Gods, I wanted to know him, but there was only that sense of familiary and remembered intimacy...Where did I get the certainty that I'd find sanctuary with him, even if the sky came crashing down?"
Ekaterine Xia's Phoenix Chosen is K-drama Faith meets fluffy romance. Book one in the Heirs of Huaxia series, it's my favorite book, but it's not her only masterpiece.
For over a decade, traditional publishers have claimed that self-published works lack editing. Style. Nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to Xia's work.
Xia's work is original, and meticulously edited. I know, because we talk on Twitter. Hint: We're friends and writer buddies.
Her romance novels are the first ones I've enjoyed since...well..middle school. Seriously. And I've tried.
That's why I'm psyched to kick off 2019 with a fun and insightful interview with the author you should be reading.
Writing With Ekaterine Xia
In 2018, we saw the emergence of more gritty The Poppy War and the success of Crazy Rich Asians, which is very much a social commentary. Your work, like Phoenix Chosen and Sunshine, are distinct in that they do not fall into the typical stories of extreme poverty or prosperity. They aren't overly depressing, and in fact, are very sweet.
What inspires you to create more subdued but fluffy stories, full of love and respect, as opposed to the Game Of Thrones approach?
I write what I want to read, and I figured if I needed a reality check, I could always pop on Twitter or CNN. When I start a book, I'm looking for hope, for a happy ending, of the promise that somewhere out there are people doing the right things for the right reasons and getting some joy in the end out of it.
And I feel that something doesn't need to be super depressing to make a point. Past Love's Triumph is a steamy short re-telling of Sleeping Beauty with a heavy side of "well, what about contraceptives and women's health." Sure, very likely someone will read it for fun and miss the point, but that's perfectly fine and right too. Nothing wrong with "let's have fun" when the world is actually burning.
You always pick fascinating names for your character, related to angels or mythology. How and why do you choose them?
Baby name sites are my friend. Really. I try to pick names that suit the person and say something about them. Amarantha in Goddess in Waiting is named for the mythical undying flower because memories are forever, and not being forgotten is the true meaning of immortality. Fengxian in Phoenix Chosen can be interpreted as either "phoenix who searches" or perhaps "what the phoenix is looking for," and that's a huge part of the books - finding yourself and being what is needed for something greater than yourself. Bonus points if you know that the "feng" refers to the male phoenix and not the female, so it's possible to interpret her name as what Seth is searching for. Imperial prince, y'know, so he could be a phoenix too.
You seem to enjoy fairytale retellings, such as in Past Love's Triumph and Silenced. What draws you to this genre?
Sometimes I just want to punch the patriarchy and sometimes I want to have fun, and it's a good thing when the two want to work together so well. Past Love's Triumph started out very simply - with a mind-in-the-gutter joke of prick=penis and then everything logically cascaded from that. But there was also the desire to rewrite the fairy tales so that women have more agency. Get rid of the evil stepmothers because why is it that they're always the evil ones? What is it with other women being the main obstacles? Really look at the idea of being saved by a prince on a white horse, which is something that is oh-so-tempting, but also so very problematic. Save yourself. Fight with the prince in that companions-in-arms sorta way. Figure out if the king is the problem. Kill the big evil, make friends with the dragon, and live happily ever after.
Tata Young's Cinderella sums it up, really:
What is your editing process like?
This is where I laugh hysterically, right? I do a alpha-draft first, which is mostly talking heads, main plot points, just so I can get a feeling for what the story is going to look like and how it's going to wrap up. I'm a pantser, so I don't know exactly know all this before I finish. Then I go back and layer in emotions, setting, descriptions, that sort of thing. Then I re-read, and then ask beta readers to go through and poke holes in the plot and point out where I need to add setting/descriptions and clarify character motivation.
Two of the Phoenix Chosen re-writes happened because people kept telling me that they couldn't tell it was supposed to be a romance. After all that, it goes to a content editor. Mine is Liana Brooks and she's amazing. After that, copy edits and done.
If you could be a character in any book, which would it be?
You haven't met her yet, but probably my Chinese vampire girl. She's in a tough spot, but she's trying her best to deal with "oh heck, I'm suddenly a vampire", and she's got a lot of good friends who are going to show up and help her past it. I'm also trying to go for the "supportive loving family" thing this time; we'll see how that goes. The vampirism is a not-at-all-veiled metaphor for chronic illness, so it's going to be super interesting to write. The funny thing here is that I didn't realize it was a metaphor for my chronic illness until I took a closer look at it and so that's been lots of fun, in that ahahaha brain what are you doing kind of way.
So you've recently gone from Amazon to wide. What was the process like? Do you have any expectations?
It's tons more complicated than just hitting send on Amazon and I'm giving up KU income, but I don't think I so much have expectations as a hope that I can reach more readers and also hold out against Amazon's whateverpoly.
As a person with chronic illness and the accompanying energy/financial issues, I get why Amazon is the easy/best/affordable choice for a lot of things, but...the 'zon is evil and this is my tiny resistance.
If you could gift one book to someone, what would it be?
The obvious answer here is "ONE OF MY BOOKS", but I think it'd have to be "top book on their wishlist". Buying someone a book doesn't mean they'd read it, so I'd rather get something they'd definitely want and enjoy.
Want to be transported to dynastic China? Of course you do! In all seriousness, you can find her books on Amazon and Smashwords. Or, if you still need some convincing, you can read her on Wattpad.
If you want the intel on her interesting research for each book, she often tweets about her findings. And if you don't have a Twitter, you can find her on Facebook, GoodReads, and, of course, on her author website.