Monday, August 15, 2016

VICARIOUS Blog Tour: Introduction + Schedule

I decided to kick off the VICARIOUS blog tour on my own site so that I could share some thoughts on #OwnVoices and writing outside my perspective, as well as introduce the rest of the tour.

I think the #OwnVoices movement is extremely important, and I fully believe that the literary community benefits by increasing the diversity of both authors and stories across races, cultures, sexual orientations, mental health statuses, socioeconomic classes, and more. For me it’s a no brainer that the exact same story written by someone inside of a group is going to feel more authentic than the one written by an outsider.

However, I feel like it’s rare that two authors want to tell the exact same story. If publishers are using a formal or informal quota system, where buying an excellent contemporary romance with a main character from a marginalized group means they have to pass on an excellent murder mystery with a main character from the same marginalized group, or even another contemporary romance with a completely different plot, that’s a problem—one that needs to be addressed at the publisher level. A good story is a good story, and assuming the representation is accurate and respectful, we should not be limiting the number of diverse books published, especially after straight, white, privileged main characters have dominated the literature for so long.

Therefore, while I believe we need more #OwnVoices books, I also think all authors should have the right to work on any story they strongly need to tell, as long as they’re willing to do the research needed and be receptive to criticism during and after the publication process. I fully believe that the best book a person can write is the story they love and desperately want to read, but once you become a published author, there are multiple entities limiting what you can submit/sell. Agents advise against projects they feel aren’t right for the market. Editors reject ideas they aren’t passionate about. Acquisitions teams do not offer deals to books they don’t think will make the company money. One of the reasons I started writing was to escape the confines and limits of my own experiences, to explore other realities and learn about other worlds. Accepting the premise that authors shouldn’t write about a country where we’ve never lived, or a culture we’re not part of, or a character with a disability we don’t personally have, would be further limiting ourselves and forcing us to censor our characters before they even get a chance to speak.

Because yeah, I don’t know how it works for other writers, but when my characters appear in my head for the first time, they usually show up with a lot of characteristics already in place. So many people asked me why I chose to write about a clueless, shallow, popular girl in The Art of Lainey. Um, that’s just who she was. It didn't occur to me to change her because I found her interesting and engaging, and I think less-than-perfect characters also deserve to have their stories told. Sure, I polished her throughout the drafting and revision process, and like most of my characters she undergoes a lot of character development, but I didn’t completely overhaul her identity. If I had, she would have no longer felt real to me. Same goes for Max in Liars, Inc. Same goes for Vicarious. From the moment Winter Kim first whispered in my ear, she was a Korean girl with a tragic past who was overcompensating for her emotional problems by building up her physical strength. If you want to know why I think she was that girl, check out my post on Ivy Book Bindings tomorrow, as I’ll go into much more detail.

Later in the blog tour I’ll also discuss my research strategies, my feelings about authenticity and respect, how I attempted to balance sharing cultural information with story pacing, my experiences using multiple cultural beta-readers, and finally some specific challenges I faced throughout writing and revision. Note that these posts are not meant to be “how-to” posts about writing outside one’s experiences. I don’t believe there’s one right way to do it, and I am in no way an authority on any of the strategies I used. I’m simply writing about how and why I did what I did, because several people have asked me about it.

Here’s the tour schedule:

Mon. 8/15      Introduction + tour schedule

Tues. 8/16      Writing outside my perspective: Part 1
                      Why I wrote Korean main characters and what I hoped to accomplish

Wed. 8/17       Review + interview with Paula          

Thurs. 8/18     Writing outside my perspective: Part 2
                       A summary of my research strategies

Fri. 8/19          Review + five facts about Winter

Mon. 8/22       Writing outside my perspective: Part 3

                      Maintaining authenticity and respect; balancing info and pacing

Tues. 8/23       Review + five facts about Jesse

Wed. 8/24       Writing outside my perspective: Part 4

                      Thoughts on using cultural beta-readers

Thurs. 8/25     Review + five facts about Rose

Fri. 8/26         Writing outside my perspective: Part 5
                     Specific issues/problems I encountered while writing Vicarious



  1. So excited for the rest of the tour! I cannot wait to read everything and learn every little detail!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Pili :)

    2. I'm not computer savvy so I had no idea you did tours online. This is pretty awesome because everyone anywhere can be a part of it. Very cool!

  2. I love this!! Just reading this post gave me the shivers. Thanks for being so amazing for both diversity and writing this mind blowing book. You rock my world.

    1. Thanks for your help as a beta-reader, C. You might be mentioned by name later in the tour ;D

  3. too bad your newsletter didn't go out earlier to include this

  4. I actually find it amazing that you wrote asian characters. I mean as an asian myself i feel like someone is raising the flag for us. I don't really mind that you're writing something that is not you. What better way to learn about them right? I saw that the marvel illustrator, (something) Bendis, is writing a teenage girl version of Iron Man. I personally think it's cool! But one commentor say that she finds it awesome but not cool that the illustrator is a white man. I thought of agreeing but i also felt like it's ridiculous. I mean, they should be free of whatever they want to write or illustrate, as long as there's ton of research involve and make sure to check that they are not stepping on anybody. So, i'm all for you writing whatever you want! It is your book, they are your characters and i will read it :)

    1. Thanks, Alyssa :) I'll admit that white people often do it wrong when they try to write diversity, but there is also not one standard of right and wrong. Just because my Korean main character doesn't work for one Korean doesn't mean she won't work for any. It's not all Koreans think and act exactly the same. For me, doing it right is about research, accuracy, respect, and getting feedback. No, that's not a foolproof plan, but I think it's a solid one.

      I just don't think we as a community can say we want more diverse books but then mandate who exactly gets to write them. That's not fair to non-white, non-straight authors either. They shouldn't feel obligated to fill the void of diverse books by writing their own experiences if the story they want to tell is about Viking warriors or talking cats, etc.

  5. It's great learning that this book is diverse and I love that you utilized cultural beta-readers. You took time and attention to make your characters authentic! So cool!

  6. I'm looking forward to reading this book!


I love your comments like I love cupcakes! Thanks so much for stopping by :-)