Ask the Author: Celeste Ng

“Ask away--I'll answer as often as I can! ” Celeste Ng

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Celeste Ng This is something really important to me. I hope that publishing--and the reading public--is starting to see the value of having many different works by many different kinds of writers, of all backgrounds. I think a lot about Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's talk about the "single story"--you can see it here ( how representation is more than a series of checkboxes, it's a real plurality of viewpoints. As a writer who's had some success, I see my job as advocating for more writers to get to tell *their* stories--in other words, making more seats at the table. Those of us who've gotten the spotlight, in other words, have a duty to try and share it with others.
Celeste Ng I seldom cry when I'm writing, but if I read a scene over and a lump forms in my throat, then I know I'm on the right track. It doesn't happen a lot, but there's a line in Little Fires Everywhere about motherhood, the one about apples--I'll let you find it--that does make me choke up a little.
Celeste Ng This is like having to choose a favorite child! I love both of them, but for different reasons. :)
Celeste Ng Partly, but it's also to show what kind of characters they are. As a teen, I had friends' parents who told me to call them by their first names--and then parents who insisted on being called "Mr." and "Mrs." That tells you something about how they view themselves, and the same is true with Mrs. Richardson, Mia, and the other characters in the book.
Celeste Ng Hi Sunny! Everything I know about the characters in Little Fires Everywhere is in the book--I promise I'm not holding out on you. But with that said, maybe they'll come back to me for more of their story--never say never. :)
Celeste Ng Hi Jann,

(Better a belated answer than never?) Thanks so much for your kind words. I ended up using the verb tenses as a way to keep the two timelines clear--the sections of the book that take place in the past are in past tense, while the section in the narrative present are in the present tense. Simple, but it cues the reader to where they are in time!

All best wishes, and thanks for the question,
Celeste Ng I enjoy Ha Jin's work a lot--though in my reading, he's interested particularly in China, which is a place I don't have a lot of personal experience with. (Waiting is such a lovely book...)
Celeste Ng I can FINALLY answer this question! My next novel, LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE, will be out in Fall 2017 from Penguin Press!
Celeste Ng
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Celeste Ng Hi Sherril,

I don't mind at all how people want to engage with the book--audio-books definitely count, and Cassandra Campbell does a great job! Some people are visual learners, others are auditory learners, and I'm just happy if you decide to give the book a try.

Second, my last name is pronounced "ing," just like -ing.

Thanks for the questions!

Celeste Ng Hi Juliana,

This is a great question--I'm glad you asked! I also don't care for the term "Oriental," myself. But I chose to use it in the book deliberately for two reasons.

First, it's the term that would have been used at the time, both by the main characters and the people surrounding them. Relatedly, I wanted to startle the reader a little by using a now-outdated term, to remind readers that we were in an earlier and less progressive era, where people weren't seen as "Asian," but "Oriental."

Thank you for asking!
Celeste Ng I am! It's been on pause while I've been on book tour (which is also why it's taken me so long to reply to you!) but I'm eager to get back to it. I'm hoping this one won't take 6 years to finish. :)
Celeste Ng Thank you so much--and so sorry for the belated response; I didn't see this until now! I'm so glad you enjoyed--thank you for writing to tell me.
Celeste Ng So sorry for the belated response--I didn't see this until now! I read a lot as a kid, but as an adult, some of my influences include Toni Morrison, Elizabeth Strout, Ann Patchett, and Arundhati Roy. Not that I claim to write as well as they do! But those are some of the authors I read and try to emulate.
Celeste Ng What a good question! The Sound and the Fury is one of my favorite books, and one of the things I liked about it is that there's a deeply complicated sibling relationship at the heart of it. And it's a book I hugely admire. So I gave it that little cameo role in my novel as a nod to the complicated relationship between brother and sister--and also as a kind of good-luck talisman.
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Celeste Ng I'll answer the second question first: I like to think so, or at least I hope so. And as for the first: what do you think? :)

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