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Kate Messner


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Check out the Sweet on Books Interview with

Grace Lin

Author of Dumpling Days, Ling & Ting, The Year of the Dog,
The Year of the Rat, and Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

What inspired you to focus your stories on the Asian-American culture?
Well, I grew up in a mainly Caucasian community and spent most of my youth trying to forget that I was Asian. It was only when I grew older that I realized that perhaps I had missed something quite special. So my books are my way of trying to recapture the heritage I feel that I’ve lost.

Are your characters based on real people? Are your stories drawn from your own experiences?
The Pacy series (The Year of the Dog, The Year of the Rat , and Dumpling Days) are definitely based on real people and my own experiences—so much so that the books could almost (but not quite) be called memoirs. From the names of the characters (my sisters' names are Lissy and Ki-Ki and my Chinese name is Pacy!) to the setting (I grew up in small, mainly Caucasian community) and the experiences (my first trip to Taiwan was particularly memorable, as well)—they are all based on my real life.

In my other books, like Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, characters and adventures are inspired by some real people and events, but much, much more fictionalized.

In your latest novel, Dumpling Days, Pacy visits Taiwan. Do you have any future plans for her?
I’m not sure. Dumpling Days is my last Pacy book for a while, but I might go back to her. We’ll see!

What is your favorite Chinese tradition? Can you tell us why?
I love the Moon Festival. It’s such a simple, quiet, contemplative holiday where you just take a little time to enjoy and be grateful for the things in your life—and eat mooncakes and drink tea. There is something so nice and beautiful about it. I guess that is why I do so many books about the moon!

Can you tell us about your next book?
My next book is the companion book to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. It is not a sequel, it doesn’t continue Minli’s story, but there are some characters that readers may recognize. It is called Starry River of the Sky and it will also have full-color illustrations. It’s a book close to my heart and I am hopeful that it is my best book so far!

What made you want to be a writer?
I always loved books. As a child I read constantly and in my free time I would make books of my own, stapled together. Around 6th or 7th grade, I entered a national book contest with one of my books. I did not win 1st place, but I did win 4th place and I was so excited that I decided then I would write books when I was older.

How do you get your ideas? Do you do any research?
My ideas are usually inspired by things that happen to me in real life, which is why many of my books have real life settings, characters and plots in them.

I do a lot of research for my books. For example, in “Dumpling Days” there were many questions that I had as a child that weren’t answered in my youth (what was the difference between wonton soup and dumplings?) and I now search for the answers and put them in my books.

Where do you prefer to do your writing? What time of day?
I don’t really have a specific time that I prefer to write. Usually when I am in the midst of a novel, my mind is always thinking about it no matter what I am doing and I try to write whenever I can.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
My best advice for aspiring writers is to read! Reading helps your writing, even reading books you don’t like helps because it teaches you how not to write. Also, whenever I feel like I might start to have writer’s block, reading other books helps.

What would you be if you weren't a writer?
I’d like to be a cake decorator.

If you could have lunch with any writer whom would you choose?
Maybe Laura Ingalls Wilder. I would want to know how different she was from her books!


Read or write?    Read

Call or text?    Text

Fly or drive?    Be driven (not drive myself); actually train would be my preferred method!

Beach or ski?    Beach

Time travel back or time travel forward?    Travel forward

E-book or traditional book?    Traditional book


Children's book:    Oh no, too many to choose from! Maybe Anne of Green Gables.

Song:    Recently, I’ve been listening to Oxford Comma by Vampire Weekend.

Sports Team:    Whomever my husband cheers for—he’s the sports fan. He loves the Montreal Canadians, but he hasn’t been very cheerful about it lately.

Travel destination:    Depends on my mood! If I’m feeling adventurous, I’d love to go someplace new—I’d love to see the Yellow Mountains in China, St. Basil Cathedral in Russia and Machu Picchu in Peru. If I’m feeling like I want more of a relaxation trip, just a nice cottage by the beach is lovely!

Superhero:    I guess, Storm from the X-men Comic books or maybe Wonder Woman.

Magic power:    Teleportation, quick healing and the ability to eat anything without health consequences.

We are Sweet on Books, so we have to ask – what is your favorite sweet treat?

I have the worst sweet tooth in the world! My favorite treats would be cupcakes and ice cream, but I love almost everything sweet.

Grace Lin is the author and illustrator of highly acclaimed picture books, early readers and middle grade novels. Raised in upstate New York, she attended the Rhode Island School of Design and her first picture book, The Ugly Vegetables, was published in 1999. Grace followed that success with the publication of over a dozen more picture books. In 2006 she published her first middle grade novel, The Year Of The Dog, loosely based on her own childhood. Grace’s first middle grade fantasy, Where The Mountain Meets The Moon, was awarded a 2010 Newbery Honor and became a New York Times bestseller. Grace branched out again to create her first early reader, Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same!, which was awarded with a Theodor Geisel Honor in 2011. Her most recent book is Dumpling Days, a follow-up to The Year of the Dog and The Year of the Rat.