Author, I Never: An Interview with Emily X.R. Pan


Emily X.R. Pan

Author, I Never is a new segment in which I interview fellow authors about the writing process, breaking into the industry, and breaking rules. I try to mix it up a little and ask some hopefully novel questions along with some of the old standards, and finish it up with a round of I Never (kid friendly version) to find out what cardinal writing rules we've broken.

Question the first: Emily, when did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

I was one of those seven-year-olds who told anyone who would listen that I was writing a novel. And I was? I mean, I was trying. It was basically a cross between Harriet the Spy and The Baby-Sitters Club and I typed it with one index finger in a neon purple curlicue font.

That's so cute! Question the second: What has been your proudest or most exciting moment as an author so far?

There are two most exciting moments and I can’t pick between them:

1) Signing with my agent. When I had my first call with him, I felt that magical click and knew he was the right one. Sometimes if I’m having a crappy day I pull up the notes from that conversation and then I can’t help grinning ridiculously.

2) Getting offers from editors and talking to them on the phone and being hit with the realization that the book was actually going to be published.

Question the third: How did you go about picking your agent?

I spoke on the phone with every agent who offered. The biggest factor was that I wanted it to be the right creative match. I wanted someone who fully got what I was trying to do with my writing, and who could already see from my first book the type of career I was hoping to build. Another big piece of it was that I knew I really needed an agent who would put me at ease, and so I paid close attention to their personalities, the sound of their voices, their communication styles. All of the agents I spoke to were amazing (I was ridiculously lucky that all my offers were from my literal top choices), but my agent, Michael Bourret, was very clearly the best match for me. He felt like an extension of my brain; he seemed to understand my book even better than I did.

Question the fourth: At what point did you think to yourself "I've made it" or at what point do you think you'll feel that way?

*nervous laughter* Have I made it? Will I make it? I think I need to go stress-eat a boatload of liquor chocolates and truffle fries now.

That sounds amazing. Make it two, imaginary waiter. Question the fifth: Did any experienced authors or industry people mentor or give you helpful guidance on your journey to publication?

Nova Ren Suma mentored me and she is the ABSOLUTE GREATEST. She is phenomenal. I am eternally grateful to her. My first book wouldn’t be what it is without her.

That's so wonderful. I love hearing stories like that! Question the sixth: Have you ever had a time when you've felt like giving up?

“A time?” Like a single time? *more nervous laughter*

Question the seventh: What was the most inconvenient time or place you were struck by inspiration?

I was working at Penguin, and I was at a several-hours-long brainstorming meeting, where I had to actively be thinking and contributing ideas. But a new story just suddenly landed in my brain, and I started scrambling to jot down notes before I could lose it. My best friend was sitting next to me and she could tell that I was on fire and definitely outlining a novel in the margins of my marketing printouts.

I love that you just went for it! And speaking of going for it, it's time for go for the...


I Never Round


The basic rules of I Never, the kid friendly version- I state a generally established writing rule (or at least a norm). If you've broken that rule, state your guilt for the record.

I never made up a word in my manuscript, and stood by it during copyediting.

Oh I definitely made up words and I definitely fought to keep them! *pets the words*

I never had an amazing idea right before bed, and decided sleep was more important.

Sleep? What is sleep?

Just an old legend. Probably nothing to it. I never started a story with a character waking up, looking in the mirror, or in a bathtub.


I never worked on two manuscripts at once.

Why does this question make it sound like it’s a scandalous affair or something???

It is scandalous! I never went several days or even weeks without writing.

I have trouble making myself not work…so I have to force myself to go on vacation and not write in order to recharge my brain!

I never wrote "for a long moment."

Uh oh. Pretty sure I have.

I never cheated during NaNoWriMo.

What is your definition of cheating? I often start NaNoWriMo with 10k or 15k words already written and then aim to write 50k or 60k on top of that. So by the strictest rules of traditional November NaNoWriMo (as opposed to the summer Camp NaNoWriMos), I guess in violation. But I can’t produce anything useful if I don’t have a solid beginning already written…so I’ll stick to my way of doing it!

Thank you so much for appearing in Author, I Never! When and where can we look for, preorder, or buy your next or most recent book, and where can we follow you on social media?

My debut novel is called THE ASTONISHING COLOR OF AFTER, and is being published on March 20th, 2018. It’s currently up for preorder on Amazon and Barnes & Noble (not yet indie bookstores, but soon!) and there is a cover reveal coming. I’m on various social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram, for which my handle is @exrpan.

The cover reveal is here! Click here to see it!

One last question. If your book had a theme song, what would it be? Or alternatively, is there a song that you listened to a lot while writing it?

"Ég anda," by Sigur Rós, is probably what I listened to the most as I was working on the ending of my book. The song has this otherworldly and nostalgic feel to it, and most of it is in Hopelandic, this invented language that basically has no assigned meaning to any of its words and is open to interpretation. The one line of Icelandic in the song translates to: "I breathe, fortunately."

D.J. Spotify, shall we?