Author Spotlight: Gloria Chao

Name: Gloria Chao

Author of: American Panda (Simon Pulse) and Misaligned (coming fall 2019)


Can you tell me about the first piece you remember writing?

I remember writing and illustrating a lot of stories as a kid, and here’s a sneak peek at one of them involving a…dun dun dunnn…missing snowglobe!



When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as a profession?

My husband saw how passionate I was about writing and was the first to suggest I pursue it professionally. It had never occurred to me before that moment that it was an option for me, and his belief in my words was what set me on this path. There were years of doubts that followed, but there is no regret.


Is there anyone who went out of their way to help or advise you during your journey to become a published author?

On a whim, I submitted my query to The Book Doctor’s NaNoWriMo Pitchapalooza, and The Book Doctors became an important part of my publishing journey. They gave me invaluable advice about where my book fit into the market, and it was their idea to age Mei down to seventeen and write the book as young adult. I am forever grateful to them for their expertise and for also being the first in the industry to believe in me.


Do you exclusively write contemporary YA or have you written in other genres?

Fantasy was my first YA love, and there will always be a special place for it even though contemporary is my main love now. Most of my future book ideas are YA contemporary, but sometimes I do have a fantasy idea that will pop in. For now, I want to continue exploring realistic fiction, Asian American characters, and struggles with identity, but perhaps I will write in another genre in the future.


What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book? Is it difficult to achieve a work, life, write balance?

Because I’m lucky enough to write full-time, I don’t find it too difficult to achieve a life/write balance. While drafting and revising, I tend to live and dream my book to the point where I’m always thinking about it, but it’s more because of passion than necessity. Sometimes I do have to work around the clock to meet deadlines, but it’s a privilege I’m grateful for.


How long does it generally take you to write a first draft? How long do you spend on revisions?

American Panda was drafted in one month for NaNoWriMo. I revised for a year and a half on my own, two months with my agent, then another five months with my editor. Misaligned was drafted in spurts over a three-month period during which American Panda was released, and most likely I will be in revisions with my editor for five or six months. Misaligned feels like the speed of light compared to American Panda!


Can you describe the preparation/research you do for each book?

For me, the book doesn’t start flowing until I find the protagonist’s voice. Most of my preparation involves free writing to try to figure out exactly who they are and how they talk. For Misaligned, I also did some research on 19th Century China!


Do you have any quirky writing habits (the things you’d never want anyone to know)?

Hmmm…my writing habits are: cup of tea, music in the background, two screens (one for Word, one for research). Because I live in Chicago, I need fingerless typing gloves and a mug warmer in the winter (and sometimes spring because our cold season is way too long!).


Have you ever done a literary pilgrimage—or any interesting research—for your novels? If not, do you have a research destination bucket list?

Nothing interesting, but for Misaligned, my husband and I have explored Indiana farmland. I’m hoping one of my future books will be set someplace more tropical ?


Inspiration comes in many forms. Can you recall the exact moment of inspiration for each of your projects? For American Panda, it was my husband telling me I needed to tell my story combined with my desire to write the book I needed as a teen. For Misaligned, my mother told me about a newspaper article she’d read describing a phenomenon in China. I immediately thought, This needs to be in a book, and the idea formed from there. My third book idea actually also started from a newspaper article.


Do you have a specific genre you prefer to read? What are your favorites? YA contemporary is my main love. Some favorites: The Hate U Give, The Sun is Also a Star, Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, They Both Die at the End, Starfish, You’ll Miss Me When You’re Gone, Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, It’s Not Me, It’s You.


Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find or know the real inspiration for? Yes! I leave a lot of inside jokes to my husband in my writing. I also have some jokes for my family in there.


Are your characters inspired—in part or whole—by people in your real life? Yes, almost all of my characters are inspired at least in part by people I know well, people I’ve met in passing, and people I’ve heard about from others.


Name one book you think is entirely underappreciated. Starfish. I know it was a William Morris finalist and is critically acclaimed, but I think it deserves even more attention.


Name one book that was a guilty pleasure. Twilight!


Be honest: Do you Google yourself? I don’t. I just don’t want to know.


As a writer, which animal would you choose as your mascot/avatar/patronus? Panda, of course!


What is one word of advice you’d give to an aspiring writer?

Write your story and focus on what makes you unique!


What is one word of advice you’d give to a newly published author?

Congratulations, you did it!!! Figure out what works for you, and it might be different from others (i.e. how much social media, whether or not to look at reviews, etc).


In what ways do you “pay it forward” to help other aspiring writers?
When I have time, I offer critiques of queries, Twitter pitches, and opening pages to aspiring writers. I also have a blog where I give my tips and share my publishing journey: All the resources I used during my journey can be found here:


Want to know more about Gloria?


American Panda 

At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth—that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?

From debut author Gloria Chao comes a hilarious, heartfelt tale of how unlike the panda, life isn’t always so black and white.


Get your copy of American Panda from Amazon or Barnes & Noble  


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