Today we’re thrilled to have guest author Chloe Gong over to chat with us about history, representation, and monsters from her book These Violent Delights.
A Chat with Chloe Gong
The Book Smugglers: These Violent Delights prominently features rival gangs vying for power and leading to chaos and a body count—as well as a monster in the depths of the Huangpu River, leading to even greater chaos and a higher body count. What research did you do if any to capture your vision of 1920s Shanghai?
CHLOE: It was a combination of technical research (aka flipping through history textbooks and spending hours at a time in my school library) and asking my parents and relatives a lot of questions! I wanted the setting to feel as real as possible even while I was inventing fantastical elements like a monster and a deadly contagion. Even though this is fiction, 1920s Shanghai in true history was still this glittering, vibrant place, and I wanted to capture its atmosphere as much as possible with a combination of culture and facts so that readers really feel like they are there at this time while these fictionalized events are happening.
The Book Smugglers: Talk to us a bit about Shakespeare, and the influence Romeo and Juliet had on you and this book.
CHLOE: I’m a complete Shakespeare nerd. Sometimes people think that means I’m some big brain English major who can understand his plays super easily, and while I am an English major (the big brain part, however, is to be determined), I also have a lot of trouble understanding Shakespeare so it feels rewarding when I dive in and work through the language to emerge with all this rich thematic content and these craft choices. There’s gold buried under the complicated older English! Romeo and Juliet is such a touchstone text to the later emerging themes of Western literature! This book was basically my effort to re-engage with major themes that have always inspired me, except with a fresh spin and a new cultural lens that hasn’t been seen before.
The Book Smugglers: You’ve said that this book is your love letter to Shanghai, Shakespeare, and your younger self, searching for representation in YA fiction. You’ve told us about the first two pillars that inspired your book, but we would love to explore the importance of representation in your work. (Especially now, through the lens of the world in 2021, where the clear legacy of colonialism and AAPI hate are so painfully prevalent.)
CHLOE: To me, representation in fiction is about showing the world as it is. It’s about telling our own stories, and putting fully-realized identities on the page: people who get to experience stories as whole human beings, not as just an Asian person or a Chinese person. Having a marginalized identity colors the way that someone sees the world, and stories that explore this as its main focus are super important and need a place in mainstream fiction, but I also grew up with fantastical tales of (white) girls simply saving the world and going on adventures, and I wanted to write those kinds of stories, only with heroines that would allow my teen self to see herself right on the page.
The Book Smugglers: If you could host an opulent, era-appropriate gala with characters from These Violent Delights, and any other characters from any other fictional world: who and why? And, what would you serve?
CHLOE: Oooh, the characters from Cassandra Clare’s The Last Hours trilogy! On a technical level the time periods match up already, but also because I think Juliette and Matthew Fairchild would be great friends, so it would be an absolute hoot. The gala can serve the finest wine money can buy and all the excellent Shanghai dishes.
The Book Smugglers: Finally, a question we ask all of our interviewees: We Book Smugglers have faced condemnation because of the sheer volume of books that we carry back home on a daily basis. As such, we have on occasion resorted to “smuggling books” home to escape judgmental, scrutinizing eyes. Have you ever had to smuggle books?
CHLOE: I used to devour books at my local library, and since I dropped in about every week, I needed to make sure I was taking home enough that my selection would actually last me seven days because I was such a fast reader. While I’ve never smuggled anything out, I’ve had to hide some checked books in a bag or carry them in two trips because anytime I actually carried the whole stack of like, 15 books from the library doors to my mum’s car I would get so many strange side eyes.
About The Author
Chloe Gong is the New York Times bestselling author of These Violent Delights and its sequel Our Violent Ends. She is a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where she double-majored in English and International Relations. Born in Shanghai and raised in Auckland, New Zealand, Chloe is now located in New York pretending to be a real adult.
After devouring the entire YA section of her local library, she started writing her own novels at age 13 to keep herself entertained, and has been highly entertained ever since. Chloe has been known to mysteriously appear by chanting “Romeo and Juliet is one of Shakespeare’s best plays and doesn’t deserve its slander in pop culture” into a mirror three times.
About The Book
The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.
A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.
But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.
Perfect for fans of The Last Magician and Descendant of the Crane, this heart-stopping debut is an imaginative Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai, with rival gangs and a monster in the depths of the Huangpu River.