I am very honored to welcome Debut Author Dori Jones Yang, author of Daughter of Xanadu to talk about her novel and her handsome hunk- Marco Polo. To read my review and see who I would cast as the dashing hero follow this link.
Why historical fiction – and why Marco Polo?When I was a girl, my best friend and I used to write books like this: Each of us would start a story, then we’d switch and continue on our friend’s story, then we’d keep trading back and forth. My friend was crazy about the American pioneer days, so her stories were always set in that era. You could say that was my first experience with historical fiction.Possibly because of my Welsh ancestry, I also loved fantasy books, about magic and make-believe lands. I became so obsessed with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings that I named my goldfish after the characters – and learned to write in elvish script. This fed my love of ‘long ago and far away.’ I wanted to travel the world and speak in foreign tongues and visit people with exotic ways of life.That led to a fascination with China. Its culture and customs and language are as different from my Ohio childhood as imaginable. After college, I moved to Singapore, on the other side of the globe, and studied Mandarin Chinese. Later, I got my dream job and worked in Hong Kong as a foreign correspondent. There I married a Chinese man. So I have some experience with cross-cultural romance!My husband suggested I write about Marco Polo – the Italian man who was the first European to visit China and write a book about it. Marco Polo arrived in China in 1275, during the High Middle Ages, and his hometown of Venice was the richest city in Europe. Still, Marco was blown away by the riches and power he saw in Asia.China was then ruled by the Mongols, and the Mongol Empire was huge. At its peak, it was the largest land empire in history, stretching from Korea through China, across Central Asia, to Iran and Russia. Marco described its ruler, Khubilai Khan, as “the most potent man, as regards forces and lands and treasure, that existeth in the world, or ever hath existed from the time of our First Father Adam until this day.”The 13th century Mongol Empire may sound pretty remote to most American readers today. But to me, it’s endlessly fascinating.After their military conquests, the Mongols established peace, which allowed Europeans to travel safely all the way to China. That opened up whole new vistas for people on both ends of the Silk Road. The Europeans learned a lot from China, and travelers brought back not just noodles but also block printing, the compass, and gunpowder. That’s what set off the Age of Exploration and the Renaissance, and eventually shifted the balance of power from Asia to Europe.While reading Marco Polo’s book, I discovered a funny/odd story: a strong Mongolian princess who was able to gain control over her life by defeating all would-be suitors at wrestling. Later, in The Secret History of the Mongols, I read about several inspiring Mongol women, known for their determination and willingness to act. This is hardly the stereotype we have of weak Asian women hobbling around on tiny feet!I created Emmajin as a young woman who is torn between the expectations of her family, her personal ambitions, and the desires of her heart. This is my own life story – and perhaps that of many of my readers.Marco Polo wrote a now-familiar version of history: the white male perspective. For my novel, I wanted a fresh viewpoint: not just that of a woman but that of an Asian woman. Instead of history, I wanted to write her-story.So you could say Daughter of Xanadu is her-storical fiction. And it started with two girls in Ohio.