Q&A: Xiran Jay Zhao, author of “Iron Widow”
Many may know Xiran Jay Zhao as a YouTuber and Artist Extraordinary. Today, Xiran is set to wow readers’ minds with his highly anticipated debut novel by YA. Iron widow. We got to ask Xiran all of our burning questions about their writing process, female rage and more!
Hi Xiran! Thank you for joining us! Why don’t you tell our readers a bit about yourself?
Hi! My name is Xiran, I write science fiction and fantasy books and I run a YouTube channel where I talk about Chinese history and culture. I was supposed to become a biochemist, but the pandemic led me down this path instead.
Lightning tower! What’s the first book you remember reading that you couldn’t let go of that inspired you?
The first book I remember is probably one of Dr. Seuss’ books? (Does that matter, LOL)
The first one that I couldn’t let go of AND inspired me was The Bad Beginning and the entire A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. He had such a distinctive and tradition-defying style of storytelling that captivated me.
Tell us about Iron widow! What can readers expect?
Feminist rage, morally gray protagonists, Easter eggs from Chinese history, fake marriage for the cameras, childhood friends to lovers, one-sided enemies to lovers where the guy has always loved the girl, the literal crushing of patriarchy and mecha battles that read like a bunch of furries engaged in a Dragon Ball Z fight (something I didn’t realize before I started writing them).
Iron widow is your first novel. From writing to publishing, what has been your favorite part so far and what are you most looking forward to with the readers who will soon have this book in their hands?
I loved (and honestly) missed the first draft writing process, when all I had was an idea that got me hugely excited and didn’t have to worry about anything except to put it on the page. It was great fun putting the book together. Now I’m honestly super anxious about the book’s release. Once it’s there, it’s out of my hands, you know? Of course, I’m happy to think that people appreciate the story and can even be inspired by it, but it’s very scary!
You have your own YouTube channel where you talk about all things Chinese culture, inspiration and performance. Has your experience as a YouTuber shaped or influenced your writing process?
Not for Iron Widow or my upcoming college debut in Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor, as they were both written and edited before I uploaded my first video. The publication has long delays. Now that I’m working on the Iron Widow sequel… maybe I understand better how fame / infamy affects you? I have certainly had some interesting personal revelations, mainly that I treasure close friendships much more.
You come up with (really hilarious) memes for Iron widow on your official website. If readers only see one before reading your first album, which one would you like them to see?
The one that’s like “He’s my boyfriend, Yizhi. And this is Yizhi’s boyfriend, Shimin. ??
Readers are already freaking out over upcoming teased poly rep Iron widow. What were the highlights and challenges you encountered while writing this part of the novel?
The biggest highlight is definitely discovering how FUN it is to write polyamory. You have three people making independent decisions, their feelings playing out against each other, with no mandate on how this should end in a two-way relationship! It was like doing 3 romance arcs in a book and 3 ship dynamics in 1 OT3 !! The hard part was having to cut off some of the romance development for word count reasons: (
There are so many quotable passages in Iron widow on feminism, female rage and the reconquest of her body. Do you have a favorite line that you imagined and can you share it with us?
“I’m exactly the kind of ice-blooded, rotten-hearted girl he fears I am.” And that’s fine with me. “
Which basically describes the whole character of Zetian 😂
If Wu Zetian, Gao Yizhi, and Li Shimin each had a hymn to showcase themselves, what would those songs be?
- Zetian – Wreaking havoc by Skylar Gray
- Yizhi – Speak fast in 5 seconds of summer
- Shimin – Darling’s BattleCry in the Franxx Soundtrack
With Iron widow coming out soon, are you already working on other projects like the sequel? If so, can you share a glimpse with us of what to expect?
Yes, I am currently hurrying to do the sequel. All I can say is… expect Aang to meet Hannibal Lecter meet the Phantom of the Opera.
Last but not least, do you have any book recommendations for us?
I’m going to recommend a few that are really underrated: SLAY by Brittney Morris, Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Wells, Not Even Bones by Rebecca Schaeffer, and Bad Witch Burning by Jessica Lewis.