Fangirls Unleashed: Exclusive Interview with Traci Chee

Hello, bookworms! It’s been a while, but we’re back in full force after a grueling few months of school.  2017 is a New Year, and for us, that means we’re off to a strong start. Recently, we were invited to attend a Bay Area Bloggers and Authors event at the new Books Inc. store in Santa Clara. The event was hosted by the Not Your Mother’s Book Club which isn’t really a club, but rather Book’s Inc. Young adult author Salon. It is a group of passionate, and we mean PASSIONATE, readers who hang out with some of the coolest authors. Not Your Mother’s Book Club events go into the Not Your Mother’s Book Club Fund, which Books Inc. turns around and uses to spread the love of reading throughout the Bay Area communities. It’s a book lover’s dream, with it being a brand new book store.  We immediately beelined for the massive Young Adult section, and traded book recommendations with other bloggers.  In addition, they also have books for children and adults.

Not only did we have the chance to interact with other bloggers, but we were also able to mingle with over ten Young Adult authors while also given a chance to have a one-on-one interviews with them. First up is Addie’s interview with new author Traci Chee’s debut book, The Reader.

Interview with Traci Chee, Author of The Reader: Book #1 of a Sea of Ink and Gold Series

The Reader tells the story of Sefia, a young teen living in the land of Kelanna, a world where no one knows what books or reading are. She is on the run with her aunt Nin and a special package left to her by her parents. When Nin is kidnapped, it is up to Sefia to rescue her. She soon finds that the mysterious object left to her is a book and it is more powerful than she could ever imagine. This heart-racing adventure is a great fantasy read filled with great diverse characters and magic on every page.

This is Traci Chee’s debut teen novel and it had me at the edge of my seat. Before we dive into the interview here is some quick info on Traci Chee: She is a New York Times bestselling author and is a lover of books and words. She graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in literature and creative writing. She has a Master’s of Arts degree from San Francisco State. She currently lives in California.

As someone who is training to be a librarian, I must say, I really enjoyed your book! The first thing that really caught my eye was the cover. Did you have a say on the cover or help decide the design?

No, that was actually a really cool experience, like seeing that part of the publishing process. They sent me some sketches and I was able to give them a little bit of feedback which is really amazing because not everyone gets to do that. They let me help pick an illustrator to do the background, so the person who did the background is amazing by the way. He’s born in Japan, moved to the United States, Alabama, and now lives in New York City and so I really like that kind of multicultural element to him and his work. I thought that was really cool and then we were able to get a person of color for the cover and I was just like “yes!” It was amazing to see these steps in how they decided to package the book.

That’s great! So The Reader is set in a fantasy world where books and reading don’t really exist. What was your inspiration for creating this world?

I’ve always been a lover of books, but it wasn’t until I was in undergrad in senior year at UC Santa Cruz and I had to take this senior seminar, which was amazing because I was a creative writing major so instead of writing a thesis or taking a final, we had to make books. We had to write them and actually sew them up together, it was super cool. And to help inspire us with this project our instructor took us to the special collections at the McHenry Library at UC Santa Cruz. The librarians there had laid out these really amazing books that I had never thought of as books before. Like there was a book that was made out of a red high heel shoe, you could open the shoe and it was filled with pages and you could actually read it! There was one that you couldn’t read but it was shaped like a book, but it was made of metal and instead of word it had all these circuits in it. And I just thought, this is so cool, the possibilities are endless. I think it actually turned into a line in one of the chapters, “Could anything be a book, if only you knew how to read it?” That kind of sparked this idea of what else could be a book? How else could we make meaning out of the things that are around us? [...] What other types of literacy can I put into this world that doesn’t have word or reading and writing the way we have.

That’s amazing. The world in The Reader is so complex and another huge part of it is the role that “The Book” plays in Sefia’s journey. She finds herself coming back to it again and again for guidance. I was wondering was there a book from when you were a teenager that you found yourself going back to?

So one book that was hugely changed my way of thinking and also the kind of books I like to write is Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass and it is the first book in the His Dark Materials series. Even though that was like borderline middle grade, kind of like The Reader is. There are these really amazing concepts in it like for example what the shape of your soul. If you haven’t read it you should because it is so good. In this world everyone is born with a daemon and it can change shapes when you're younger like before you become an adult because you're still figuring out your identity.  The shape says a lot about that person [...] So I was really taken with the idea of what shape your soul is and what that says about you. Being in high school that was something I was thinking about all the time. So, I was reading that one and it just got me thinking about who I am in this world and who I want to be. Also, Watership Down by Richard Adams which I try to read every year. I love talking about books by the way!

Do you have any advice for reluctant readers?

It really depends on the age, but when I was younger I thought the best thing was having someone read to me. Being able to imagine those stories and then wanting to be able to read those stories myself. That was a big push to me and I think that experience is what made me a reader. I think a lot of it is finding the right story for the right reader at the right time, that is the challenge. That is an art, it is the art of the librarian, the teacher and the bookseller. I feel like there are points in our lives that we need a certain type of story, the way that reading the Golden Compass was for me in High School, or Harry Potter because those books are amazing also. You need it, it tells you something that you didn’t know before maybe about yourself or what you think. Those are so important or maybe being able to escape your life and go live in a cupboard under the stair and being told you're a wizard. Which is amazing, so yeah I was definitely one of those kids. It wasn’t Harry Potter for me since I was a little older, but I always wanted to be an X-Men. I kept waiting for my powers to appear, oh well. I think there is something so magical about that feeling of wanting stories to come true.

I always wanted to be a Sailor Scout, so I know the feeling. Are you a fan of libraries and if so why?

Yes! Who isn’t a fan of libraries? I don’t think I want to be friends with that person. I think a thing that is really cool now that wasn’t so much a thing when I was a kid is that libraries are doing a lot more community building. So it’s not just a place to get a book because you don’t have anymore shelf space, they have become these places for people to gather and meet other like minded people or learn new skills. It’s like libraries are doing all these amazing community building things that help people explore the world in new and exciting ways. So yeah that is really cool.

So one of the main messages of Fangirls Unleashed is embracing your inner fangirl. Whether that be through your love of YA or any other geeky or nerdy hobby. Is there anything you “Fangirl” Over? Some nerdy or geeky thing you're really passionate about?

So I just started rewatching Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood and it is so good! Part of it is me just loving the story, but also part of it is me being a writer nerd because I want to watch the last two seasons since I feel they are so intricately plotted. I really want to take notes and just make a map of it all! So that one I love...there are things I love but it’s mostly TV because after a long day of writing I just want to veg out and watch things that I like . Parks and Recs I just finished rewatching, it is amazing. Leslie Knope is like my Patronus. I want to “expecto patronum” and just have her protect me from Dementors. I also really liked the first 5 seasons of Supernatural and I really want to play the new Final Fantasy.

Thank you so much for taking the time and allowing me to interview you. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series!

So that wraps up Addie’s interview with Traci Chee.  Are you excited to read The Reader? Comment below your thoughts on it and if you’ve found any of the hidden messages.  Keep an eye out within the next few days for Alyssa’s interview with Nina LaCouer, author of You Know Me Well. Until next time, happy readings!

Want to read more interviews of other YA authors in attendance? Check out our new friends’ blogs:

Fun Fact: If you’re a DIY addict, then we’ve got a ton of options for you.  Let’s start at the homepage, and go to the Books & eLibrary menu.  Select All Online Resources under the eLearning column.  Sort subjects by DIY- Home & Hobbies.  From there you have several magazines and resources to choose from, but our favorites is the Hobbies and Crafts Reference Center.  From there you enter your San Jose Public Library card information and you have a ton of options to choose from.  We like Home & Garden, and the Photography sub section has a vast amount of resources to choose from.

This blog has been a collaboration between Adilene Rogers and Alyssa Mendoza.

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