1. Only a Monster is a romance with a bizarre, enthralling twist; Joan is a time-traveling monster, and she has fallen in love with Nick, a monster-slayer. What inspired you to write this novel?
I wanted to write a story from the point of view of a monster who has to fight against a hero. The inspiration came from my own experiences growing up. I’ve always loved genre TV shows and big blockbuster films, but as a kid I rarely saw people who looked and talked like me – people of the Asian diaspora – as the heroes in those stories.
Instead, I would notice that sometimes the only Asian faces were nameless characters who would show up for the fight scenes, and then would get beaten up and killed by the hero.
In Only a Monster, I have line about how in movies, the camera follows the hero after the bad guys have been killed, but I know that in my own viewing experience I would often find myself very aware of the few people onscreen who look like me, which sometimes meant being very aware of people lying dead on the ground as the camera moved away.
So that was the seed of inspiration for Only a Monster. I wanted to convey the feeling you sometimes get when the hero of the story isn’t the hero of your story. That feeling when a hero – maybe even a hero who is otherwise presented as good and decent and upright by the narrative – is fighting against you rather than for you.