A Quick Chat with Lisa See

March 21, 2017


Surprise! New York Times bestselling novelist, Lisa See, popped in for a quick chat! 

Nearly seven years ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing beloved writer Lisa See. I met her in person soon after at a luncheon, which was wonderful. 

You can read my 2010 interview with Lisa here

As part of the re-launch of my blog, I thought it might be nice to circle back to some of the interesting people I interviewed in the past. One of the first people I thought of was Lisa See. She was excited to answer a few questions and also share information about her latest novel. 

Today is the launch of Lisa's latest novel, THE TEA GIRL OF HUMMINGBIRD LANE!  The novel has been selected as a March 2017 Library Reads selection and is on the April 2017 Indie Next List and the Best of March lists for Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  

After catching up with her here, I encourage you to run out and buy her book. She's one of my favorite authors.

Warning: Once you read one of her books, it's tough to resist reading all of them. 

Novels by Lisa See

Please update us on the progress you've made over the last six years. Did the plans you shared here in 2010 work out smoothly? Where there any unexpected twists and turns? 

How do we measure progress? By things checked off a list? If that's the case, then I've done a great job! On a professional level, the biggest twist was that I left my longtime publisher and went to a new publisher.  It's really opened my mind and my heart to be working with all new people--from my editor to the marketing and publicity people. On a personal level, I lost my mother and my first grandchild was born. These were reminders of the preciousness of life, and certainly, the spectrum of emotions that I've experienced have made their way into my books. 

Example of a 1930s Beautiful Girls posterIn 2010 you talked about curating art exhibitions and said that "An exhibition is about telling a story purely in a visual way; I do that with my writing." Are you still involved with art curation? As an artist, I love your description of an exhibition. Many galleries don't seem driven to relay any type of overarching theme or story, other than what the viewer may interpret from each piece, or the work as a whole, without anyone's help. Like you, I love stories, whether expressed through art or words. Please share any thoughts you have on this with us. 

I haven't curated a show in a while, but I've been lending pieces to various shows.  I think it's really interesting how something that I own can help form a larger narrative.  I find that images really inspire me. For example, in my bedroom, I have a poster of what were called "beautiful girls"--models who posed for all kinds of advertising in China in the 1920s and 1930s. Every night when I went to sleep and every morning when I woke up, I saw them. I always wondered what their lives were like.  Finally, I decided to write about them. That book became SHANGHAI GIRLS.

What is coming up for you now and how can we continue to share in and enjoy your fantastic passion? 

My new novel, THE TEA GIRL OF HUMMINGBIRD LANE, launches on March 21st.  I'll be traveling all around the country on a big book tour. I love having a chance to talk about my work with readers. 

Here's what it's about:

In their remote mountain village, Li-yan and her family align their lives around the seasons and the farming of tea. For the Akha people, ensconced in ritual and routine, life goes on as it has for generations—until a stranger appears at the village gate in a jeep, the first automobile any of the villagers has ever seen.

The stranger’s arrival marks the first entrance of the modern world in the lives of the Akha people. Slowly, Li-yan, one of the few educated girls on her mountain, begins to reject the customs that shaped her early life. When she has a baby out of wedlock—conceived with a man her parents consider a bad match—she rejects the tradition that would compel her to give the child over to be killed, and instead leaves her, wrapped in a blanket with a tea cake tucked in its folds, near an orphanage in a nearby city.

As Li-yan comes into herself, leaving her insular village for an education, a business, and city life, her daughter, Haley, is raised in California by loving adoptive parents. Despite her privileged childhood, Haley wonders about her origins, and across the ocean, Li-yan longs for her lost daughter. Over the course of years, each searches for meaning in the study of Pu’er, the tea that has shaped their family’s destiny for centuries.

Here's a short video Lisa shared about how she came to write the novel.

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