If you’re determined to travel the meta verse, you’ll want Hana Hsu by your side. Sylvia Liu’s exciting sci-fi, Hana Hsu and the Ghost Crab Nation, guides readers through a multi-dimensional adventure available Tuesday, June 21. With today’s constantly shifting digital age, the sooner you devour this story, the better.
Not everyone’s mother is intertwined with a mega corporation’s despicable plot to zombie-fy future generations. The more Hana questions a predetermined path her family has set for her, the more she realizes she’s further from the truth and closer to being trapped into an inescapable tech-glomerate bubble. From anti-hero hackers to a deeply relatable and emotional family rollercoaster, every chapter immerses you in a reflective digital reality.
In a special Q&A I had with the author and former environmental lawyer, Sylvia Liu, we follow the clever, bird bot-building heroine, Hana, to navigate growing family dynamics and unassuming friendships. Our world is riddled with polarizing technology and Liu makes sure we remember what matters most to us. Whether we’re in middle school overcoming an awkward dating phase or an overachieving adult overcoming… well… new awkward phases… this story teaches us how to be unassuming and kind. And, perhaps most importantly, we find the courage to reinvent who we are by honoring our core values.
Share the blog post on Twitter or Instagram or re-tweeet here for your chance to win a signed copy of the book, bookmarks, and incredible customized stickers of some of the coolest tech you can imagine. Winner announced end of this week 6/17. It's time to strike a balance between enmeshing with our tech and holding close family traditions. Starting with Hana Hsu and the Ghost Crab Nation.
Sylvia's profile photo credit: K. Woodard Photography, book cover/credit art by Fiona Hsieh, design by Jessica Jenkins
A Q&A with Sylvia Liu:
1. When did the idea for Hana Hsu and the Ghost Crab Nation come about?
I had the idea in the fall of 2017, about a year after the 2016 election. I had spent most of the year watching the news until one day I decided to turn off the TV and write a novel. I had the premise but no idea what the story would be about. I wrote a first chapter that is basically the same as the current first chapter, with the same setting, main character, and action. Here’s the opening paragraph from my first draft:
And this is the opening paragraph of the story:
2. How did you dive into the emotional arc for Hana? Her complexity combined with her unique skills and friendship circle are really inviting.
I asked myself what was the one thing she wanted more than anything, and that was becoming closer to her mother and sister. It was more of a process to figure out what her attitude toward technology was, because I wanted to show a change in that from the start to the finish. I also wavered on how easily she made friends.
3. When you queried this to your agent, what was the process like? How did you pitch this story?
I was author Tae Keller’s mentee in Author Mentor Match the spring of 2018, so I had a great mentor help me polish my draft. While I was revising, I went to the Big Sur Writing Conference (held in Colorado that year) and was placed in Jennifer March Soloway’s group. She saw the first pages of Hana Hsu and another work-in-progress, so when I was ready to query half a year later, I was able to remind her of our connection. I queried the book widely and was fortunate to have a couple of other offers as well.
4. How has your background as an environmental lawyer best served your MG writing? What motivated you to dive into the world of middle grade storytelling?
My training as a lawyer has helped me have the discipline to research and write novels. Writing a brief and a novel both involve putting together complex puzzle pieces to make an argument or story. Being familiar with environmental regulations was helpful to writing my contemporary environmental story, Manatee’s Best Friend (Scholastic 2021), and my interest in environmental issues in general informed some of the themes in Hana Hsu.
I started writing children’s books, but soon found myself lured into the world of middle grade. I think it’s because my fondest memories of a reader are from that time of exploration and discovery and I wanted to capture that magic as an author.
5. What is the message you hope children take from reading Hana Hsu?
Be the hero or change you want to see in the world. Also, one of the lines in my book is, “Whoever tells the story shapes the world.”
6. If you had your own bird bot, what kind of message would you write and to who?
I love the Rumi quote, “You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.” I’d send it out to the world and hope whoever most needs to read it sees it.
7. How do you envision Hana's future now that she's saved everyone from becoming tech zombies?
I think Hana and her friends may face more challenges in their high-tech world, because these types of struggles are always ongoing.
8. What does your editing process look like? Any advice for authors currently querying?
Every time I write a new book, I feel like I’m starting from scratch and learning all over again. One very helpful thing that has helped me is to have my computer read back my words to me (either in Word or Scrivener). Hearing the story like an audiobook gives you a new perspective.
9. Favorite part of working w/ your agent on this book?
Brainstorming with her when I got stuck!
10. Which parallels of Hana's tech world do you see the most in our modern digital age?
The pervasiveness of corporate culture, control, and advertising in our everyday lives.
11. Any advice on how to find balance in this growing age of technology?
Unplug and immerse yourself in nature is advice I should take myself!