An Indies Introduce Q&A With F.C. Yee

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F.C. Yee is the author of the young adult debut The Epic Crush of Genie Lo (Amulet Books), a Summer/Fall 2017 Indies Introduce selection and an Autumn 2017 Kids’ Indie Next List pick. (The full Autumn Kids’ Indie Next will be announced in Bookselling This Week on August 16.)

Yee, a New Jersey native, studied economics at Brown University and now calls the San Francisco Bay Area home. In his debut, Genie Lo, a high-achieving high schooler, teams up with the mythological Monkey King (reincarnated as the mysterious new kid in town) when her quiet Bay Area suburb becomes overrun with demons straight out of Chinese folklore.

Indies Introduce panelist Allison Senecal of Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins, Colorado, says Genie Lo deserves her own television series. “The Epic Crush of Genie Lo is here to fill that Buffy- or Sailor Moon-shaped hole in your life. Warm, action-packed, and absolutely the most fun you'll have reading a book this summer,” said Senecal.

Here, Senecal and Yee discuss the folklore, martial arts, academics, and humor in the author’s debut.

Allison Senecal: Your book draws quite a bit on Chinese folklore. Do you have a favorite Chinese folktale or legend?

FC Yee, author of The Epic Crush of Genie LoF.C. Yee: My favorite legend is the goddess Nuwa creating humans from clay, but with one important caveat. The story goes that she first started crafting each human by hand with a lot of care and attention. But at some point she got tired and started flinging clay everywhere, creating humans where the drops landed in an act of mass production.

The story was originally meant to explain class differences between the artisanal-crafted elite and the kludged-together commoners, which I obviously don’t like. I subscribe to a different interpretation, where all of us are the product of a creator going, “Eh, whatever.” I prefer to think we’re all messy in some way.

AS: Were there any other major inspirations for Genie Lo? Any specific inspiration for Genie herself?

FCY: My brother-in-law thinks that Genie is a tall version of my sister. He’s partly right in that Genie incorporates elements of both my sisters, and me as well. We’re not exactly rays of sunshine.

The other major inspiration was the Bay Area itself, and the kind of cultural environment it puts its kids through. As someone who moved here as an adult, I would not have made it through the academic grinder. I thought the never-ending struggle to climb to a higher standing was a good parallel to some of the themes in the source material I drew from.

AS: How did your interest in and experience with capoeira impact how you wrote the book’s action scenes? (Readers: Genie Lo has as much action as any summer blockbuster film. Buckle up.)

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by FC YeeFCY: The way my teacher explains it, when you play capoeira, you’re supposed to be constructing a dialogue with the person who’s flinging kicks at your head. The individual movements you choose to perform are less important than the general statements, questions, and answers you’re making with your body. In that way, I focused less on the details of choreography and more on simpler acts that showed overwhelming displays of power, sudden reversals, and “oh, snap!” moments.

AS: On Twitter, you come across as a naturally funny person. Genie Lo is incredibly funny and laugh-out-loud at points. Was it difficult for you to write humor, or was it as effortless as it seems?

FCY: It’s very hard up until the point it becomes very easy. I can spend a lot of time thinking and working with nothing to show for it, building a premise and watching it fail, until everything about a certain scenario clicks. After that, it becomes easy to fill a scene with humor. The concert chapter is a good example. I wrote it fairly late in the book’s life, and I spent a lot of time thinking about it until I realized that Genie tends to keep her close ones pretty separated and compartmentalized. So the most hideously embarrassing thing for her would be to have them all converge on her at once. Everything followed from there fairly naturally.

AS: Is there going to be a sequel? Can we expect more epic adventures with Genie?

FCY: There will be a sequel! I’m working on it right now and it’s due to be published in 2018. I’ve never written a sequel before, and I don’t know how good I am at it. So I make no promises as to whether it will be a cleanly ended duology, or a horrible, unresolved, Jack-Sparrow-getting-eaten-by-a-kraken moment.

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee (Amulet, Hardcover, $18.95, 9781419725487) On Sale Date: August 8, 2017.

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