Interview with Molly X. Chang, Author of To Gaze Upon Wicked Gods

By: Michele Kirichanskaya
Jun 22, 2024

Born in Harbin, China, Molly X. Chang was raised on folklore told by the grandparents who taught her to take pride in the heritages and cultures that shaped her life, and the harrowing history of the ancestors who’d come before her. TO GAZE UPON WICKED GODS is her debut novel.

I had the opportunity to interview Molly, which you can read below.

First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourself?

Hello! So happy to be here! My name is Molly X. Chang, and my debut novel TO GAZE UPON WICKED GODS comes out on April 16th from Del Rey Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House, that is Shadow and Bone meets X-Men, where a girl blessed by Death must choose between dying a hero or live as a villain working for the dangerous enemy prince.

What can you tell us about your debut book, To Gaze Upon Wicked Gods? What was the inspiration for this project?

The inspiration for TO GAZE UPON WICKED GODS came to me when I was very young. Like all kids, I really hated doing my homework, and my grandfather being the stereotypical Asian grandfather that he was, was adamant that I did all of my homework and after-school reading. One of the ways he got me to do this was by telling me ghost stories of monsters who lurk beneath the city and would steal away misbehaving kids who don’t do their homework. Those ghost stories were definitely the seeds that inspired this book.

As a writer, what drew you to the art of storytelling, specifically speculative fiction?

I am an immigrant and English isn’t my first language. And as all second-language immigrants will tell you; it is not easy assimilating to a new culture, even harder when that culture is in another language. I was very lonely in those early years, and books were an escape. I read Twilight with a dictionary, and still remember how my love for that series helped me make my first friends after I moved. I began writing some fanfiction as a result, and have been writing ever since. I think I will always appreciate that sense of escapism and community that Twilight gave me in those early years, and if one of my books can give someone that kind of escapism, it would be worth it.

How would you describe your writing process?

Chaotic. I used to write books chapter by chapter with no real outline. And I kind of still do that with my first drafts, which I write in my notes app during my commute and between errands. But by the time I decide it is time for a book to graduate from the notes app and into a word doc, I make sure I have a solid outline to make the writing experience smoother.

Growing up, were there any stories in which you felt touched by/ or reflected in? Are there any like that now?

Growing up, being Chinese and an immigrant, I didn’t see reflections of myself in books or TV after I immigrated. It wasn’t until I read Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok in my 20s did I finally felt seen in a book. I think things are definitely getting better, and representation are gradually being shown in different genres and I’m so happy for this generation of kids to grow up with these beautiful stories.

As a writer, who or what would you say are some of your greatest creative influences and/or sources of inspiration in general? 

Writers like Stephanie Meyer, Rick Riordan, Cassandra Clare, and Phillip Pullman, whose book I read while I was learning English were definitely big influences, because they literally taught me English in a way, haha. My other great influence is Sabaa Tahir. Before I read An Ember in the Ashes, I had never seen an author of color publishing the books that I read. I remember seeing Sabaa’s picture in the back of her book and feeling like maybe, just maybe, I can be like her, too.

What are some of your favorite elements of writing? What do you consider some of the most frustrating and/or difficult? 

I love the escapism. I always say that I write to help readers escape, but it is an escapism for me, too. When I am with my manuscript, whether it’s drafting or editing or proofreading, I am so consumed by the words and the pages everything else disappears. All of the daily worries and stress fade into the background, and I get to be somewhere else with some really great for a while. And the most frustrating part is when I can’t focus because something else requires my urgent attention.

Aside from your work, what are some things you would want others to know about you?

I am unfortunately one of those people whose whole personality revolves around how funny they are. I like to think I am super witty and just hilarious to be around, but some of my friends might roll their eyes at this and say I am simply annoying, haha! So I guess I would want others to know that I have a great sense of humor?

What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet but that you wish you were asked (as well as the answer to that question)?

Hmm, I would love for someone to ask me if I like cats, and the answer would be yes, of course I do! Then I would love them show me pictures and videos of their pets being adorable and goofy.

What advice might you have to give for aspiring writers?

Don’t ever let anyone tell you what is and isn’t impossible. Write the book that you want, and don’t give up.

Are there any other projects you are working on and at liberty to speak about?

I don’t think this is announced yet, and probably won’t be announced by the time this article is out, but I have a YA Fantasy series coming out next year and I am super excited to share it with the world! And of course, my other project is To Gaze Upon Wicked Gods’ sequel, To Kill a Monstrous Prince! Out sometime next year, too!

Finally, what books/authors would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT? 

Sabaa Tahir. Her books are amazing and I am simply obsessed with everything she writes. I can’t wait for her new book HEIR to be out later this year!

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