Queering the Craft: Interview with Hudson Lin
I'm very excited to be featuring Hudson Lin today! Lin's work has really stood out to me this year, and she has two releases this summer: First in June was Inside Darkness, which I reviewed on RT Book Reviews (RIP), and this month is Three Months to Forever.
She generously stopped by to discuss writing, publishing, and race in fiction. Let's begin!
Hannah: Thanks so much for agreeing to be interviewed on Queerly Reads! 2018 seems to be your breakout year, with an anthology contribution in Teacher’s Pet and two novels. What was your journey leading up to so many back-to-back releases?
Lin: As with many authors, my hard drive is full of half-finished stories collected over many years of dabbling in writing. It wasn’t until 2015, when I was working abroad with few friends around, that I managed to get something finished. I posted it online and, to my surprise, I got really positive feedback and suggestions that I should become a published writer. It had always been a dream of mine to be an author, but I never thought that was in the realm of possibility, so I had a good laugh and brushed aside the comments. About a year later, I wrote another story and posted it online to more positive feedback and more suggestions that I should try publishing. So at the beginning of 2017, I made a New Year’s resolution to do just that, try to become a published author. I spent most of that year writing the stories that are now being released. I still don’t quite believe that anyone would want to publish my writing, let alone buy my books!
H: I love the sheer number of countries your stories take place in or mention, spanning three continents. What are some of your favorite books that don’t take place in the U.S. or England?
L: Ah! This is such a good question! I had to go back through my Goodreads list to jog my memory, but unfortunately, it seems like my memory was correct: I’ve only read a handful of books set outside the US or the UK.
One of these is Want by Cindy Pon, a young adult novel set in Taipei, Taiwan with a racially diverse cast and queer characters. Sometime in the near future, the world is being crippled by pollution and the gap between the rich and the poor has widened dramatically. A group of young people hatch a plan to bring down an evil corporate empire that preys on the poor and the environment. I love this book because it shows people of color taking charge and kicking ass, the female characters are really strong leaders, and the queer content is woven into the story seamlessly.
One last thing, I think I like setting stories in different countries because I see so little of that in my reading. I love to travel and I love imagining stories playing out in the places I visit. Setting can be a character unto itself, bringing an extra dimension to the story, creating new and interesting conflicts. I wish there were romance novels set in other parts of the world!
H: What is one piece of advice you would give to writers starting out in their querying/submissions process?
L: I’m not sure I’m the best person to give advice, since I’m still starting out myself! But I will say this: as with any career, a lot of it has to do with luck. Hard work and talent are both important, but sometimes the stars align the right away and everything happens, and sometimes they don’t. There are so many factors that go into becoming a published author, and most of them are completely outside the control of the author themselves. So if things aren’t going the way you’d like them to, it isn’t necessarily that you’re doing something wrong, it could just be that the time isn’t right yet.
H: Your portrayal of PTSD rang really true for me with Inside Darkness. Do you have any specific writing methods for “digging deep” into the psychology of your characters?
L: I write a lot of my own psychology into my characters. This isn’t to say that I have PTSD, because as far as I know, I don’t. But I do have other issues with mental health, and I often tap into those when developing a character. Writing is cathartic for me. It allows for self-examination and then provides an outlet to process my thoughts. I guess if the psychology of a character rings true, it means that I’ve successfully described all the strange and convoluted ways my brain works!
For Inside Darkness, I spent a lot of time scouring blogs of aid workers who had been diagnosed with PTSD, including those from the queer community. Since I’d spent some time as an aid worker myself, I found myself identifying with some of the things they wrote. What ended up in the book is a combination of my own experiences of the field, snippets gleaned from those first-hand accounts, plus a great editor/sensitivity reader who made sure I wasn’t completely off base.
H: On the topic of digging deep: Your essay on racial diversity in fiction is such an important read. You expressed something I see in myself as I take on writing an f/f romance for the first time: This ease with writing about a dominant social group you don’t belong to (e.g. white people, men, white men) but this internal soul-searching that needs to be done to bring truths about your own identity to the page. You wrote, “I include at least one East Asian character in every story I write. And it’s hard, so much harder than I imagined it would be.” Was there a kind of “click” moment where you realized you needed to do this as a writer? Maybe in spite of or because of the inherent difficulty?
L: If there was a “click” moment, I think it came as I was scrolling through Twitter, hehe. But seriously, I had no idea there was a movement for more diversity in romance until I joined the writing community on social media. Once I realized this movement existed, I couldn’t not try to contribute; it would have been like denying who I was.
I’ve spent my whole life trying to fit in with the crowd, trying to diminish what makes me different so as to be more easily accepted. Presenting myself as an East Asian author and writing East Asian characters is doing exactly the opposite: I’m highlighting that I’m different, I’m leaning into my difference. Not only is that going against a lifetime of habits, but it’s also opening myself up to criticism, potentially from people who know less about being Asian than I do.
But if I—someone with the lived experienced of being Asian—don’t write authentic and nuanced East Asian characters, who will? If I want to see the romance genre become more diverse, who else is more qualified to add an East Asian perspective than me? I’m not saying I’m an expert on all things East Asian—I’m not. But I have bits and pieces I can contribute, and combined with bits and pieces from other people, we can create a much richer landscape where everyone can belong.
H: What can we look forward to from you in the future?
L: My latest release is Three Months to Forever (out on July 20th from Dreamspinner Press) about Ben a white man who is sent from Toronto to Hong Kong on a three-month work assignment. He meets Sai, an older Hong Kong lawyer, who has a complicated relationship with his father and his work. They quickly fall in love, despite several lost-in-translation moments, but what will they do when Ben’s three months come to an end? Set in Hong Kong, Three Months to Forever is as much a love story about the city as it is a romance about two men. Readers can expect lots of references to cultural landmarks and plenty of food!
FollowingThree Months to Forever, I’ve got several other stories in the works (though no set release dates), including an m/m romance set in LA about a Dreamer and his law school classmate; an m/f romance set in Toronto about former law school rivals who find themselves on opposite sides of new case; and an f/f romance featuring Izzy from Inside Darkness.
H: YAY!!!! F/F FOREVER! Thanks so much again Hudson!
L: Thanks so much for having me!
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