Fall 2019 Publishers’ Preview: Five Questions for Jen Wang

Publishers' Previews: Special advertising supplement in The Horn Book Magazine

This interview originally appeared in the September/October 2019 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Fall 2019 Publishers’ Previews, an advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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In the graphic novel Stargazing, Christine isn’t at all sure she’s going to become friends with the ebullient Moon, but finds she can’t resist such an unstoppable force.

1. Are/were you more of a Moon or a Christine?

I’m a bit of both! Like Moon I was a Buddhist vegetarian kid who liked to draw, but like Christine I’m sensible and reserved.

2. I don’t want to give away the plot, but was it strange to subject a character to something really scary that happened to you in real life?

The funny thing about my medical crisis is I was only six years old at the time, and to me it just seemed like a normal thing to go through when you’re a kid. I wanted to show how Moon might welcome something like that—instead of scaring her it actually affirms her beliefs about herself.

3. What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done to a friend (or vice versa)?

When I was a kid my best friend and I had matching surf-themed Barbie dolls (it was the one Asian-looking Barbie available) that had bathing suits that changed colors. I liked her bathing suit pattern better so I switched our dolls. She knew, obviously, and cried, but our moms had no idea and took my side. That was the part that made me feel bad—that they thought my friend was the one lying! I later admitted it and apologized.

4. I learn so much about young folks’ music from these interviews! What should my first K-pop record be?

The Chara character Moon and Christine love is loosely based on the K-pop artist CL. Her old girl group is 2NE1. I also listened to girl groups Red Velvet and Blackpink for inspiration.

5. What—if anything—do you think distinguishes graphic novels for children from those for teens and adults?

The only thing that comes to mind is the age of the protagonists. Otherwise, I think they can be equally sophisticated. I went into Stargazing thinking the writing would be simple, but it was actually a lot more challenging than writing for YA. When you’re a kid you have all the same feelings you have when you’re older; you’re just less experienced at sorting them out. So I had to really dig deep to conjure my messy feelings from that age and present them truthfully.

 

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