Taiwanese Teenage English Novelist Shares About Writing, Career Development | Taiwan News

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — After publishing her first novel in English at the age of 16, Taiwan-born and raised Hermione Lee has added seven more books to her published work list.


In an exclusive interview with Taiwan News, Lee said that he had already finished writing the two sequels to ‘In the Name of the Otherworld’ when it was released. Since then, she’s worked on companion novels that fit stories in the series like “Helen’s Tale,” due out early next year, as well as new stories like “Once Upon an Enchantress” and “The First Buds of Spring.”


In these new stories, Lee explores uncharted territory, expanding into realms beyond fantasy. “The First Buds of Spring” is not only a young adult fantasy novel, but also a romantic story, while “Helen’s Tale” is a psychological thriller and horror novel.


“I think it’s important for me to branch out into new genres,” Lee said. “There is only [so] many tropes in fantasy novels. I think diversity is a big thing when it comes to writing.”


He plans to write science fiction, “literary” and mystery novels in the future.


She added that sometimes, when she finds she can’t keep herself interested in her own stories, she puts them on hold and starts working on a new project. “I have 80-something ideas in my head, so I’m not afraid to change projects, because sooner or later I’ll have to finish them all.”


Furthermore, he has also started designing covers for his novels when he lacks the motivation to write. “It’s actually quite fun, and it doesn’t take me long,” she said.


A young Taiwanese English novelist shares insights into writing and career development

(picture of Hermione Lee)


Lee’s most recent releases include ‘Once Upon an Enchantress’ and ‘The Lost Siren’.


She finished the manuscript of “Once Upon an Enchantress” in eighth grade and originally intended it to be a class assignment. He drew inspiration from her English teacher named Sharon and created the story’s protagonist based on her.


When asked if her teacher knew she inspired a character, Lee said he showed her a draft. “She thought it was pretty interesting, she said nice things about it,” Lee added, saying she was thankful the teacher didn’t disparage it because it was a “really crude and awkward first manuscript.”


By the time the book was released, however, Lee had already dropped out of school and didn’t get a chance to present her teacher with the polished story, which had gone through many rounds of editing.


Meanwhile, “The Lost Siren” follows the story of a mermaid, like those in Greek mythology, who loses her memory. “I decided it would be really interesting if the main character woke up and found that she didn’t remember anything. So that became the idea, the basic idea for ‘The Lost Siren.’”


A young Taiwanese English novelist shares insights into writing and career development

Lee (second from right) attends the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards ceremony. (photo Hermione Lee)


In addition to writing new books, Lee also received a “Moonbeam Children’s Book Award” this year. She was awarded the Gold Medal in the Young Adult Fiction category.


“One of my favorite authors, Katherine Paterson, who wrote ‘Bridge to Terabithia’ [won] the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award in 2020,” Lee said.


For the awards ceremony, Lee flew to Traverse City, Michigan where she sold her books at the local book festival. It was her first time traveling to the United States


Lee was invited to speak at Wenzao Ursuline University of Languages ​​and share her experience in October. “Professor Ken Smith, saw the article (Taiwan News) about me and decided to invite me there to give a little talk to the students about writing and my journey.”


“Lots of people have asked questions…the students are very active.” Lee said her two-hour talk covered her writing career, her English education, and how to evaluate and write good books.


A young Taiwanese English novelist shares insights into writing and career development

Lee at the Traverse City Book Festival. (photo Hermione Lee)


Lee believes that in the “fast media” age, people are not reading enough books. She said, “I guess it’s a universal problem – as a writer, I have that problem too! I can’t really concentrate on a book because there are too many distractions.”


“There are too many exciting and thrilling things and things that (give you) results very quickly,” she added, using recent events like the elections and the World Cup as examples. “With a book, you have to read it slowly, page by page, word by word, sentence by sentence. It would take a long time to reach a satisfactory part. So, I think that’s why a lot of people can’t concentrate on reading, myself included.


Lee said that fast media absorption is not beneficial to people’s mental health, because “If we want faster and faster results, we will ignore that the process is just as important … consumes your patience.”


“And let’s be honest, social media isn’t full of good stuff, right?” she added.


She admitted to being addicted to social media herself, especially YouTube. “Videos, they come one after another…”


A young Taiwanese English novelist shares insights into writing and career development

In October, Lee was invited to speak at the Wenzao Ursuline University of Languages. (photo Hermione Lee)


Nonetheless, Lee is an extremely effective writer. In 2022 she started a race against herself.


The “Writing Relay Race” unofficially began when he finished writing “The First Buds of Spring” in 36 days in January. Then, she finished writing “Eric’s Tale” in 24 days.


“I thought, hey, that’s great! I can have a race with myself,” she said. “I was like, why don’t I write a book every month this year, hence the Writing Relay Race… It’s a book a month, month after month, a book after book.”


He added that he was finishing his 11th book of the year, which would also be the 16th book of his career, on the day of the interview. That morning she had just passed the 1 million word mark for the total words he has written in his career as a novelist.


When asked how she ensures the quality of her writing as she writes so fast, Lee said, “Time doesn’t always correlate with quality.” Her book, Where the Magic Lies, which earned her the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award, was written in 14 days, while some of her less recognized works took longer.


The key, according to Lee, lies in the idea of ​​the story. “The idea itself has to be rich enough, fat enough… If your idea is really flat, and you can’t think of anything new, no twists to add to the story idea… you might not be able to make a meaningful story out of it.”


A young Taiwanese English novelist shares insights into writing and career development

A “stolen” hollow log inspired the story of “Where the Magic Lies”. (picture of Hermione Lee)


Lee draws inspiration from all walks of life. She said she got the idea to write “Where the Magic Lies” when her mother picked up and brought home a randomly dug log from the side of a road: “When I saw my mother carrying the log home, I thought , ‘But what if it belongs to some mysterious creature? What if he comes back to find the log gone?’”


In addition to winning awards, Lee’s works have also gained popularity on Amazon. The ebook and Kindle versions of ‘The First Buds of Spring’, ‘Where the Magic Lies’ and ‘The Lost Siren’ all topped the ‘Teen and Young Adult Fiction’ platform bestseller lists in various sub-categories.


For the next year, Lee plans to take on the difficult task of finding an agent so he can get into bigger publishers. “Finding an agent is really exhausting. I have friends who have been trying for two or three years and no progress,” she said.


In June, he sent “The First Buds of Spring” to several agents and received a dozen rejections. While she initially felt despondent, she reminded herself, “These agents are only reading the first three chapters of my book, because agents are busy people, they don’t have time to read every bit of the novel.”


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