THE HAND, THE EYE & THE HEART Q&A:
Q: When is the book due out?
A: It'll be available from the 4th of April 2019, but you can pre-order it now from Amazon, Waterstones or any good indie bookshop - and pre-orders really help a girl out, so if you can afford it, please consider it!
Q: Is it true this book is a retelling of 'Mulan'?
A: Not exactly. It isn't a direct retelling of any one story. It is heavily inspired by several different versions of the Ballad of Mulan - including the original poem and many subsequent, ever-evolving retellings within Chinese culture such as the Chinese Opera. But the main character of The Hand, the Eye and the Heart is not Mulan. The protagonist of this book is Zhi. It's really important to me that this is clear, because Mulan is such a revered and significant figure and I'm not seeking to mess with her. So I'm not claiming to retell 'the true story of Mulan' or anything sensational like that. Zhi's journey definitely echoes Mulan's in some ways - but that is about paying homage to a legendary heroic archetype, not subverting or revising Mulan's story.
Q: Is the book set in China?
A: It's set in an imaginary place called The Land of Dragons or the Red Empire. This (again) is heavily influenced by Chinese history, especially the Tang Dynasty - but only in the same way that, say, George R. R. Martin's Westeros is influenced by England in the Middle Ages. It is not intended to be a historically accurate portrayal of China. It's a fantasy. There's magic and all kinds of made up people and places and events, as well as many people and places and events which take history as a jumping off point for fantastical extrapolation. The Big Bad, for example, is a mixture of a bandit King referred to in one version of Mulan's story (a man called Leopard Skin) and a real general who rebelled against the Emperor during the Tang Dynasty.
Q: So is the main character really trans?
A: I think of their gender identity as falling under that umbrella, and wrote them with the intention of presenting them to my readers that way - personally, I believe Zhi to be what contemporary westerners would probably call gender fluid or maybe, more broadly, non-binary. But readers are free to interpret the character's gender in any way they like (so long as they don't try to say that they're cis! Definitely not cis).
Q: Did you have sensitivity readers who were Chinese or trans?
A: I've been lucky enough to have advice from several trans people at different stages, including two sensitivity readers who are both *brilliant* writers in their own right. We connected with one of these through the fantastic organisation Inclusive Minds. I've tried my absolute best to act on and incorporate every comment or suggestion they made. I also had really valuable help and advice from several readers (and friends and family members of readers) of Chinese and East Asian heritage, and one Chinese sensitivity reader who is also a professor of English (so intimidating). All these people have absolutely made the book better - more nuanced, truthful and respectful. There are probably still mistakes and things in it that could be improved, and I take full responsibility for those areas.
Q: Is it true that you're an LGBTQA+ writer? Are you trans?
A: I identify as queer, yes. But I don't really think that writers should have to offer up a list of their marginalised identities on demand as part of discussion of their work, so even though I'm happy to talk about my queerness at other times, I'd prefer not to go into it now. I will say that this book should not be called #ownvoices.
Q: Is this the never-ending manuscript that just keeps getting longer that you're always moaning about on Twitter?
Q: How long is this thing anyway?
A: It's a bit over 100k, in the same general length bracket as Shadows on the Moon.
Other stuff that might be of interest!
The Goodreads page, the Spotify playlist for the book, and the book's Pinterest.