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  • Writer's pictureElnora Gunter

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Keshe Chow

Mirror, mirror on the wall?

Who's the fairest of them all?

(record screech) Oh wait, this is publishing. This means things can get rather ugly.

Should I still ask whose the fairest? Or will you reply with the dreaded "Unfortunately..", Gently remind me this isn't a meritocracy, and the word "fair" should never be asked in the fairytale realm of publishing?

Dread, more dread, super dread.

"Shit, Mirror. What do I ask now?"

(thunder claps and Mufasa-like voice) "You need not ask a thing, dear. Just know that you're enough."

"Really, mirror but what about----"

"I said ask not a thing. Write away, lovely! Write your heart's desire!"

And that's just what Little Snow Keshe Chow White did.

She lived happily ever after.

1. What’s the story of your writing journey?

I used to write a lot when I was a kid. As a child of blue-collar immigrants, I spent every single school holiday at my parents’ factory, where there was nothing to do except draw and write! There was no computer or television, but they did have a vintage typewriter, so I spent those long days typing up stories and drawing pictures to go with them.

Unfortunately by the time I left school, work, career, and general life took over. So I went on a more-than-a-decade long hiatus. During this time, I did a lot of academic writing, but no creative writing at all. Sometimes I did scribble down random ideas but I didn’t do anything with them.

It was only during 2020, once I’d achieved everything I wanted to in my career, that I decided to pick up the proverbial pen and start writing creatively again. My first few attempts were rough—it took me a little while to hone my narrative voice!—but once I started I found I couldn’t stop. I became a little obsessed, actually. And here we are!

2. Magic and kisses? Your upcoming debut, THE GIRL WITH NO REFLECTION, falls under the much-wanted fantasy romance realm. So can you tell us if romance was always in your fantasy? And what characteristics do you think makes a fantasy more of a fantasy romance?

Romance always features in my books. They’re my favorite scenes to write! I like to joke that my books are really just kissing scenes strung together by some semblance of a plot, lol.

I’m not certain about the strict definition, but I feel as though if the romance arc is a pivotal part of the story—either it plays a part in advancing the plot, or it’s a key part of character development—then it’s more fantasy romance than fantasy. That is, if you took away the romance portion and the story wouldn’t work from a plot or character perspective, then it’s fantasy romance.

3. As traditional publishing seems to be eyeing this genre more lately, what would you say satisfies the readership for this subgenre? Are their expectations different from typical fantasy readers?

I think it has to be highly character-driven, as what drives readers to ship a romance really comes down to how well they connect with the characters. There also has to be romantic tension on the page, which fortunately is what I love to write

4. For your debut, what came first upon its inception—character, idea, plot, the world?

I’m scared of mirrors and I write at night so that’s where I got the initial idea… because apparently, I like to torture myself.

The actual premise is based on a short story by Jorge Luis Borges, which according to Borges was initially drawn from Chinese folklore. However, the true origins of the story are murky, so who knows? From there, the plot and characters kind of developed naturally. I love the Chinese myth of the Moon Goddess and the Archer (Chang’e and Hou Yi), so I’ve woven elements of that story into the book, too. It all came together and worked somehow!

5. What was its journey to what it is now? Did anything majorly change within the site has it went along?

The major story structure has changed quite a bit. A lot of the editing process was restructuring and rearranging scenes, deleting chapters and adding new ones in. However, the first chapter has pretty much remained the same since draft one, apart from some small tweaks here and there! I’ve loved the first chapter right from the very beginning; I’m very attached to it. The characters, too, have remained essentially the same. They were very fleshed out and fully realized from the beginning.

6. Hot diddly damn you’ve won quite a few awards! Can you tell us a little more about what these awards are for? Would you say there’s a sense of validation or empowerment in being recognized with awards such as these?

I’ve won several for short stories, which is a totally different skillset to writing novels! I love writing short form fiction because of how narrow the focus is. You can really hone in on imagery, emotion, and character because you don’t need to hinge the story on an overarching plot.

My debut novel did win one book award. It’s called the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award Prize for an Unpublished Manuscript. Back then, the book was called Fauna of Mirrors, but it’s since undergone a name change. It’s still the same book though!

I think winning awards has given me confidence that I can write. Since I took up writing again so recently (only a little three years, really), sometimes I feel like I haven’t been doing it long enough/haven’t had formal training/generally don’t know what I’m doing. So the awards gave me the confidence to actually pursue publication. That being said, I don’t actually think writers need awards or formal training or anything like. I’m just much harsher on myself than anyone else!!

(And my parents are even harsher on me than I am! When I won my second award they said, “Oh, that’s good, we were worried the first one was just a fluke”… LOL)

7. Do you know when you’re at risk of burnout? What’s your form of self-care?

I actually did burn out after about 18 months of writing non-stop. I mentioned above that I became a bit obsessive about writing, and this was very true: I wrote three books in 18 months, then crashed, hard. When I burn out I give myself the permission to consume other forms of media. This means in the last 1.5 years I’ve read many books, watched film and TV, and allowed myself to tinker with things like poetry and flash fiction.

All of it helps. I remember re-watching every single season of Downton Abbey when I was in burnout mode and I think I learnt a lot about writing dialogue from it!

Ok, now it’s time for the ‘fun’ questions!

8. Mirror, mirror on the wall. Whose the fairest of them all? If The Girl with No Reflection was adapted and you were asked to sit on the casting director team, what would be your dream cast?

I’m really bad at answering questions like this because I don’t know many contemporary celebrities. But I remember watching Wheel of Time during one of my editing rounds, and thinking that the character of Lan (played by Daniel Henney) reminded me so much of the love interest in my book. Not the IRL version of Daniel Henney though. Specifically the Lan character.

9. Unpopular book or writing opinion?

Hmmm… Maybe that there are way more people who think their work should be published, than should actually be published.

10. Delacorte has decided to have your launch party 'down under'. Which one do you pick?

A. A first chapter reading with Hugh Jackman

B. Baz Luhrman creating a book trailer and premiering it at the launch party

C. Iggy Azalea performing a rap of your character arcs

I am a HUGE Hugh Jackman fan. AS a child, I loved (and still love) musical theatre, which is where he got his start! I was even in one of his productions when I was twelve, and got to meet him. So definitely A ;)

  • Short bio: Keshe Chow is a multi-award-winning Chinese-Australian author of fantasy, romance, and speculative fiction. Born in Malaysia, Keshe moved to Australia when she was two years old. Currently, she resides in Naarm (Melbourne) with her partner, two kids, one cat, and way too many house plants.

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