Alright folks, I’m taking it a bit in the other direction this time around. One of my favorite things to read, write, and talk about is actually many of the things that fall into the category of “Science Fiction” – Science Fiction and Fantasy these days can really stand for anything, from what is known as High Fantasy (elves and dwarves and all that) to modern fantasy (The Magicians, by Lev Grossman), to weird things like aliens and robots and all that, to … well, things that publishers don’t seem to know what else to categorize them as.
Point in case, one of my favorite authors of all times: Kylie Chan. Kylie hails from the Land Down Under, but spent a considerable amount of time in Hong Kong with her family and job, and used the experience and the mythology that surrounded her during her time there to create a gritty and entertaining urban fantasy in nine parts.
Now, while hardly anyone here in the middle of Missouri has heard of her, let me tell you a little more about Kylie Chan and what the rest of the world already knows about her (most of this is what I’ve learned by following her on Facebook, admittedly, since I’ve yet to go to Australia and fangirl on her in person). She’s working on another novel in a new series. She just signed a movie deal back in early November for her stories (Yes, I can’t wait to see Emma and John up on the big screen, I’m fangirling HARD). She’s done multiple blog tours and cons in Oz. There’s a graphic novel to go along with the majority of her work to date (it was worked on with an animator friend of hers, Queenie, and met with wide popularity among graphic novel enthusiasts).
So she’s had a bunch of international success, but for some reason here, whenever I say her name people just look at me blankly. To which I usually hand them a copy of White Tiger and go “HERE! EDUCATE YOURSELVES!”
The main body of her work to date consists of three main trilogies around the same main characters in the same world. Emma is a nanny for the wealthy John Chen and looks after his daughter Simone. But what she really stumbles into when she takes the position within this small, wealthy family unit (complete with gigantic bodyguard that they horribly abuse throughout the novels, Leo), is that she’s also now working for a Chinese God. He’s chosen to live a life on the mortal plain after falling in love with a human who has since died, and intends to raise their daughter, Simone, there. Emma is quickly embroiled in a tale as old as Chinese culture, right there in the thick of it and trying to keep up with and then save the family that she slowly grows to love and become a permanent part of.
Why do I love this so much? Well, there are many reasons. First off, I’ve always loved Asian art and mythology, though my studies of it have not been extensive enough to brag about at all. It speaks to my archaeologist side as some of the stories that these books are built off of are older than Chinese dynasties. But mostly … Kylie Chan is a DAMN good writer. She manages to weave ancient Chinese mythology, modern day Chinese culture, martial arts culture, a love story, AND keep the action fresh and going throughout the whole thing. Every book leading up to the last one leaves you holding your breath, wondering how the hell this latest mess is possibly going to be fixed.
The way she world-builds makes me think I’d actually be able to make it in Hong Kong – that is, until I tried going up to a building to jump into the world of the Gods, and the businessmen there stare awkwardly at me, this weirdly short and stout white woman with multicolored hair, screaming something about making it to the Jade Emperor’s palace in the middle of their lobby. She manages to blend the normal and the mythological seamlessly, like it’s really been there all along, right below the surface of what mortal men can see.
Her characterization is out of this world, and something I, as a writer, aim to be like when I grow up and get published like a big author. The dynamics between John’s and Emma’s personalities, you know that they’re still two separate people even when they finally get married, and Leo is so fierce and loyal we all want a friend like him. Everyone stays true to their personalities and flaws throughout, and everyone grows within those parameters, just like a real person might (gasp!). And I have yet to find a loose end in her writing – I’m sure there’s one somewhere, but not a single one that I mind enough to go “but how does that resolve?!?” So, you know she knows what she’s doing. Her writing is exciting, adventurous, sexy, and believable, and that, to me, warrants an Author Spotlight.
When I read Kylie Chan’s work, I’m always transported halfway across the world to a place I’ve never physically been, and I want nothing but to learn more and keep hold of these people (and tell them not to walk into the traps I can see as the reader!). I have some serious emotional investment in her writing, and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next!