The Author Visits introduces YA author, Kay Honeyman!
Author Visits Details
June 2 9 – All about Kay Honeyman and her current work June 30 – Interview with Kay July 2 – Book review of The Fire Horse Girl July 4 – Guest blog by Kay Honeyman July 5 – What’s next and announce winner of author gift
And the Winner is…
Congratulations Destiny Reads Wrights!
What’s Next for Kay?
I have really enjoyed my Author Visit! Before I go, I wanted to give you a taste of what I’m working on next. My second book, INTERFERENCE, is scheduled to come out in Fall 2016 with Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic. It is a YA novel set in a small town in West Texas. It is about the politics of high school, friendship, love, and life (with a some actual politics and football thrown in).
Thank you for a great week!
By: Kay Honeyman
It is summer, so I have been taking my kids to the pool. My son likes to meet new people, my daughter likes to lounge by the water, and, of course, I like to people watch. I like to observe the quiet gossip whispered between the lifeguards as they change shifts. I like to watch the mother who herds her four boys (all under the age of five) into the kiddie pool then stands sentinel at its entrance. I like to watch the grandparents nibble at salads in the shade and the teenagers bask in the sun. Yesterday, I saw a twelve-year-old boy try desperately to get a girl’s attention by taking her towel and running it into the boy’s restroom as she squealed after him. The pool is a place where, for a moment, stories come together from all over the neighborhood, crisscross, and then continue.
I like places like this – settings that gather stories into their orbit. The Fire Horse Girl is set partially on Angel Island – a setting that not only hums with stories but also has its own. Long before it became “the Ellis Island of the West” Miwok Indians used the island for camping and hunting. It was a cattle ranch and a quarantine station, a military detention center and an army base. Angel Island had its own rich history before my character, Jade Moon, arrived. And its history continued after she left.
But the real stories are carried in the dusty trunks and foggy dreams people who came to Angel Island brought with them. The majority of immigrants were Chinese – men who had left their families, mothers and children joining their husbands, or young men looking for opportunity. Their stories loop around the stories of the cooks who shuttled messages back and forth to San Francisco and the translators who sat in on the interrogations of their countrymen. But it isn’t just the Chinese who contribute stories. The island also holds the stories of Korean and Japanese picture brides and Jews fleeing Nazi controlled countries in Europe.
Jade Moon’s story is tethered to these stories of racism and perseverance, humiliation and hope. Like these, her story will reflect the best and worst of humanity. A setting doesn’t have to be a one-dimensional backdrop to a story. It can bring depth and meaning, bringing to a story its own stories.
Review – The Fire Horse Girl
By: Veena Kashyap
The Fire Horse Girl, the debut YA Historical novel by Kay Honeyman took me by surprise. I do not gravitate towards books that are steeped in history, rich in culture and tradition and charts the course of human evolution. Instead, I live for vampires. But lately, I’ve been reading some amazing books having nothing at all to do with my beloved genre and am finding that I am missing out on beautifully written stories that are engaging and fascinating all at once.
The Fire Horse Girl is such a book. I am huge fan of Amy Tan and my exposure to Chinese culture came through the many stories she’s penned. Kay Honeyman’s writing is of the same nature.
Set in 1923, the story begins in a small village in China where we meet the Fire Horse Girl, Jade Moon. I like to call Jade Moon determined, but most call her obstinate, difficult, unruly and simply, bad luck. Why? Because this unfortunate girl was born under the wrong Zodiac Sign. The Zodiac in Eastern traditions dictates much of a person’s destiny and in this case, Jade Moon’s destiny is to be married off to the fourth son of a villager, a brick maker.
Enter Sterling Promise. An apt name for a man who makes sterling promises but whose betrayal sears Jade Moon to the core and changes the entire course of her life.
Determined by any means to reach America, Sterling Promise comes to Jade’s village with a story and papers to travel to America. Why? Because it is a land of riches and can help Jade Moon’s family overcome their shoddy luck. Jade Moon’s father strikes a deal with Sterling Promise and much to Jade Moon’s elation, she too will have the chance to live the American dream.
But that dream is thwarted when Jade Moon, her father and Sterling Promise are detained at Angel Island, the Ellis island of the west. Much of Jade Moon’s character evolution happens in this camp. She realizes her dream, like many around her is just that, fantasy. Over time, Jade Moon becomes the camp’s prophetic story teller, with stories of hope to fuel the draining energy around her.
Jade Moon soon learns Sterling Promise has bribed a camp guard and will be released to make his fortunes in San Francisco. The shock of his betrayal shifts the story into high gear. Jade Moon changes the course of her destiny much in the same way Sterling Promise tried to change his, through whatever means necessary and finally, she makes it to America, the land of enormous opportunity.
Soon Jade Moon is taken in by the head of a tong (Chinese Mafia.) The story flows quickly from this point as Jade Moon learns the true nature of being an immigrant in America, which isn’t the pretty picture Sterling Promise painted for her. Instead, her immigrant dream is marred with gang wars, prostitution, gambling and child labor. Dressed as a man, Jade Moon’s exposure to a life less extraordinary further fuels her determination to find a way out and live the life she was meant to live.
Despite my initial inclination, I enjoyed The Fire Horse Girl. The story contrasts traditional Chinese culture against a modern world where that tradition is no longer befitting, only any means of survival is. The story also explores relationship flaws. The moment when Jade Moon says goodbye to her father is beautifully flawed as Jade Moon leaves behind a past that held her back and moves forward to a destiny that despite it’s harrowing nature, is worth every moment stringing together of her short life into something meaningful and on her own terms.
Kay Honeyman weaves together a story brilliantly. She exposes the reader to the landscape of Chinese culture during a time when some of the world was embracing the industrial revolution while China held on tightly to its past. As for the cultural intricacies and belief systems, I can fully relate. I too am a product of immigrants from a culture that has many similarities with the Chinese and cringed each time, Nushi or Aunty Wu or one of the women at the camp reminded Jade Moon of her unfortunate birth under the Fire Horse sign.
The most telling moment in the story is when Mr. Hon, who takes Jade Moon in, states a “Fire Horse is bold.” And that is how I like to think of Jade Moon. To me, she was born under the right sign.
Kay Honeyman’s writing style is fluid, sometimes lyrical — especially durning those moments when Jade Moon would tell stories during her time at camp. Her storytelling is ripe with wisdom and refreshing at a time when it seems wisdom is nearly lost. She manages to move from one space in time to the next with ease, fully encompassing the place it holds in the story and enriching us with a new experience that is propels Jade Moon’s story forward.
Jade Moon’s story ends where it begins, bantering with a man who is the perfect match for The Fire Horse Girl, the ending to a book that empowered a girl to use her misfortune and find her destiny in a world only a Fire Horse Girl can contend with.
My rating – a five-star must read.
Interview with Kay
By: Veena Kashyap
It’s #MondayBlogs and today I am posting my interview with YA author, Kay Honeyman. Kay and I met at the DFW Writers’ Conference this past May. She was a co-presenter on two writing workshops with author Suzanne Frank. I enjoyed the workshops and asked Kay to be a part of The Author Visits even before I had the concept of the site nailed down. I am very excited to interview the author and instructor.
Veena: Hi Kay! Thank you for spending time with me. I love this part of an author’s visit — the readers and I get to know the author on a bit of a personal level.
Kay: Hi Veena! It’s great to be here.
Veena: Alright, let’s get started then, shall we?
Veena: Where in the world would you most like to visit?
Kay: I usually want to go the last place I read about. Lately, I have a hunger to go to Spain because I just finished re-reading The Alchemist and it starts and ends in Spain.
Veena: Spain is on the top of my travel bucket list. Here’s one of my top five favorite questions I enjoy asking my guest. Which character in a book would you enjoy having drinks and dinner with?
Kay: I think someone like Sherlock Holmes would be fascinating. I would love to invite Watson as well and watch the interaction between the two of them.
Veena: It would all be quite elementary! If you could be any character in a book, who would you be and why?
Kay: I’m not sure, but I’m leaning toward Professor Minerva McGonagal. She is poised and wise. Plus, it means that Maggie Smith would portray me in a movie.
Veena: One of my all time mentor characters! Great choice. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Kay: I have always been a reader, and I love stories. I became a writer because I wanted to tell stories. Eventually a story about a girl who immigrated to America through Angel Island and surviving the streets of Chinatown gripped me and wouldn’t let go. I love to write, but it was that story that made it necessary for me to be a writer.
Veena: I love that answer. Here’s another of my favorites questions. Who or what inspires you to write?
Kay: I am inspired by the characters whose stories I try to tell. I am inspired by other writers and the stories they conjure. I am also inspired by the sheer magic that turns the lines and curves we use to write into stories that make us cry and hope and wonder.
Veena: Kay, you are so eloquent. So beautifully put. I am going to have to quote your answer. Who is your favorite author?
Kay: Thank you Veena! My perennial favorite is Jane Austen, but my most recent favorite is probably the last book I read. Whatever I just finished gets stuck in my head. I just read How to Love by Katie Cotugno and adored it. I thought it was a beautiful story about all the ways we try and fail to protect ourselves from love.
Veena: We have Jane in common. I re-read Pride and Prejudice every year. Let’s shift gears a little and talk technique — shall we? Are you a plotter or pantser?
Kay: I have been thinking about this question a lot lately. I would have said I was a pantser before because I don’t do detailed outlines, but I also don’t just let the story unfold without a plan. I think that while I don’t plan scene-by-scene before I write, I do try to design in as much potential drama and conflict and meaning as I can as I develop characters, their relationships, the settings, and all the other business that goes into a story. That gives me a little freedom when I am writing. I usually have several ways the story could go, and I try to choose what serves the story best.
What is the most challenging thing for you about writing? Definitely the first draft. I have to steel myself for how terrible it is going to be and how far it well stray from the image of the story I have in my head. When I write first drafts, I have to repeat the following mantra over and over again: “If I don’t get it on the page, I can’t fix it.”
Veena: I think your mantra is one that all writers should follow. Where did you come up with the idea for your book?
Kay: My husband and I were in the process of adopting our first child from China. I was thinking about what it would mean to leave everything and come to a new country. One day I was listening to NPR and they did a story about Angel Island to celebrate the reopening. It was a different story of immigration than I had been taught. I wonder if we are so enamored of the American dream, the vast opportunities that America offers, that we forget the stories of sacrifice – the hard realities that immigrants face. Recognizing these sacrifices give a dignity and humanity to conversations about immigration.
The idea of making her a Fire Horse girl came when I realized how strong she would have to be to make a journey like this. When we got our first packets of information from Jack’s orphanage, one of the traits noted in his personality was obstinate. It struck me that a little obstinance might come in handy as he worked to adjust to his new life. Lily had the obstinate box checked as well.
Veena: The Fire Horse Girl is definitely a different from the immigrant stories we grew up learning about, far different from my own immigrant story. Finally Kay, what sort of research did you do for The Fire Horse Girl?
Kay: A lot. I love research. It lets me navigate the world of the story with a little more ease. For The Fire Horse Girl I really wanted to honor the story of people who came through Angel Island and started their lives in San Francisco’s Chinatown. That meant getting it right. Plus, real life hold these incredible stories, truths that are beyond what I could create, and research helps me dig them up.
One of my favorite books is Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940 by Him Mark Lai, Genny Lim, and Judy Yung. It translates the poems found in the men’s barracks and pairs them with interviews of detainees. Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America by Judy Yung and Erika Lee expand that story to include immigrants from Russia, Korea, Mexico, and Europe processed through Angel Island. Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation runs an amazing website that includes a lot of first-hand or family stories on their Immigrant Voices page (http://www.aiisf.org/
Veena: Kay, by far, one of the most revealing and favorite interviews. Thank you so much for spending some of your time with me.
Kay: It was fun! Thank you!
Book Title: The Fire Horse Girl
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Page Count: 336 pages
Release Date: January, 2013
Book blurb: Jade Moon is a Fire Horse — the worst sign in the Chinese zodiac for girls, said to make them stubborn, willful, and far too imaginative. But while her family despairs of marrying her off, she has a passionate heart and powerful dreams, and wants only to find a way to make them come true.
Then a young man named Sterling Promise comes to their village to offer Jade Moon and her father a chance to go to America. While Sterling Promise’s smooth manners couldn’t be more different from her own impulsive nature, Jade Moon falls in love with him on the long voyage. But America in 1923 doesn’t want to admit many Chinese, and when they are detained at Angel Island, the “Ellis Island of the West,” she discovers a betrayal that destroys all her dreams. To get into America, much less survive there, Jade Moon will have to use all her stubbornness and will to break a new path . . . one as brave and dangerous as only a Fire Horse girl can imagine.
Where to buy:
About Kay Honeyman
I was born in Fort Worth, Texas. I went to Baylor University where I majored in English and French and then went on to graduate school in English Language and Literature. I love live theater especially Shakespeare in the Park and musicals. I have a lifelong love of Jane Austen novels. Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion are my favorite, but I still get a little mad when people say bad things about Northanger Abbey or Sense and Sensibility. I watch too much reality TV and too few movies. I read…a lot. I love maps in theory, but not in practice. I didn’t discover how much I loved Guacamole until I was 30, and now I am trying to make up for lost time. I love to garden.
But, most of all, I love a good story.