CHLOE GONG is the bestselling author of the critically acclaimed ‘Secret Shanghai’ novels, and the ‘Flesh and False Gods’ trilogy. Her latest novel Last Violent Call includes two novellas which follow the events of Foul Lady Fortune. Good Reading for Young Adults talks to Chloe about her latest novel, inspirations and influences.
ABOUT THE BOOK
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Chloe Gong comes two captivating new novellas surrounding the events of Foul Lady Fortune and following a familiar cast of characters from the These Violent Delights Duet!
In A Foul Thing, Roma and Juliette have established themselves as the heads of an underground weapons ring in Zhouzhuang, making a living the way they do best while remaining anonymous in their peaceful, quiet life. But when they hear about several Russian girls showing up dead in nearby towns, they decide to investigate—and ultimately discover that this mystery is much closer to home than they ever imagined.
In This Foul Murder, Benedikt and Marshall have been summoned by Roma to find the elusive scientist, Lourens, and bring him to Zhouzhuang. Time is of the essence aboard the week-long Trans-Siberian Express, but when someone is murdered on board, Benedikt and Marshall convince the officer in charge not to stop the train so that they aren’t thrown off-schedule. Instead, they pretend that they are investigators and promise they can solve the murder, but as they dig deeper, they realize that the murder might having surprising ties to their own mission…
MEET CHLOE GONG
Because Last Violent Call is the bridge between my two duologies, I always had the concept of it in my head, but I hadn’t intended to actually write it. While I was working on Our Violent Ends I had sowed the seeds of the twists coming in Foul Lady Fortune and the eventual merge of these character casts in Foul Heart Huntsman. I knew what Juliette, Roma, Benedikt, and Marshall were getting up to in the four years between Our Violent Ends and Foul Lady Fortune, but it solely existed to inform Foul Lady Fortune. Then, one day, I started putting a few lines onto the page, expanding on the type of lives they would be living, and it made me happy to see these characters get their post-book happy ending after so much angst and turmoil. I figured readers might like to get a glimpse of it too, so I pitched the two novellas, and then here we are with both of them bound together as Last Violent Call!
Readers can expect a return of exactly the dynamics we encountered in These Violent Delights, except with lower stakes. At its core, Last Violent Call celebrates the life that these characters have found: they’re at peace now, but they haven’t changed their fundamental personalities as very violent gangsters (haha), so it’s a lot of fun to see how the dichotomy of living undercover while still being enthusiastic about saving the world colours their interactions.
Your writing has been praised for its detailed character development and world-building. How do you go about creating such rich stories and characters?
I’m always very honoured to get that praise! Atmosphere is an element that I value heavily when writing because, to me, reading is about escapism and escapism is achieved by creating a world that feels just as real as our reality could be. I want the world to carry nuances, politics, sensations – and yet I want the characters to be the leading stars, so that we mostly learn what is relevant to the characters. We observe what they do and we make these world observations through their differing lenses. Everything I write must be channelled through an individual character, and that’s my technique with complicating each story.
How did you approach the process of creating a fictional version of 1920s Shanghai?
What themes or messages did you want to convey through your novel?
On top of being historical fantasies and historical thrillers, my books are also Shakespearean retellings, and that’s where I draw from most when it comes to themes and messages. I’m always very interested in the idea of love and hatred, as well as individual selfishness versus the need to sacrifice for the collective.
Your books are a blend of historical fiction, romance, and mystery. How do you go about balancing these different genres in your writing?
A lot of revision. But seriously, it’s nearly impossible to get a good balance the first time around, so my process is often to get everything down first – all the matters that interest me and all the aspects of craft I want to do – and then I start putting them into order. I’ve always been a cross-genre writer and I’m inclined to mix-and-match genre conventions. Most of my books like exploring multiple subplots at once involving history, romance, and mystery when they can be in conversation with each other: it’s just more intriguing to me!
Your debut novel was widely acclaimed. Did this impact your writing process or approach to creating this book?
Surprisingly, I had very little pressure when writing Last Violent Call because it was such a passion project. On the other hand, in following my original duology with Foul Lady Fortune as a spin-off, I practically re-wrote that book twice because I struggled a lot straddling the line between making it different enough that it was something new, and yet not too different that it felt like another world entirely. Last Violent Call were characters I was very near and dear to already, so they practically wrote themselves into their own continuation.
Were there any challenges you faced while writing this book?
I had to keep it to novella length. I could have kept going and going!
Are there any authors or works that influenced your writing?
For sure. Cassandra Clare’s ‘The Mortal Instruments’ is the series that got me into reading and the high I got from following those books as they were released is the feeling I’m chasing nowadays as a writer creating my own worlds and characters. In terms of atmosphere especially, ‘The Raven Cycle’ series by Maggie Stiefvater and the ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone’ trilogy by Laini Taylor were huge influences on how I learned to write.
What do you hope readers will take away from your novel?
Despite everything in this dark and desolate world, there will always be hope and there will always be people who love you. I think all my books for young adults are always going to revolve around this.