Hello, Elizabeth! Thank you very much for the opportunity to (virtually) sit down with you and to talk a little bit about your upcoming Chinese-inspired fantasy, Spin the Dawn. It’s such a huge honor to have you on my blog!
I’d like to kick this interview off with a couple of silly questions. Consider it a warm-up of some sort.
A few months ago, Eugene Lee Yang from the Try Guys (a group of four male YouTubers) tweeted that one way to start a fight is by asking Asians which Asian culture has the best soup. Inspired by that tweet, here’s my question: in your opinion, what is the best Asian soup?
Ahh I could literally think about this all day. Like, soup with noodles, dessert soups, herbal soups, broths…? I’m going to cheat by giving a couple answers. My favorite dessert soup, hands down, is red bean soup (Chinese). My favorite noodle soups would be beef pho (Vietnamese) and curry laksa (Malaysian). And my favorite soup of all time is a fish broth with vegetables my Cantonese grandma makes. It has no name but it’s delectable.
In Spin the Dawn, Maia is given the impossible task of sewing three magic gowns from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. Among these three gowns, which one would you look the best in?
I’m going to pick the blood of stars gown, since it has a galaxy of colors and changes every time it’s worn.
If I wanted to snack on something or have a drink in my hand while I read Spin the Dawn, what food and/or beverage would you recommend? And why do you think these would complement or go well with the book?
A cocktail bun! It’s a Chinese baked good with shredded coconut inside. It’s the inspiration behind one of Maia’s favorite foods, and it’s delicious paired with a cup of warm soy milk.
Photo credit: The Woks of Life
Thank you for playing along! You are amazing. For the next portion of this interview, let’s start actually discussing the book and the writing process behind it. Spin the Dawn is an incredibly inventive story, and I’m sure readers would love to know more about it!
The first thing I want to talk about is the cover. Honestly, Spin the Dawn’s book cover is too gorgeous for words! I love everything about it, and I was hoping you could maybe tell us about the story behind the cover — and your initial impression when you saw it for the first time.
I LOVE IT! I have to admit, I was nervous about the cover. I really wanted an illustrated cover like the classic fantasies I’d read growing up, and the initial direction was to do a live shoot. But somewhere down the line, Design told me that they had decided to work with Tran Nguyen on the cover, and I can’t express how excited I was. I love everything about the cover she illustrated: Maia’s blue dress, the hawk, the banner with the sun, the moon, the stars…I feel very lucky that she captured the essence of Maia’s tale so perfectly.
Spin the Dawn is marketed as “Project Runway meets Mulan” — and I think it’s really fascinating how two completely unrelated titles could go hand-in-hand. What was the inspiration behind this book? And in line with that, what thought process was involved in selecting comparative titles for it?
A good portion of the book focuses on the sewing competition in the palace, so Project Runway as an easy comp. My initial comp titles were actually Project Runway and The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, so the Mulan title actually came later and I think fits quite well. Spin the Dawn was inspired by the fairytales my father used to tell me as a child: the Chinese legend, The Cowherd and the Weaver, the French fairytale, Donkeyskin, and the Norwegian story, East of the Sun. I decided to write about a tailor in particular because of my grandmother, who spent many years working as a seamstress when she first moved to the United States.
What were the biggest challenges in writing Spin the Dawn and getting it published?
The ending was a big challenge for me. I probably changed it three or four times before settling on the final version! I also found it challenging to write a Chinese-inspired fantasy since it draws from my own heritage; I constantly worried that I wasn’t being authentic or genuine enough.
Regarding getting it published, I was lucky enough to already had an agent (I signed with her for a previous project that did not sell). I told her about Spin the Dawn from the very beginning and we submitted it to a wonderful editor who had expressed interest in it. So unlike with my past manuscripts or the rest of my publishing journey, getting Spin the Dawn published was thankfully smooth.
In contrast to the previous question, what were the most rewarding aspects of writing this story?
It was really rewarding for me to write a story so personal to me, one that incorporates the fairy tales my father used to tell me, as well as my memories as a child of sewing with my grandmother and mother. And to finally write and publish the book that teen me dreamed of reading—so that now my daughter will be able to read it one day (if she wants to)—is something I still can’t believe is happening.
What would you like readers to know before they dive into this book?
Pay attention to the first page. There are a lot of hints in it about what’s to come for Maia. And see if you can pick out all my fairytale Easter eggs!
To end this interview, let’s talk about The Blood of Stars in its entirety. If I’m not mistaken, Spin the Dawn is part of a duology. What can readers expect in the sequel?
You can expect a darker tale, with new challenges for Maia. And there will more Lady Sarnai!
Elizabeth Lim grew up on a hearty staple of fairy tales, myths, and songs. Her passion for storytelling began around age 10, when she started writing fanfics for Sailor Moon, Sweet Valley, and Star Wars, and posted them online to discover, “Wow, people actually read my stuff. And that’s kinda cool!” But after one of her teachers told her she had “too much voice” in her essays, Elizabeth took a break from creative writing to focus on not flunking English.
Over the years, Elizabeth became a film and video game composer, and even went so far as to get a doctorate in music composition. But she always missed writing, and she turned to penning stories when she needed a breather from grad school. One day, she decided to write and finish a novel — for kicks, at first, then things became serious — and she hasn’t looked back since.
Elizabeth loves classic film scores, books with a good romance, food (she currently has a soft spot for arepas and Ethiopian food), the color turquoise, overcast skies, English muffins, cycling, and baking. She grew up in Northern California, with a brief stint in Tokyo, Japan, but now lives in New York City with her husband and their daughter.
Elizabeth graduated from Harvard College with a degree in music and a secondary in East Asian Studies, and completed her graduate degrees at The Juilliard School.
by Elizabeth Lim
read the full synopsis.
Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping YA fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.
Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.
Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.
And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.
Just in case you missed it: through Caffeine Book Tours, I have organized an international blog tour with thirty (30) passionate and enthusiastic Asian book bloggers on board! Follow along by checking out the tour schedule and participate through the hashtag #SpinTheDawnTour.
Moreover, in cooperation with the generous folks from Knopf Books for Young Readers, we are giving away finished hardcover copies of Spin the Dawn to three (3) lucky winners!
(Not working? Try clicking here instead!)
As an added bonus, two (2) equally lucky US residents will win copies of Spin the Dawn by participating in our fun, spoiler-free Twitter chat tomorrow! Make no mistake, though. The Twitter chat, which will be hosted by @CaffeineTours, welcomes everyone to join in!
See you tomorrow at 9 PM Philippine time (PHT), or in other parts of the globe, 9 AM EST!
I’d love to hear from you!
🌻 What did you think of this interview? Do you agree with Elizabeth’s choice for the best Asian soups?
🌻 Are you planning to pick up her upcoming fantasy, Spin the Dawn?
🌻 Will you be joining us in the #CBTTC Twitter chat?