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Issue #13: Blog2
  • Writer's pictureVarsha Murali Kaushik

In Conversation with Abigail Hing Wen

Passionate dreams, alluring and adventurous nights out in Taipei, dramatic relationships and determined characters all meet each other in Abigail Hing Wen’s (AHW) bestselling novel Loveboat Taipei, which follows the story of Ever Wong’s summer away at a secret love camp which turns her life around.

With the sequel, Loveboat Reunion hitting shelves today, 1/25, and a film adaptation in the works, this is one book series fans of young adult and contemporary fiction must definitely not miss out on! Through this interview with Abigail herself, Varsha (VMK) brings you a look into her thoughts regarding her book, her writing process, the importance of representation and diversity as well as her most handy writing tips for aspiring writers.


Varsha (VMK)

You have mentioned that Loveboat Taipei is inspired by your own personal experiences at the Loveboat programme in Taiwan--how hard, or simple, was it to blur the lines between fiction and reality while writing of Ever’s experience at Loveboat?

Abigail Hing (AHW)

I would say Ever’s internal arc is similar to mine — the choice between pursuing passion and honouring her family, as well as her journey of discovering her own Asian American identity. The external story is all fiction, although inspired by some quintessential Loveboat experiences, like sneaking out to go clubbing.


Speaking of Ever, a lot of YA readers have said that they related to her a lot –including, but not limited to, her experiences of being Chinese American. How do such reviews make you feel? Did you ever imagine, while writing Ever’s story, that she would click so well with your readers, and to such an extent?


Not at all! I hoped to show her experience holistically in a way that was accessible to general audiences. But I was definitely surprised by the reception. My editor, who is Italian American, told me her family is just like Ever’s. It seems like the experience of figuring out identity is a confusing one that many readers relate to. I’m glad that Loveboat, Taipei has helped people know they’re not alone in this struggle.


Personally, one of my favourite things about Loveboat, Taipei is just how important every character is to the story! Ever, Rick, Sophie, Xavier and all their friends at Loveboat each contribute significantly to the story as it unfolds. How were you able to strike this balance in characterisation? Did you ever feel like you were taking away too much of the limelight from the main characters?


So glad you enjoyed all four characters! I’ve always thought of the story as belonging to all of them. I originally wrote the novel from their four points of view (with a few chapters from Jenna – Rick’s girlfriend and another important character in the book) but found that I couldn’t do justice to them in 120,000 words. So I scrapped that version and rewrote it from just Ever’s point of view. I think that’s why the cast feels so well rounded — because I literally wrote it five times. Plus the ensemble is important, showcasing the diversity within the Asian American community. I used their parallel and contrasting experiences to help to further define them as individuals.


The cast of the Loveboat, Taipei film was just announced, and that just makes this all seem so much more real. I offer my heartiest congratulations! How does it feel to watch your book come to life on screen? If you could change one thing from the book in the movie, what would it be and why?


It feels incredible! The most surreal moment was meeting the production crew in Taipei for the first time. I was introduced to them, and the first words out of my mouth were, “I am so grateful for you.” And they applauded, and I realized then how much this movie means to them. Not only as a job, but in making a movie about themselves and their families. I’ve since been enjoying watching each scene come to life on screen, moment by moment.

In the movie, I definitely am eager to showcase Taipei in a way that words simply cannot do with a limited word count! If a picture is worth 1000 words, this movie is worth gazillions!


Loveboat, Taipei’s much anticipated sequel Loveboat, Reunion is set to be published early next year. Congratulations again! When you first wrote Loveboat, Taipei, did you already have a sequel planned in mind, or was it something that just gradually materialised over the years? What are your thoughts on the sequel, on Sophie and Xavier, and on returning back to this setting?


Yes, since I had to scrap most of my first version of Loveboat, Taipei, I had ample material left for Loveboat Reunion! I’m excited to share their story, as they team up to take control of their own lives and find themselves back in Taipei with the gang for another adventure. I was especially eager to explore Xavier’s family and his struggles with his father’s responses to his learning differences. And as I wrote, I discovered the parallels in Sophie’s own life. She has sworn off boys after her disastrous summer but is also learning to embrace her unique self and all the strengths she brings to the table.


Finally, I would like to ask you for some writing tips for the writer’s part of our blog. Firstly, what is your overall writing process like, when you start work on a new project? Where do you find inspiration from, do you make moodboards, pinterest boards and so on? What’s it like when you start a new book?


I always write my first draft in Scrivener. It allows me to write in pieces and flashes, emotional bursts and cool scenes that aren’t fully realized yet. Then I can reorganize all the bits and parts into a cohesive novel-length story. I write iteratively, so I tend to get out a fast draft, then revise, revise, revise and revise! Loveboat, Taipei published at draft 31. Loveboat Reunion will publish at draft 15. I’m hoping my next novel will have fewer iterations!

When I am out of steam on one project, I do turn to things like Pinterest, or pick up a different project. I find inspiration all the time, around me, from people, museums and travel.


What would your advice be for people who have problems with achieving a balance between character-driven and plot-driven writing? According to you, which is more important : characterisation or plot?


Character-driven plot is important. I love a good high concept — in fact, I usually start with one. But the story itself has to be character driven or no one will care. That’s the most important part of writing — getting people to care about the journey the characters are going on.


You have experience in three distinct fields of interest, namely writing, venture capital and artificial intelligence.What would your advice be to someone who has a lot to say, from different areas of interests, but is confused about which area to prioritise, or about how to combine all of them together?


I learned over time that a writer (and probably many artists) are interested in everything. I’m curious about the whole world, and it shows up in my writing. Over time, as I write more and more novels and scripts and short stories, all those things I explored are finding homes in my creative outputs. So my advice is to trust your interests, which leads to your unique voice, and over time, they will unfold.


Note: This interview was conducted via e-mail.

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