During Emerald City Comic Con a few months back, I was able to talk with young adult author Judy I. Lin about her popular duology, A Magic Steeped in Poison.
- Where did the idea for A Magic Steeped in Poison come from?
I wanted to write a story that involved tea magic because I wanted to explore a type of magic that came with a unique set of limitations. I grew up drinking Taiwanese tea with my family, but when I started researching different types of tea ceremonies, I realized that the way we drank tea was a unique type of tea ceremony called gongfu cha. The story developed from there, since what better way to showcase magic than a competition!
- Did you plan on it being a series at first?
Yes, I always knew that Ning’s story wasn’t complete after the first book. There was so much more I wanted to explore about the world and the gods and also develop her relationship with the characters that she grew close with in A Magic Steeped in Poison.
- What is your writing process?
I always start with a synopsis. I write an outline that has the general shape of the story, and then tell myself the story by fleshing it out to a synopsis that is a few pages. I start writing a zero draft where I put down snippets of dialogue, descriptions, and develop the world as I write. After I finish the draft, I go back and rewrite the outline, then I start the whole process again until I am happy with the story.
- Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, how do you work through it?
I do encounter writer’s block when I need an answer to something that is happening in the story, but I don’t quite understand how to get there. Usually this is resolved by doing more research. I’ll look into what’s involved with this particular scene, and something will click while I’m researching and I usually find a solution to my problem.
- Are there any other myths and legends you would want to write about in the future?
I’m a huge fan of gothic fiction, so my next project blends gothic elements with monsters and celestials from Chinese mythology. I’m having a lot of fun with it!
- Any hints on anything you are currently working on that you can share?
My projects in the works are progressively darker than the Book of Tea duology. The previous gothic inspired fantasy project is one, and I’m also working on another project that is more horror leaning which is set in Chinatown.
- How do you flush out the details of a character?
I find character work the most challenging for me to figure out. It usually takes several rounds of writing and revising before I feel like I have a grasp of a character’s deep desires and motivations. I usually get there by writing the story. There’s no other way around it for me.
- How do you handle plot holes? If they arise.
My editor is fabulous so she usually gives me some guidance as to how to navigate plot holes. I might point out an issue that I’m not sure how to resolve and then she will give me suggestions on how to fix it.
- Can you give us a small summary of your duology for a Magic Steeped in Poison?
The Book of Tea duology begins with A Magic Steeped in Poison. It follows a young tea magician named Ning, who is dealing with the grief of accidentally poisoning her mother and sister. She travels to the capital to participate in a magical tea competition to hopefully win a cure that will save her sister’s life. In the sequel, A Venom Dark and Sweet, Ning realizes that she not only has to save her family from evil forces, but that the lives of everyone in the empire is at stake.
- Where can people find you online and check out your work?
My website is at https://www.judyilin.com/
If you’re interested in checking out Judy’s amazing series here are some links!
Thank you again Judy for your time!
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