Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our Friday spotlight on fiction author Jean Chen Ho. When asked to tell us a little about herself and her writing, this was her response:
Hello, friends of Annie’s Book Stop! I’m Jean Chen Ho, the author of Fiona and Jane, a linked story collection about two Taiwanese American women and the ups-and-downs of their lives over twenty years, viewed through the lens of their friendship. The book explores identity, sexuality, heartbreak, family secrets, and what it means to be a friend across time, distance, and growing up.
I’m a fiction writer who sometimes dabbles in essays and creative nonfiction. I’m also a PhD candidate in literature and creative writing at the University of Southern California.
Where can people find your work? (Besides Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester–though they should totally check here first!)
Buy Fiona and Jane from Bookshop, which supports indie bookstores: https://bookshop.org/books/fiona-and-jane-9781432894467/9780593296042
Recent work available online:
“Kenji’s Notebook” Electric Literature (short story)
“Letter of Recommendation: The Subjunctive” New York Times Magazine (essay)
How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?
For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you write? What can readers expect from Fiona and Jane?
Readers of Fiona and Jane will find a book of linked stories that reads like a novel, told in alternating voices from each woman’s point of view. You’ll meet Fiona and Jane as teenage girls, getting into trouble; how they drift apart in their twenties, then find each other again in their thirties (and learn to be friends again, as adults, despite everything that’s changed for each of them).
What was the inspiration for Fiona and Jane? What were the steps you took to bring it from initial inspiration to the finished book?
Fiona and Jane was inspired by many of the friendships I had with women in my life; the profound joy of an authentic connection, the disappointments and inadvertent betrayals. I wanted to write a book that centers women’s lives and the different ways that women tell stories.
What is your favorite part of being a writer? Of the whole writing and publishing process? What do you think has been your greatest lesson in the journey thus far?
I love being a fiction writer because my characters get to live out such interesting lives and experiences — much more than me! Of course, as the author, I also make awful, sad things happen to my characters…so I guess it’s a bit of a trade-off. It’s an interesting way to consider many different perspectives…fiction allows for an existence in the beautiful ambiguity of human lives.
What piece of advice would you want to share with other writers?
Set goals for your writing, and treat yourself often! With snacks, your favorite pens and notebooks, the permission to binge reality shows without guilt — whatever gives you pleasure and joy.
How important has the New England setting been to your writing?
I was born in Taiwan, a humid subtropical island in the Pacific, and grew up in Southern California, so I don’t do very well with the cold weather months in New England, unfortunately! However, I love to visit for the fall foliage (one of my best friends lives in Boston), and I’ve been fortunate enough to do a few writing residencies in New Hampshire, Vermont, and the Berkshires in the last five years — where parts of Fiona and Jane were written and revised.
Do you have any favorite foods or drinks that must be in the vicinity (or must be avoided) while you’re writing or editing a piece of work?
I’m hopelessly addicted to caffeine, so I must have my coffee every morning before I can get started on the writing.
Jean, thanks so much for taking the time out of your busy day to answer our questions!