Wouldn’t You Like to Know . . . F. C. Yee

Timothy Horan

F. C. Yee grew up in New Jersey and lived in San Francisco for the last ten years, before moving to Boulder two months ago. He ruins games for a living by figuring out how to charge the most money possible for powerups.

TH: When you were a teenager, people would describe you as a: jock, band geek, popular, goth, other . . . none?

FCY: I don’t think people had a read on me as a teenager because I barely had one on myself. Maybe a nerd that hesitated to fully embrace nerd-dom?

TH: The best/worst thing that happened to you in high school?

FCY: The worst thing that turned out to be the best was participating in my school’s tradition of giving “chapel talks.” It was an Episcopalian boarding school with daily chapel services, but in each one, students and faculty could give a brief, secular talk on anything they wanted. I forced myself to do one and since then, I’ve never been overly afraid of public speaking.

TH: Favorite childhood book?

FCY: Fantastic Mr. Fox. I want a secret tunnel that connects to my favorite places to eat so I never have to go outside.

TH: Favorite food?

FCY: Plain white rice since I’ve grown up thinking it goes with everything. So it does. Self-fulfilling prophecy.

TH: Favorite band or album?

FCY: I have an old Best of Creedence Clearwater Revival Band CD that I’m particularly fond of.

TH: Favorite television show?

FCY: A toss-up between Brooklyn 99 and Avatar: The Last Airbender.

TH: Is there a story from your childhood that is told most often, either by you *or* about you?

FCY: Not really, because I think my sisters and I formed an unspoken mutual détente to never drag up stories about our childhood to each other. It’s held up well over multiple Thanksgivings.

TH: Was there any class in high school you regret paying too little, or too much, attention? If you could add one class to high schools across the country, what would be the topic?

FCY: Ironically, I should have taken a fiction writing elective with a well-regarded teacher in high school, but I didn’t because I heard the course was difficult and I was too lazy/afraid. I didn’t start to write fiction until well after college. I would also add a personal finance course to every high school curriculum. Everyone who doesn’t learn about finances when they’re young regrets it . . . including me.

TH: If you could be a character from any book ever written, including your own, who would you want to be?

FCY: I would be one of the unnamed other students at Brakebills from Lev Grossman’s Magicians Trilogy who is pretty satisfied with knowing magic and not being on any particular journey of loss and self-discovery.

TH: Let’s say that one of your books has been selected to be made into a movie. Which book would you want it to be, and who would want in your cast?

FCY: I don’t know who I’d want to be in the movie version. For a while, my family kept sending me pictures of actors they thought could be Quentin. I was like, “Pfft, not hot or buff enough” for all of them.

TH: Is there a book, besides your own, of course, that you think everyone should be reading?

FCY: Dear Martin by Nic Stone. Do it.

TH: Do you have any favorite family traditions that might need some explanation to outsiders looking in? Do you remember how they started?

FCY: There’s a restaurant in New York City that my family has been going to since before my oldest sister was born. The staff has seen us grow older over multiple decades, and vice-versa. If we ever go without every member of the family present, they’ll ask what happened to the missing person. My sisters and I joke that our partners would have to eat with us there to be considered “official.” Going by restaurant rules, my girlfriend and I are officially together. However, my brother-in-law has never eaten at this restaurant. So, he is not officially with my sister, even though they are married and have two kids.

TH: If you had an important secret or story to share, who would be the first person you’d turn to?

FCY: Well, my girlfriend ate at the restaurant. So, officially, she’s it.

TH: Is there one moment in your life you’d love to live again? To either change it or to enjoy?

FCY: I wouldn’t choose any moments of great success because I usually feel sick during them. I’d pick one of those random moments where I’m walking or biking outside, the weather’s good, I don’t have any pressing matters on hand, and I’m thinking that I’m feeling okay.

TH: Have you hidden friends of family in your stories? Has anyone ever asked to be included?

FCY: I made a character resemble a departed uncle as a tribute. The circumstances of the book actually dictated that they shared the same last name, so I went with the coincidence.

TH: What’s your biggest pet peeve?

FCY: People with undue and unearned overconfidence.

TH: What is one (or more!) of your favorite features about yourself? It can be anything from an impeccable sense of style to your sense of humor to crazy long toes that can pick up a variety of objects.

FCY: I like my eyebrows due to the fact that every picture of myself where my hair falls over them I look like a doof.

TH: If you could have any superpower, what would you choose?

FCY: Teleportation. No commute time. I have never given this answer to this question in public without everyone in the room over the age of twenty-five going, “Ooooh, good one.”

TH: You get three wishes, what are they? (Yes, you can wish for more wishes but are you *that* person?)

FCY: I would wish for massive amounts of luck because that’s the same thing as infinite wishes only with the joy of serendipity. The other two, I would give away or figure out how to solve a world problem, Gates Foundation-style.

TH: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten, at any age?

FCY: Don’t text and drive. Which is easy for me, because I never drive. But in all seriousness, don’t. Really.

TH: What three words would you use to describe yourself? What three words do you think other people would use to describe you?

FCY: Me: Moody, creative, generally okay.

Other people: Moody, generally agreeable, okay in small doses

TH: You are sitting down to dinner with five people, living or dead, who find you fascinating. Who is at the table and what are you eating?

FCY: Someone with money because if they find me interesting, then they might bankroll me. Someone much smarter than me whom I can ask random questions. A person in a leadership role who can give me advice. Anyone who might have some awesome yet shady stories. And finally, someone funny who can act as social glue. So basically, I’m eating shawarma with the Avengers.

TH: What one thing makes you feel happiest? What makes you sad? What scares you? What makes you laugh?

FCY: I feel happiest when I’m caught up in the moment with friends and lose all self-consciousness. I’m sad when I’m faced with the fact that I’ve made a wrong decision in the past. I’m scared by the willingness of people–me and others alike–to ignore obvious problems. And it sounds bad, but I make myself laugh a lot. Since I write a lot of comedy, I have to pass an internal bar when I put something down on paper.

TH: Do you have a phrase or motto that inspires you?      

FCY: I tried testing out a couple like “Go for broke!” or “I have a competition in me,” but they ended up being appropriative and/or unhealthy.

TH: Who was the first person who told you that you should be a writer?

FCY: No one really. The closest was that Creative Writing teacher from high school, who, after hearing my chapel talk, came over and said, “You should have taken my class.” I’ve always assumed he meant that as a compliment, but I guess there’s no way to be sure.

TH: When you sit down to write, what do you need around you? Do you prefer a certain time of day or is it more spontaneous? How do you approach the creative process?

FCY: For writing execution, I need to be in the early morning, not at home, with a lot of strong coffee. The earlier the better, because then it feels like I have a head start on other people, and I’m using that advantage to write. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But as soon as other people start filing into the café and the sun comes up, I grind to a halt. For ideas, they can come to me at any moment of the day, usually whenever I’m relaxed and not worrying about anything in particular. I have to lay a groundwork of forced brainstorming first, usually unproductively, and then that lets relevant thoughts attach themselves to the foundation throughout the day. I approach the creative process the same way I anecdotally heard some branch of the military does: make one plan and abandon it as needed.

TH: What did you buy with your first paycheck as an author? Was it a planned or an impulse purchase?

FCY: I think I bought a drink. I drink frequently enough on impulse that it counts as a plan.

TH: If someone wrote a book about your life, who would you want as the author, what kind of book would it be, and what title would you give it?

FCY: I would want my sisters to write it. It would preferably be a hagiography, and it could be called A Picture of My Face as I Hold This Cigarette. I don’t smoke, but the book would be huge in Norway.

TH: A series of choices: Comedy or drama? Introvert or extrovert? Board games, card games, or online games? Five star hotel or rustic camping? Morning or night? Movie, music, or theater? Phone call, handwritten letter, or email?

FCY: Comedy, because most good comedies have drama.

Introvert, because I need two hours of recovery after giving a thirty minute work presentation.

Five-star hotel, because I’m assuming this is paid for by someone else.

Morning for me alone. Night for me and friends.

Movie, because I have favorite movies. I like music and theater, but don’t have dedicated favorites.

Phone call for family and close people. Email for everyone else.

TH: What’s the best surprising question you’ve ever been asked so far?

FCY: A teen at YALLFest asked me how do I know if the idea or project I’m working on is going to work out creatively, while I’m the middle of working on it. I gave her this honest answer: I don’t know if it is. Ideas that are doomed to be unsuccessful feel like winners. Sometimes, you have to roll the dice. I think I disappointed her a bit.

TH: Is there a question you wish someone would finally think to ask?

FCY: I wish someone would ask how the writing process really boils down to the themes of imperfect information, information asymmetry, and risk management, because–in my opinion–boy, does it.

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo

TH: Would your friends say you are more like Genie or Quentin? Would you agree?

FCY: Friends would say Quentin, but in reality, I’m more like Genie. I’m motivated by anger much more than I let on.

TH: Genie, at sixteen, is already a force to be reckoned with! What were you like at sixteen?

FCY:  Really incomplete. I was always waiting for a better thing to come along and spent my days worrying about when, instead of enjoying myself.

TH: How did the idea for this book come to you?

FCY: I usually have ideas in the format of “Wouldn’t it be cool if” hanging around my head, and in this case one of them was “Wouldn’t it be cool if folkloric figures appeared in the modern day and started fighting.” I realized pretty early on that it would be better to stick to one folkloric figure.

TH: What was the most fun part of writing this book?

FCY: Writing scenes where Genie gets fed up. It happens a lot.

TH: What was most difficult part of writing this book?

FCY: Certain plot logic elements. I had a hard time convincing myself that I could just declare that something I made up should work a certain way. It was difficult to trust my own authority as a writer.

TH: How did you learn so much about the Chinese mythology/folklore that underlies so much of the action?

FCY: I read the unabridged translations of Journey to the West. I never watched any of the Monkey King movies growing up, so, ironically, it was easier to write a character with the same experience.

TH: What’s the most common comment you get from readers about this book?

FCY: Judging from comments, people tend to like Genie the character more than any action, comedy, plotting, description, or anything that I would have applied writerly-skill toward. I agree (and secretly think) that I’m not a good enough writer for her, and that someone else could have done her more justice. That, and everyone likes Yunie. People want more Yunie.

TH: Are you writing a sequel to this book? Can you tell us a little about it?

FCY: I am writing a sequel tentatively titled The Iron Will of Genie Lo, and it will be about Genie’s development as a leader in the supernatural world. It’ll touch upon her realization that ugh, everyone from book one is sticking around in her life, and she’s got to adjust her long-term plans to deal with that. Also, there’s more Yunie.

TH: If you had to solve a major supernatural crisis, what would it be, and how would you do it?

FCY: I would figure out how to make housing more affordable so that families can move out of haunted addresses. Because as I grow older and look for places to live, I can kind of understand why they stay, murder ghost or no.

TH: Thank you for a great interview! I can’t wait to read about Genie Lo’s next set of adventures.

Books by F. C. Yee

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo. Amulet/Abrams, August 2017. 320p. $18.99. 978-1-4197-2548-7. VOYA October 2017. 5Q 5P J S

Dr. Timothy Horan is a librarian and author living on Long Island, New York. When he was five years old, he knew he’d be a writer. That turned into a lifelong passion (really an obsession) with books and writing and authors. He’s also a pretty good carpenter. Horan lives in a lakeside log cabin with his dogs and recently built a library to house his 2000 books. This is where he does his best thinking and writing. Send him a tweet here: @SL_Writing_Ctr; or an email here: Irish.Poet.Warrior@gmail.com; or join his School Library Writing Centers forum here: http://slwc.freeforums.net/. He’d love to hear from you!