverty, so others can retain power, is a complete reflection of today. From Covid to the lies being told, the deaths and games the government is callously playing. It is sad, on one hand, to think that is a point (or many times) in history repeating itself, or did you just see something bound to come down the line, or both? Since it has been completed and getting so close to publishing- what, if any, reflections have you taken from your completed work as compared to the present, not just what you wanted to get across about the past?
This is such a great question, and something I’ve thought so much about when writing the sequel especially. These Violent Delights was drafted before COVID came into the world, but Book 2 was drafted after, and both books carry the same elements of a storyline concerned with contagion and vaccines and the ways that capitalist greed will influence who is protected and who is not protected. Writing historical fiction—albeit historical fantasy, but still—has shown me it’s not that I’m psychic for writing a story that features a contagion killing innocent people while those with power at the top refuse to help; it is simply that the world we live in and these systems we operate in have led to such results, and when something keeps offering the same results, maybe we need to change it rather than wondering why history keeps repeating itself.
To Be Or Not To Be…
Why do you think there is so much kickback against teaching Shakespeare in schools today? While, as a curriculum director for K-12, I did move away from classics like A Separate Peace, Of Mice and Men, etc… I didn’t throw Shakespeare or Oedipus out the door because there was still something that caught teenagers’ attention when taught well. When I was in high school, it was the only thing I enjoyed. These Violent Delights is one of the few reimaginings that is based on something I knew of, and I was thrilled! Is Shakespeare something you always knew you wanted to tackle (and would there be more…. Wink, nod)? Do you think it is something that should be pulled from high schools?
I think that the kickback against teaching Shakespare definitely goes hand-in-hand with the popular culture conception that Romeo and Juliet is bad/boring/overdone/cliche: it’s usually because Shakespeare and Romeo and Juliet might be taught badly or lazily, and then people have this false idea of what it is really about! Of course, I really support diversifying curriculum, and I definitely think schools today should introduce literature by more recent authors and which represents a broader spectrum of the students in school. That being said, Shakespeare has absolutely lasted this long through the centuries for a reason, and I’m a firm believer that, when taught well, his ideas are so very foundational to the intrinsic human experience and there’s something so fascinating about these stories that people just keep picking up again and again no matter the era. Schools should teach more literature, certainly, and some classics are a bit tired too, certainly, but my opinion is that Shakespeare still holds a lot of value!
I haven’t always known I’d want to retell Shakespeare, and it was rather the idea that came in first and then my active decision to try to channel it through a Shakspearean lens. But now that I’m here in my retelling Shakespeare niche, I do think I’ll stay awhile through some of his other plays!
Chloe Gong The Matchmaker
If you were going to set-up Juliette and Roma with main characters from other books, who would they be?
I’d set up Juliette with Matthew Fairchild from Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare. This is always an easy answer because I love Matthew and they’re about the same historical time period, so it all fits. Roma, on the other hand, I legitimately struggle to think up someone to pair him with, because he would just pout if removed from Juliette. And let’s be real, Juliette wouldn’t last long with anyone other than Roma either. They’re an explosive match made in the darkest crevasses of this forsaken world.
What has been on your Covid 2020 Bingo Card. What was something that was NOT on it and you were just like… I got nothing.
Can I answer just the whole year for this? It’s like every time I declare I’ve saturated my peak of disbelief, something else happens to prove me wrong.
I’m sticking with Colin Jost… Say what you want about 2020 but…
Your 2021 Campaign slogan is your: Last name 2021: < the last thing you said> What is your campaign slogan?
Yes, I completely stole this from twitter and Chloe’s answer is completely worth the steal
Gong 2021: This is the messiest thing I’ve ever witnessed
(This was a text to my friend, but it would also be me looking at the state of the world)
About Chloe Gong
Chloe Gong is an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, double-majoring in English and international relations. Born in Shanghai and raised in Auckland, New Zealand, she now lives at the top of a crumbling, ivory tower in Philadelphia (also known as student housing).
After devouring the entire YA section of her local library, she started writing her own novels at age 13 to keep herself entertained, and has been highly entertained ever since. Chloe has been known to mysteriously appear by chanting “Romeo and Juliet is one of Shakespeare’s best plays and doesn’t deserve its slander in pop culture” into a mirror three times. These Violent Delights is her debut novel. You can find her on Twitter @TheChloeGong or check out her website.