Welcome to another bookclub author interview! This is where we ask the questions, and the author gets to tell us all the gory details about their book’s creation and inspiration. This month, for our first New Year title TWO CAN PLAY THAT GAME, we have lovely debut author Leanne Yong in the hot seat…
Did you have a playlist for this book? Do you have a playlist for writing? Can you tell us about it?
I do in fact have a playlist… which I compiled long after the book was written! When I write I get so focused I can’t really hear anything or think about anything else, so even when I do have music on I don’t actually know what’s playing at any given time.
I find it a lot of fun to compile a playlist after, that links into the book itself. For example, the one for Two Can Play That Game has quite a bit of video game music, and the one for my next book that’s set in the world of community musicals is almost all showtunes. I tend to choose music that’s less about overall vibes and more about the emotions and themes in the book.
Please share something about your personal connection to the story you chose to tell in your book…
This book is my seventh manuscript, written about 8 years into my writing journey. So many people around me were signing with agents and getting book deals. I… was not. There was a sad, quiet kind of certainty starting to set in that my writing would never be ‘good enough’, that I needed to do more and be more though I didn’t know how, and a big part of this book comes from that place in my life. It is, however, a more hopeful kind of story, because that’s what the me writing it needed.
Wouldn’t you know, this was the book that finally landed me an agent and a publishing deal. A happy ending, you could say, but I don’t think life is that simple and I’d like to think that’s also reflected in the book. For me at least, that questioning of myself and my skills has never fully gone away – the goalposts are always moving – and a lot of what my main character Sam eventually comes to learn and accept is the kind of grace I struggle to give myself (but can easily give my characters!). So it’s always a good reminder to me, one that I hope will encourage others as well!
Comfort reads – which books do you turn to when you need a break from it all?
So I have to admit that although this book is contemporary YA, my comfort reads tend to fall under sci fi and fantasy. I think because there’s a distance from the real world that lets me get away from it all. I’ve gravitated toward quiet, healing kind of novels, especially after the past few years.
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison always leaves me feeling warm and fuzzy, as do all the books in Becky Chambers’ Wayfarer series. I’ve re-read The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner more times than I can count, and anything by Fredrik Backman (A Man Called Ove, Anxious People) will be a book I can curl up with after a really rough day.
There is one contemporary YA though! I did fell head over heels for It Goes Like This by Miel Moreland, which starts with a band that has broken up, and is about how they reforge friendships and find healing again when they get together for a one-night-only charity concert.
Your book has a title, and it’s an awesome title. But what might it have been called, if it wasn’t called what it is now?
When I was writing the first drafts, I called it Indie Game Rom Com because I legitimately couldn’t think of a decent title. I had to find one when I queried agents, and got so desperate I picked one I was meh on – it went out as Name Of The Game. When talking with my editor and publisher we unanimously agreed it was not great. After a lot of thought I wrote a three-point essay about why Good Game, Sam Khoo would be a perfect title. Then I threw in a one-liner email after going, ‘Forgot to add, maybe Two Can Play That Game could work’. And you all know how that ended up!
What books have you been reading lately? Any recs?
I’ve recently been reading quite a few ARCs from friends who are also debut authors and there’s SO many great books coming out this year! I’ve been loving Bianca Torre Is Afraid Of Everything by Justine Pucella Winans, The Love Match by Priyanka Taslim, Fake Dates and Mooncakes by Sher Lee, Damned If You Do by Alex Brown, and Bitter Medicine by Mia Tsai. I’m incredibly excited for everyone who’ll get to read them this year!
As for books that are already out, I loved Take A Bow, Noah Mitchell by Tobias Madden (it has video games and musicals, my two weaknesses). Little Thieves by Margaret Owen is a goose girl retelling that has my whole heart, and I absolutely cackled my way through Unnecessary Drama by Nina Kenwood. I also absolutely blasted through Ellie’s The Killing Code because as an escape room designer I am a sucker for codes and ciphers and mysteries!
Thank you, Leanne! Thanks for getting your sillies on with #LoveOzYAbookclub J And thank you to all bookclub readers – keep an eye out for the discussion post for TWO CAN PLAY THAT GAME on the FB group page at the end of the month!