Posts Tagged ‘interviews’

On writing mystery

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

Hello, friends. This week, my family is either fighting or has succumbed to a nasty, gastro-ish, high-fever bug that’s making the rounds. I assume you don’t need photographic evidence of our misery. Instead, here are Parts One and Two of a group interview I did with Susan Hughes of Open Book Toronto. It’s about mystery writing for children and young adults, and the interviewees include Norah McClintock and Shane Peacock.

Writing Mystery for Kids, Part One

Writing Mystery for Kids, Part Two

Oh, and here are some strawberries. Those who follow me on Twitter know that last year, chipmunks and robins ate all our strawberries. EVERY. SINGLE. BERRY.

This year, we stretched nets over the strawberry beds and TA DA!


Even from beneath this virus’s heel, I feel smug and triumphant when I look at this photo.


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Rivals in the City: the transatlantic edition

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Hello, friends. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, Rivals in the City will be published in the UK/World in June 2014. The gorgeous cover, designed by Walker Books, is here. And now I have a pub date for the US/Canadian (Candlewick Press) edition of Rivals in the City: February 2015. I am so thrilled to have a concrete date. I know it’s twelve months away, but I hope you’ll find it worth the wait. I hope to have some cover news to share with you soon, as well.

As for today’s main content, Nafiza of the Book Wars interviewed me recently. She wasted no time in asking the big questions: race, geographical identity, masculinity, Canadian identity, and how much of me goes into the character of Mary Quinn. It was a lovely interview for me, and I hope you enjoy it, too.

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On performance

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Yesterday, my almost-four-year-old had a birthday celebration at his preschool, to which his whole family was invited. It was absolutely beautiful: thoughtful, focused, loving, and joyful. And yes, I wept. But I’m more interested in my son’s response, which was an intense blend of pride, excitement, the need to control his own surge of emotions, and stage fright. It’s all completely logical, and it would probably have been odd had his response been more straightforward. But it made me think about author appearances and public performance.

I was an extremely shy, introverted child. (Yes, this is Author Cliché No. 2, second only to “I always wanted to write”. But being a cliché doesn’t make it less true.) I preferred to play alone, or with one good friend. Changing schools – especially midway through the school year – made me dry-heave with anxiety. I consistently, seriously, contemplated breaking my hand, on purpose, before piano recitals. And let’s not even discuss public speaking.

Actually, yes, let’s. Because I detested it. I’d work hard researching a topic, writing a script and memorizing it, and practice delivering it to an empty room. And then, on the day itself, I’d go hot-and-cold-and-dizzy with nerves, and blast through the entire speech in 30 seconds of unintelligible, warp-speed muttering. What a complete waste of time.

Or was it? Because I now have an introvert’s dream job. And yet I regularly stand before small and large groups of people and read to them, talk to them, answer questions, and generally do what my husband calls “the Y. S. Lee Show”. And it’s fine. More than fine: it’s fun. Occasionally, it’s even inspiring.

I’m so far removed from the kid who, in Grade 1, hid in the cloakroom at recess because I was the new kid. And I don’t think it’s because I had an overnight personality change. I think it’s because of all the practice: public speaking assignments, changing schools several times, and working as a university professor. When you are forced to do something, over and over again, you adapt. Hone techniques. And rehearse a show of confidence that, eventually, becomes very real.

I’m still definitely an introvert. I love working at home. I don’t miss having colleagues (if I want chit-chat, there’s always Twitter!). And too much noise, for too long, makes me flee the scene. But I hadn’t thought about how much I’ve changed until I saw the blend of expressions on my little-big boy’s face yesterday.

How about you: are you an introvert, an extrovert, or that rare (and possibly mythical) balanced creature? How do you deal with author appearances or other public speaking gigs?

Interviews are a different kind of performance, and I had such a fun time with Trisha of the YA YA YAs when she interviewed me as part of her Summer Blog Blast Tour. Do you like night soil jokes? If so, you’ll love Trisha’s questions as much as I did!

Trisha’s also written a really lovely appreciation for the Agency novels that’s gone straight to my head. Obviously, I adore her taste in books!

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Yes. THIS.

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

I have the most interesting, keen-eyed friends a girl could ask for. A few days ago, my fellow Master of Arts (that’s what they said at our convocation: “Rise, Master of Arts!”) Jo Valin sent me this link to some photos of Smiling Victorians.

The photos are all borrowed from a Flickr group called – you guessed it – The Smiling Victorian, but Retronaut does a great job of explaining why the Victorians are so commonly stereotyped as stuffy and solemn: when being photographed, “subjects had to stand very still to avoid being blurred, and holding a smile for that period was tricky. As a result, we have a tendency to see our Victorian ancestors as even more formal and stern than they might have been.”

You guys, I ADORE this cache of photos. Not only are they cheeky and vivid and candid and moving, but they absolutely SHRED our preconceptions about the Victorians. Check out the body language! Women put their arms around men, they lay down on beaches, they sat on their (sketchy-looking) boyfriends’ laps!

This is precisely the kind of Victorian England I try to evoke in the Agency novels: pungent, gritty, vigorous. The stuff missed by canonical novels and etiquette books. The parts you might never glimpse, if you buy into the stereotype.

And there’s more: I’ve raved about the Dictionary of Victorian London before, but its editor, Lee Jackson, actually made me cackle out loud this week with a blog post about Victorian prudery – or its antithesis. The writer quoted is Francis Wey, a French tourist, so we should make allowances for exaggeration and a desire to caricature the English. But if even half of what Wey reports is true, the prim-and-proper stereotype is about to collapse like the toilet tents Wey describes. As he says, “When English people are not icicles, they are apt to become shameless.”

Finally, this week I’m the feature author at Nineteenteen, a really cool blog about “being a teen in the nineteenth century”. Yesterday, blogger and YA author Marissa Doyle interviewed me – and of course, as a fellow novelist and history fanatic, she asked very interesting questions. Check it out!

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The whole Mary & James thing

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

Okay, so the #1 question I get from readers – and this is by a long shot – is, “Will Mary and James get together?” Naturally, I don’t have a simple yes-or-no answer for you. James is back in The Body at the Tower but the path of true love is never entirely smooth, know what I mean? I go into a bit more detail in an interview with Cecilia at the Epic Rat, but it contains some spoilers for both Spy and Body. If you can’t stand spoilers, feel free to email/tweet me your questions and I’ll do my best to answer them in a discreet and tantalizing manner.

Cecilia also reviews Body. It’s a great review but it, too, contains spoilers for Spy. It’s a cruel world out there for innocent readers.

I’ll see you tomorrow for more Notorious Victorians!

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Notorious Victorians, days 2-5

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Hello, friends. On Tuesday, the Body at the Tower blog tour stops at Bookworming in the 21st Century. There, I talk favourite books and writing challenges in an interview with Kristen. And Body gets a 5-star review!

I’m going to have patchy internet access for the next few days, but the blog tour rolls on. Do check in at GreenBeanTeenQueen on Wednesday for my essay on Notorious Victorian activist Annie Besant and Sarah’s review of Body.

On Thursday, I’ll be talking about Charles Darwin as a Reluctant Revolutionary at Cornucopia of Reviews. There, Lizzy also gives Body a glowing review. Yay!

Friday’s guest post is about women’s rights campaigner Lady Caroline Norton, over at Reading in Color. Ari’s review is a beautiful one, but beware – it contains minor spoilers for Spy.

I’ll post next week from Vancouver, when the blog tour continues with four more Notorious Victorians and an interview. Can’t wait!

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Notorious Victorians

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Welcome to the first day of the Body at the Tower blog tour! My theme this time round is Notorious Victorians and today, I’m guest-posting over at the Story Siren about the scandalous Victoria Claflin Woodhull, aka the first woman to run for president of the United States. Woodhull’s life was even juicier than that sounds.

Kristi at the Story Siren also reviews Body, giving it 5 stars! She praises its “Spectacular characters… superb writing… awesome storyline. It’s easy to read, fun and just plain ole’ entertaining. I can’t wait for another adventure with Mary in book three!” I’m thrilled to hear it.

I’m also chatting with Sara at the Hiding Spot, where we discuss favourite scenes, novels, and words. Right now, mine’s “quiddity”. What’s yours?

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Booksellers of Kingston (is that a song?)

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Lunch, for me, is the saddest meal. If I’m working, I often ignore hunger signs and start feeling a little hollow in the middle of the afternoon. Eventually, I scoff some leftovers while flicking through the New Yorker and scoot right back to my computer. And yes, I may then drink the coffee that was first poured at 7.30am. I know, I know.

Yesterday was different. Yesterday, Jennifer Herman (Marketing Manager at Random House Canada and a proper take-no-prisoners kind of woman) organized a lunch gathering for me with a bunch of booksellers from Indigo (downtown) and Chapters (the ‘burbs). It was fun, and entirely the opposite of my usual sad vigil. I talked a bit about Spy, but mostly we all talked about: the indignities of buying “petite” trousers that still require hemming; handmade jewelry from Barriefield Village; the joys of the All-Day Breakfast; Paulo Coelho, yea or nay; the new Yann Martel book; self-help books; Portsmouth Villagers, arty or crazy; movie theatres of Kingston Past; people who walk cats as though they’re dogs; people who carry dogs as though they’re babies; whether bookselling is the most dangerous job in the world, on the grounds that your take-home pay might well be zero after you’ve spent the day caressing new books; the retired English teacher who’s taught half of Kingston; what, exactly, a Poker Run is (it involves boats); and dachsunds. These are just the highlights, mind you. And then Jennifer gave out copies of Spy, and I signed them, which still gives me the chills (and penmanship worries).

The booksellers got off light – I was actually pressing for an Ultimate Fighting Championship-style scrap between the two stores. It looked promising, to me: Indigo had more people (including the tallest), but the Chapters folk are ninjas. Ultimately, I forced everyone to pose for this photo:

(back row) Bonnie, Jenny, Ryan, Jennifer, Samantha; (front row) Christina, Leslie, Victoria, Ginny

And then I brainwashed them. (back row) Bonnie, Jenny, Ryan, Jennifer, Samantha; (front row) Christina, Leslie, Victoria, Ginny

Good times, booksellers of Kingston. Good times.

This week, I’m thrilled that Kirkus reviewed Spy a second time, this time in their spring supplement: “Debut author Y.S. Lee keeps the story wound tight, lacing it with gingery humor… Sparkling repartee fuels the story, but it’s not so snappy as to undercut Mary’s vulnerability—she’s a saucy, smart heroine it will be a pleasure to meet again.”

And the bloggers – they’ve been busy!

Yuan at GAL Novelty says it’s “an engrossing read, with a lead character you can root for with all your heart”.

The Book Whisperer doesn’t usually read historical mysteries, but concludes that “without a doubt that I am a new follower”. Hurray!

Christina at Reading Extensively calls it “a delightful mystery with a fantastic heroine”.

Mel at He Followed Me Home thinks it has “the perfect ingredients for a fun historical mystery”.

And Miss Kelley “can’t wait to find out what Mary Quinn does next”!

Finally, I did a couple of interviews:

I talked to novelist Cynthia Leitich Smith about research and roadblocks, and finding one’s historical voice.

And Book Lovers Inc interviewed me. Sample: Q. Tell us about your book. A. It contains not a single vampire.

I think that’s accurate.

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Endings & beginnings

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

There’s still time: enter the “If I were a spy…” contest here!

This is, appropriately enough, a week of both endings and beginnings. My final stop in the T2T blog tour is at Ticket to Anywhere, where I guest-blog about that most Victorian of fashion items: the corset. True or false? Prince Albert wore one. Also, blog host Irish reviews Spy and gives it four stars for being “hard to put down”. Hurray!

I’ve been busy elsewhere, too. Shades of Romance Magazine interviewed me and I talked about Things I Learned at My Book Launch Party at BookLounge.
The Agency: A Spy in the House

On Tuesday, I had my first, real-life confirmation that I’m not, in fact, hallucinating everything: while driving from Toronto to Kingston, I stopped in Belleville for a coffee at the Organic Underground and a sly little mission to Greenley’s Book Store, a gem of an indie. And there it was.

Does this ever become a routine and ho-hum experience? I certainly hope not.

I’ve just finished reading Philip Hensher’s The Mulberry Empire and am still recovering from the experience. It’s a swaggering, playful, beautifully postmodern (as opposed to annoyingly, pretentiously postmodern) homage to the Victorian three-volume novel; it’s a joke about Boy’s Own Adventures; it is MAGNIFICENT. Please, please, read it and come back to discuss.

I received an ARC of Lisa Mantchev’s Perchance to Dream in the mail this week. Huzzah! I thought Eyes Like Stars was terrific – so much so that I’m going to save PtD until I’ve finished my own book 3 in a few weeks. Not only will it be a delicious treat, but I won’t be tempted to write obnoxious fairies into my own novel in an insane act of homage.

Finally, a lot of new and lovely reviews of Spy are popping up everywhere – hurray again! I’ve included snippets below, with links where available.

The trade publications:

“Woven throughout the cloak-and-dagger play is plenty of flirtatious repartee, and even the most perilous of adventures is leavened with a comic edge that winks at the mystery genre.” Bulletin of the Centre for Children’s Books

“Historical details are woven seamlessly into the plot, and descriptive writing allows readers to be part of each scene.” School Library Journal

The bloggers:

Susan of Readspace, a diehard mystery fan, is “thrilled that this series is being published for young adults.  Unlike adult fiction, there are few high quality true mysteries to offer teens… In my opinion, this could just as easily been picked up by an adult mystery imprint, that’s how good it is.”

Kelly Peres of Midnight Glance was initially suspicious, but I converted her! She admits, “I went in with a closed mind on the topic, but I have to say Y.S. Lee captivated me from the first chapter to the end.”

A Patchwork of Books calls it “a brilliantly addictive plot filled with twists and turns, as well as high fashion, old money, and handsome gentlemen… If you’re a fan of The Luxe or just a lover of good mysteries or historical fiction, this is a fantastic choice.”

The Passionate Booklover “really loved this captivating tale and I wanted to read more about Mary and her fascinating adventures!”

The Unread Book says, “The story twists and turns and every time you think you have figured it out Lee throws you another curveball.”

Milk and Cookies calls it “a great new series to look forward to!”

I’d call that a great – and full – week. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a novel to write. See you next Thursday!

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Blog tour: Victorians and Opium

Friday, March 12th, 2010

If you were a spy, what would YOU do? Tell me to win swag!

Rebecca Herman of Rebecca’s Book Blog was one of the first book bloggers to notice Spy when the British edition was first published in 2009. You can check out our interview here – a first for both of us, I think! Today, I’m delighted to be Rebecca’s guest once again and I’m talking about the Victorian uber-drug, opium. It wasn’t just for the hookah-smoking avant-garde

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