Interview with Malinda Lo

So, this is an exciting week, because I get to share with you not one, but TWO interviews. Now I have the honor of introducing one of the ’09 debs, Malinda Lo. Malinda Lo’s novel, Ash, in the most simple of terms is a lesbian retelling of Cinderella. I read and reviewed this one awhile ago, so to hear more about Ash see my review.


KB: First, can you tell us a little about your road to publishing?
ML: It's been about seven and a half years between first inspiration and my book hitting the shelves, so it's definitely been a long road! To briefly summarize, I wrote three or four drafts of Ash before I even submitted it to agents in 2007. My agent offered to represent me in December 2007; I did another revision for her by January 2008; and we got our first offers in February 2008. Since then, things have been moving at lightning speed, but I still did three revisions along the way. A lot of revising goes into publishing!

KB: Why did you decide to write fiction for young adults?
ML: I actually didn't make a conscious decision to write YA fiction. I simply wrote Ash the way I wanted to write it, and when I was finally ready to submit it to agents, I saw that it fit best within the YA genre. It's actually not so surprising because I was so inspired by other YA fairy tale retellings I read when I was a teen.

KB: The cover of Ash is gorgeous! What role did you play in its cover design?
ML: Pretty much none! I just wrote the book, and the talented Alison Impey took what she read and translated it perfectly into an image. I am so happy with the cover!

KB: Why did you choose the tale of Cinderella?
ML: Cinderella was always my favorite fairy tale when I was a kid. I've also long been a fan of Robin McKinley's fairy tale retellings, and I always wished she would write a retelling of Cinderella. Since she didn't (or hasn't so far), I decided to write the story I've always wanted to read.

KB: How did you decide to make Cinderella a lesbian? Did this make the Cinderella story more difficult to rework?
ML: Well, in the first draft, Ash (the Cinderella character) fell in love with the prince. But then I sent that draft to a friend to read, and she told me she felt that the prince was kinda boring, but this other woman (the huntress) was much more intriguing. I looked closely at the draft and realized that Ash was falling in love with this woman, not the prince. That's when I decided to rewrite it as a "lesbian Cinderella." It didn't make retelling the story any more difficult; in fact, I think it made it easier, because this was the story that was trying to get out of my subconscious.

KB: What was the most challenging part about writing Ash? What about the most rewarding?
ML: Honestly, the most challenging part about the actual writing of Ash was writing the romantic scenes. Writing romance doesn't come easily to me, and I have to spend a lot of time thinking about words and how to spin them into a romantic feeling without becoming overly sweet. Partly as a result of this, I think some of the most rewarding parts are when I finish those scenes and reread them. When they evoke the effect in me that I was aiming for -- that's when it's wonderful.

KB: Can you tell us a bit about what you are working on now?
ML: I am working on a companion novel to Ash. It's set in the same world, but several hundred years earlier, so there are no crossover characters. Or are there? (evil laugh)

KB: What do you do when writer’s block hits?
ML: Well, I usually encounter writer's block when I haven't given enough time to thinking about what I want to happen. Not what I want to write, specifically, but which direction the story should go in. Unfortunately, if I'm on a deadline, I just have to power through it -- I kind of force myself through the trouble spots, writing basically anything, and then go back and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite. This is what I learned from being a reporter. Once there's something on the page, I can go back and work things out and improve it.
If I have a little more time, or if my deadline is a little farther ahead and I encounter writer's block, I'll take a break from it. I'll actually leave my desk and go for a walk in the woods or something. Being away from the computer is very helpful, actually -- sometimes I'll solve the block just by going to sit on the couch and writing longhand for a while. It's mostly about changing the physical situation I'm in, which seems to break through the mental block.

KB: If you had to pick one (or maybe two) song(s) to associate with Ash, what would you pick?
ML: KT Tunstall's "Universe & U" -- I listened to this song repeatedly when writing one scene in Ash. And "Bonfire" by Lamb -- this song makes me think of the character of Sidhean. Kind of creepy and weird. :) And I've created an Ash playlist; you can see it here.
KB: Thank you so much for joining us! I love that playlist for Ash and highlighted it yesterday in my Feed Your Ears post :)


Malinda Lo’s debut release, Ash, was released this past Tuesday, September 1st, so get it NOW in stores. Also, she keeps a really awesome author blog, which you can find here.


  1. Great interview. I can't wait to read Ash.

  2. Malinda is awesome. I love how she took the cinderalla story and made it her own. Can't wait 2 read ash :D

  3. This is a wonderful interview. I'm so happy to see lesbian characters in fantasy YA.

  4. Good questions! :) I hope I can read Ash asap.