My Beautiful Struggle + tour

Interview & Giveaway: Bitter Melon by Cara Chow

Today I have Cara Chow, the author of Bitter Melon, on the blog for an interview.
She, and Egmont, are also offering up a copy of Bitter Melon for one lucky reader.

1. You've had quite an interesting writing journey already. What was the biggest lesson you learned from your experience with the picture book and poem you've had published?
Probably the biggest lesson I learned was to be more honest with myself about my true desires and to have more confidence in my ability to succeed. Though I received some attention and success early on in my writing career, I still didn’t consider myself a writer at the time because I didn’t believe in myself. Had I not changed my attitude, I wouldn’t be a published novelist today. I remind myself of this whenever I feel discouraged. I’ve also mentored others who, like me, had buried aspirations that needed a little coaxing.
2. You mentioned that you felt pressure from your parents to be a doctor or lawyer. What advice would you give to a teenager who may be under that same pressure from their parents?
Every family is different, so I can’t offer a one-size-fits-all solution. That said, I’ll make two suggestions that help in most cases:
First, find a safe place to voice your true feelings and desires. A well-hidden journal (with a lock perhaps!) is a good place to start because you don’t have to worry about what others will think. It is also good to find a supportive and trustworthy confidante, be it a peer or a mentor.
My second piece of advice is much harder to do: try to understand the anxiety that drives parents’ need to pressure their children. A lot of times, parents want their kids to avoid the mistakes they made or fulfill the dreams they never achieved. Parents often project themselves onto their kids and may find it difficult to separate the two. They may have sacrificed a lot to help their kids succeed and feel hurt and frustrated when their kids don’t seem to appreciate their efforts. Don’t confuse understanding with agreement. You can understand them and still disagree with them. Understanding your parents will improve not only your peace of mind but also your communication with them.
3. You began writing Bitter Melon back in 1999, how does the finished story compare to that first draft? What was this process like for you?
My first draft had a strong voice but no plot. It had too many characters and story lines. By the time I got to the current draft, several characters had been eliminated, and the story focused more on the mother-daughter conflict.
My protagonist and antagonist evolved over the course of many drafts. In my first draft, Frances, my protagonist, was a passive victim. In the final draft, she is much more proactive, to the point of plotting her escape from her mom. At the same time, she is more sympathetic because she learns to be a better friend. Those who have read Bitter Melon may find this hard to believe, but Gracie, Frances’s mother and the antagonist, is actually more sympathetic in the current draft than the first draft.
The process was often fun and exciting and at other times quite difficult. I had many moments of self-doubt as I searched for the spine of my story. I am happy that it paid off in the end! 4. Bitter Melon seems to have quite a few similarities to your own life. Does using these parts of your life make writing the story easier or more difficult?
Both! For me, it is much easier to draw from memory than research. I have more confidence in what I’m talking about because I’ve been there, and it is easier to describe things in great detail. On the other hand, I initially found it more difficult to maintain objectivity when figuring out my plot and characters and when listening to feedback because the material felt too close to me.
5. What do you hope people take from reading Bitter Melon?
For readers who identify with Frances, I hope that the Bitter Melon gives them validation, solace, and inspiration. I hope it gives them a voice in society. I also want readers to understand and appreciate the cultural and economic factors that influenced Gracie’s and Frances’s attitudes and behaviors. At the same time, I want people to understand that mother-daughter issues and achievement issues are universal. And of course, I want readers to have fun reading. I want them to get engrossed in the book and not be able to put it down! Thank you Cara for being on my blog!
You’re welcome! Thanks for inviting me!

Bitter Melon by Cara Chow Publisher: Egmont USA (December 28th, 2010) Reading Level: Young Adult Hardcover: 224 pages Frances, a Chinese-American student at an academically competitive school in San Francisco, has always had it drilled into her to be obedient to her mother and to be a straight-A student so that she can go to Med school. But is being a doctor what she wants? It has never even occurred to Frances to question her own feelings and desires until she accidentally winds up in speech class and finds herself with a hidden talent. Does she dare to challenge the mother who has sacrificed everything for her? Set in the 1980s.

Giveaway Prize:

  • 1 winner will receive a copy of Bitter Melon by Cara Chow.

  • You must be at least 13 to enter.
  • Name and email must be provided and counts as 1 entry.
  • Extra entries are possible and links must be provided.
  • Contest is US Only and ends March 28th.
  • Once contacted the winner will have 48 hours to respond with their mailing address.
  • The form must be filled out to enter.

Find Cara Chow | Website

Purchase Bitter Melon Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository

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Interview & Giveaway: Bitter Melon by Cara Chow + tour