The L.A. Times Festival of Books is on the horizon -- April 21-22, to be exact. In the coming weeks, we'll be talking to some of the authors who will be there; the first is bestselling novelist Lisa See.
The author of "Dreams of Joy," "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan," "Peony in Love," "Shanghai Girls" and "On Gold Mountain" was born in Paris, brought up in Los Angeles, and writes about the intersection of American and Chinese cultures. Her latest novel, "Dreams of Joy," looks back at China's troubled Great Leap Forward of the 1950s. She answered our questions via email.
How do you balance the research that goes into your books with the characters and stories you imagine?
I truly believe that the research should never overtake or overshadow the characters or the emotions of the novel. That said, I'm a research fanatic and I completely over-research. Then I use all of it! I found it; I have to use it. Then, when I start to edit, I cut most of it. What I hope is that what's left will feel like a really great -- but invisible -- foundation. I may not keep everything I found about 17th century death rituals in the Yangtze Delta, for example, but I want readers to feel like they could ask me any question and I would know the answer.
What have you been reading lately?
I'm going on vacation and I just bought [Karen Russell's] "Vampires in the Lemon Grove," [George Saunders'] "Tenth of December" and [Junot Diaz's] "This is How You Lose Her" to take with me. I can't wait to get on the plane!
Are you looking forward to anything in particular at the Festival of Books?
I LOVE getting to meet the other writers and hanging out in the Green Room. I love books and I'm a fan of authors too, so the festival is one big treat.
What’s one of your favorite bookish places in L.A.?
The third floor of UCLA's Research Library. I spend a lot of time there nosing around the China collection.
Do you have a favorite book about Los Angeles?
"The Handyman," by my mom, Carolyn See.