The Compulsive Reader: Interview with Dori Jones Yang!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Interview with Dori Jones Yang!

Dori Jones Yang is the author of the fantasy-like historical novel, Daughter of Xanadu, and she was kind enough to take a moment and answer a few questions about her new release! But first, here's what it's about:

"Athletic and strong willed, Princess Emmajin's determined to do what no woman has done before: become a warrior in the army of her grandfather, the Great Khan Khubilai. In the Mongol world the only way to achieve respect is to show bravery and win glory on the battlefield. The last thing she wants is the distraction of the foreigner Marco Polo, who challenges her beliefs in the gardens of Xanadu. Marco has no skills in the "manly arts" of the Mongols: horse racing, archery, and wrestling. Still, he charms the Khan with his wit and story-telling. Emmajin sees a different Marco as they travel across 13th-century China, hunting 'dragons' and fighting elephant-back warriors. Now she faces a different battle as she struggles with her attraction towards Marco and her incredible goal of winning fame as a soldier."

What inspired you to write about this era in time?

China has long fascinated me, but I knew nothing about Mongolia before this book. I wanted to write a book about Marco Polo, and I discovered that, in his time, China was ruled by the Mongols, by Khubilai Khan. So I started reading up on the Mongols – who were they? How did they eat, dress, act? What inspired them to conquer the world? Then I tried to imagine how Marco Polo would have looked through their eyes – from the perspective of a Mongolian girl.

What sort of research did you do in writing Daughter of Xanadu?

I read everything I could find about Marco Polo, Khubilai Khan, and the Mongols, as well as books about modern Mongolia. Then I visited Mongolia, twice, and traveled to places in China where Marco visited: Beijing, the Silk Road, Yunnan Province. I even found the ruins of Xanadu, where Khubilai Khan’s fabulous summer palace once stood. It was a thrill! Seeing these places helped me imagine the story of Marco and Emmajin.

What was the hardest part about writing this book? The easiest?

This book took me a long time to write, in part because I had to make the transition from just-the-facts journalism to fiction. I had to go deep inside my characters and understand their thoughts and motives. I had learned so much about the Mongol era that I had to keep myself from going overboard and including too much history. The easiest part is right now, getting the word out about why I fell in love with Marco Polo and why I created Daughter of Xanadu.

What are some of your favorite historical fiction books?

I love historical fiction that gives us a different take on history – especially the woman’s perspective. Philippa Gregory does this, as does Margaret George. The Red Tent tells a familiar Bible story from the eyes of Jacob’s daughter Dinah, and The Mists of Avalon tells the Camelot legend from the eyes of Morgaine. I also love a new novel about Mary Magdalene called Disciple, by Susan Little.

 Are you planning on writing any other YA books?

I am working on a sequel to Daughter of Xanadu, telling what Emmajin and Marco did after this story ends. I would love to write more YA books because this genre is so open and eager to explore new things. YA readers are terrific!

Please visit me at my website, www.dorijonesyang.com to find out more. I think you’ll also enjoy my book trailer video, designed by my daughter:

I’d love to hear your comments! Am I crazy to set a book in this obscure time period and place?


Natalie Aguirre said...

Great interview. My daughter is adopted from China so I've always been fascinated about it.

I'm so impressed Dori traveled to China twice for her book. That's dedication.

Lauren said...

I'm not interested in history, school-style, but I really enjoy historical fiction. It gives me a chance to learn about the people of the past, not just the politics. And I think this era sounds awesome to read/write. Definitely want to read it!

kathy@bookskidslike.com said...

This sounds like a great book...such an interesting period of history. It's always fun to hear what author's have to say about their writing process.