Today’s post features Co-Host Shenwei’s interview with Asian/Pacific American Award-winning fiction author Misa Sugiura. Her third and most recent book, Love & Other Other Disasters just released on June 8th!
About Love & Other Natural Disasters
This delightfully disastrous queer YA rom-com is a perfect read for fans of Jenny Han, Morgan Matson, and Sandhya Menon.
When Nozomi Nagai pictured the ideal summer romance, a fake one wasn’t what she had in mind.
That was before she met the perfect girl. Willow is gorgeous, glamorous, and…heartbroken? And when she enlists Nozomi to pose as her new girlfriend to make her ex jealous, Nozomi is a willing volunteer.
Because Nozomi has a master plan of her own: one to show Willow she’s better than a stand-in, and turn their fauxmance into something real. But as the lies pile up, it’s not long before Nozomi’s schemes take a turn toward disaster…and maybe a chance at love she didn’t plan for.
About the Author:
Misa Sugiura is the Asian/Pacific American Award-winning author of It’s Not Like It’s a Secret and This Time Will Be Different. Misa lives under a giant oak tree in Silicon Valley with her husband, two sons, and a gray-banded king snake.
Visit Misa at: www.misasugiura.com
Follow her on Twitter: www.twitter.com/misallaneous1
Follow her on Instagram: www.instagram.com/misallaneous1
Q: Congratulations on publishing your third book! What lessons have you learned as a writer since your debut?
Thank you! When my first book sold, I heard a lot about the experience of being an author that I believed wouldn’t apply to me—but of course, it all turned out to be true for me. For example, that thing about how hard it is to be content with what you’ve got: true! How difficult each new book is to write: true! And how valuable a writing community can be: true!
Q: You said in the acknowledgments that writing Love & Other Natural Disasters really challenged you. In what ways was the process difficult, and what helped you get over those bumps in the road?
My first two books focused on family relationships and social issues with the romance on the side, and I had a hard time switching gears and keeping the romantic plotline at the forefront of L&OND. My editor broke down the key elements of the fake dating trope for me, and helped me identify what was missing in my manuscript (I didn’t have enough pining). And I listened to a lot of bubblegum pop songs and Sophie Kinsella audiobooks to try to get that relentlessly optimistic, comic voice in my head.
Q: Love & Other Natural Disasters is a romcom, but it also explores the thornier issue of coming out and the impact that may have on your relationships with family, among other topics. How did you balance the comedic elements with the serious and grounded ones in your work?
For each book that I write, once I have the main storylines fleshed out in the draft, I color-code each chapter by topic and lay the colors out in a line. That way I can see where I’m spending too much time on one thread or another, and shift things accordingly.
Q: I found it refreshing that everyone involved in the love square(?) at the center of the book was a girl of color. Publishing often sets explicit or implicit quotas on how many marginalized characters can exist within a book, especially when it comes to multiply marginalized characters, but the reality is that queer Asians/POC exist as more than just isolated token minorities in a sea of otherwise unqueer and white people. How did you go about creating these four distinct characters, and how do you give them each a voice that feels authentic to their backgrounds, their personalities, and their age as teens?
I put a lot of thought into the race of each character, and made a careful, deliberate decision to put a romance between two Asian girls at the center of the story, and to have all four girls involved be people of color. As you said, queer (and, let’s face it, even straight) BIPOC are often window dressing, or a unicorn in sea of white people, and I wanted to celebrate and normalize queer BIPOC relationships. I had a lot of help from authenticity readers of different races and a wide range of ages to help me hone their voices and add texture and nuance to everything from their appearance to their life philosophies. I owe so much to these readers and their work.
Q: I enjoyed the ways that art was woven into the story. Do you have a background in art at all, and if not, how did you go about integrating that aspect into the story as a layperson?
I don’t have any formal background in art or art history, but I love learning about it. And because all the arts are about expressing emotional truths, the non-literary arts work really well as metaphors for creativity, for emotional connection, and even for life in general. Dela’s art installation is obviously symbolic, but I initially chose Glass Cube (a piece in the museum where Nozomi works—and also a real piece in a real museum) for no other reason than because it was so baffling. But by the time I finished writing the book, I realized that it also had symbolic significance. I feel certain that my subconscious mind understood it and knew that it fit, somehow.
Q: If you were to describe this book as a food, what kind of food would it be?
I hope it’s like those caramel and cheese popcorn mixes: a mix of sweet and salty, and impossible to put down. 🙂
Q: In the book, Nozomi and Dela work together to make paper cranes with wishes on them for an art installation. If you were to make a wish for this project, what would you wish for, and why?
It’s such a cliché, but if I knew it would come true, I’d wish for an end to poverty and world hunger, just like one of the wishers in the book. Or maybe I’d wish for people with power and money to do something real about climate change, once and for all.