The easiest and safest way to travel? By delving into a book, of course, and letting the story take you away. To that end, I present to you this opportunity to visit 2010 China via Crystal Z Lee’s new novel. Enjoy the interview with, then read on to learn about the book and for a chance to win a free copy.
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Love and Other Moods is a coming-of-age story set in contemporary China, about falling in love, learning to adult, finding strength, and discovering one’s place in the world.
Naomi Kita-Fan uproots her life from New York to China when her fiancé’s company transfers him to Shanghai. After a disastrous turn of events, Naomi finds herself with no job, no boyfriend, and nowhere to live in a foreign country.
Amidst the backdrop of Shanghai welcoming millions of workers and visitors to the 2010 World Expo, we meet a tapestry of characters through Naomi: Joss Kong, a Shanghai socialite who leads an enviable life, but must harbor the secrets of her husband, Tay Kai Tang. Logan Hayden, a womanizing restaurateur looking for love in all the wrong places. Pan Jinsung and Ouyang Zhangjie, a silver-aged couple struggling with adapting to the ever-changing faces of their city. Dante Ouyang, who had just returned to China after spending years overseas, must choose between being filial and being in love. All their dreams and aspirations interweave within the sprawling web of Shanghai.
This multilayered novel explores a kaleidoscope of shifting relationships—familial friction, amorous entanglements, volatile friendships—in one of the most dynamic metropolises of the twenty-first century.
An interview with Crystal Z Lee
Why Shanghai? Why was the novel set in this city?
I adore rom-coms, in books and in films. But it bothered me that the majority of romantic stories I read or watched growing up were almost always with the same American or European backdrop. Sure, Paris or Rome will always be iconic cities of love, but I believe Shanghai, Taipei, or Tokyo can be just as romantic. In Love and Other Moods, the city of Shanghai itself can be seen as one of the central characters.
Introduce us to Naomi Kita-Fan.
The main character of Love and Other Moods is Naomi Kita-Fan, a Japanese-Taiwanese-American who moves from New York to Shanghai with her fiance. Her wedding dreams are soon dashed and she must learn to step out of her comfort zone. This is a coming-of-age story, so we journey with Naomi as she experiences growing pains, discovers her place in the world, and along the way, fall in love.
What were some inspirations behind Naomi’s character development?
We meet Naomi when she is in her early twenties and embarking on a new chapter of her life in an entirely foreign country. But the adventure is off to a rocky start when things don’t pan out as planned. I think personal growth happens most often when we’re thrown into unchartered waters. That’s what happens to Naomi. At the same time she’s adapting to her new environment, issues from her past continue to confront and haunt her. She struggles with juggling the balance between forging ahead and letting go of regrets. I think that’s something most of us can relate to.
Why did you decide to write the story in multiple third-person point-of-views?
I struggled whether to write the novel this way, but ultimately I wanted this book to mirror a city, with viewpoints from the multitude of characters you would meet in a sprawling metropolis. Therefore, in Love and Other Moods, there are POVs from the expats, the Shanghainese socialites, the corporate executives, the working class, the entrepreneurs, the doorman, the maid, the millennials, the aging parents. To me, all of their perspectives are essential to the story, and is what makes a city like Shanghai come alive.
If you were to write a spin-off about a side character, which would you pick?
If I were the reader, I’d love to hear the backstory of Naomi’s parents, Reina Kita and Wesley Fan. Or hear about Trina Akersten’s adoption story in Taiwan. Those are two spin-offs I might develop one day.
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