Plays, picture books, and pagodas with author Day’s Lee
Please give a warm welcome to Day’s Lee!
You don’t know who Day’s Lee is? Let’s correct that immediately.
I met her at Prose at the Park last summer, and this is the kind of generous person she is.
Not only did she buy my books and feature me on her blog here on May 1st to kick off Asian heritage month, but when I told her that I was worried no one would show up to my Librairie Bertrand Montreal book launch, she drove into Old Montreal to support me. All this after meeting me one time!
I asked attendees to pretend to be corpses (Human Remains, see). She was among the first to agree, and she asked staff for a weapon to make it even more dramatic.
When I meet someone like that—instant friend, ultra-supportive, and creatively nuts—I KNOW we’re going to have a good time.
And so will you!
Melissa Yi: You write a lot about your heritage. Is that a choice you’ve made artistically, a choice that’s influenced by market demand, or both?
Day’s Lee: It’s a bit of both. I started out by writing short stories about the immigrant experience of my parents’ generation. Then, one day, as I was flipping through some magazines, I wondered if they might be interested in some articles about the Chinese community. I sent in a couple of submissions, and when they were accepted, I realized that I had a point of view that would be of interest to publishers.
MY: You write short stories, picture books, and YA. What appeals to you about each of these genres?
DL: Actually, everything appeals to me: short stories, novels, plays, feature articles, and scripts.
MY: Me too! I don’t see the division between formats. It’s all storytelling. How do pick what you’re working on?
DL: I think of the story and then figure out which format it should take. For instance, I’m filming a documentary about my family’s restaurant now because it just feels right to do it that way.
MY: I would be into that. I love food, I respect the hard work that goes into the restaurant business, and I’d like to know the behind-the-scenes stories. So that’s taking up all of your time?
DL: I’m working on three projects: (1) the documentary about my family’s restaurant, Lee’s Garden, which my parents owned from the early 1950s to the mid-1970s, (2) the third draft of a play which is based on my short story The Red Pagoda, and (3) revising my next young adult novel which doesn’t have a title yet.
MY: Wow. Do you have a day job, too? Because that’s a lot of material to juggle.
DL: I work full-time as a legal assistant. The job has trained me to be organized, to pay attention to details, and how to read legal documents. All of that comes in handy as a writer.
MY: Yes! Business know-how makes the difference between writers who are one-hit wonders and writers who build a long term career. Do you find that your writing has changed over time?
DL: I hope I’m better at it.
MY: For sure. Any skill gets better with practice. I know I’ve enjoyed reading all your books. I’ve got to ask you, though, since you know contracts as well as the art of writing, what do you think of the changes in the publishing world?
DL: When I first decided to make a go at being a published writer, there were all kinds of warnings about how vanity press (that’s what self-publishing was called then) can ruin your chances with a publisher.
There were horror stories about writers who didn’t heed the warnings, had spent hundreds of dollars, and ended up with a garage full of books they couldn’t sell.
I think it’s great that writers can now choose their own path and find their readers. There aren’t any gatekeepers anymore, but the writer’s job has expanded as many publishers now expect writers to take part in marketing their books, and of course self-publishers have to wear all the hats.
MY: It’s worth it, though, right? I mean, why do you write?
DL: I love books. When I was in elementary school, the library was my favourite place and I never missed a chance to take out a book. I knew then that I wanted to be a writer.
MY: Me too. We’re totally twins. Do you have a secret dream book or project?
DL: I would love to write a Broadway musical.
MY: Whaaaaaat? I love the way you think! Looking forward to it.
Want to know more about Day’s? Yes, you do. Start at her website and fly from there. We love you, Day’s!