Kathie: Hi Maisie! Thank you so much for joining me today on Fast Forward Friday. Your new book, DANNY CHUNG SUMS IT UP, comes out in the US on September 7th from Amulet Books but was released in the UK in June under the title DANNY CHUNG DOES NOT DO MATHS. Can you give us a short synopsis of it, please?
Maisie: Thanks so much for having me Kathie. I’m really excited to tell you more about Danny Chung Sums It Up! Danny really loves drawing comics and creating awesome characters, however, his parents would like him to be more studious. He gets the surprise of his life when his Chinese grandmother (that he’s never met before) moves into his room. And as you can imagine, Danny’s not too thrilled about having his privacy taken away and is especially unhappy when he has to look after her during the spring break. It is a book about family, friendship and belonging. It has bingo, frenemies and is a fun and humorous book.
Kathie: Can you tell me how you promote a book with two similar titles and if there are any other differences besides the title?
Maisie: Well, it’s sometimes been tricky as I have to do my best not to say the wrong title when talking about the books in! It’s also good that the book is coming out at different times of the year so I can promote the book in the U.K first and then in the States a little later on. I’m really lucky to have worked with two illustrators who have designed different covers and inside illustrations. We wanted to show Danny’s drawings and both illustrators had quite different styles and interpreted the writing in different ways – which was great.
Kathie: I really loved watching Danny grow to appreciate and love Nai Nai despite their language difference. Were you close with any of your grandparents, and do you have a fond memory you can share with us?
Maisie: I didn’t meet my Chinese grandmother until I was in my late 20s, so in that respect it was similar to Danny and his grandmother. My fondest memory was going to stay at her place and watching films with her. She was a very sweet woman and well-respected, I am sad I didn’t get to know her better.
Kathie: Nai Nai brings a lot of humour to this story, even though Danny often found her behaviour quite embarrassing. Did you use humour to teach as well as to entertain?
Maisie: I really like to use humor with pathos. In my life, there have been the occasional down moments and I think if we can speak to friends or family we’re close to, we might laugh and smile again. I wanted to write a funny story but that meant something too. I used humor a lot in the bingo scenes where the crowds weren’t always friendly to outsiders, this was on purpose to show how silly they looked.
Kathie: Friendship is a central theme of this story. Danny and his best friend, Ravi, have to navigate some low points in their relationship and Danny also explores being part of the “cool” crowd. There are also complicated relationships between some of the adults. If you could be friends with any of your characters, who would it be and why?
Maisie: What a brilliant question! I haven’t been asked that before so I loved this question. I think it would have to be Nai Nai and Mrs Cruikshanks as they are so fun-loving and I think that’s because at their ages they’ve seen it all, and aren’t too embarrassed to just be themselves. I think I could learn a lot from them and their friendship.
Kathie: What’s one thing you’d like our readers to know about your story?
Maisie: I think it would be that Danny loves being Chinese and he’s not embarrassed about that, he’s more embarrassed about his grandmother turning up unexpectedly and not having his space anymore to draw in peace. I didn’t want readers to think he didn’t like being Chinese because he does. I was hoping to lightly look at some myths about Chinese people like the model minority, without it being too heavy a subject.
Kathie: Are you working on another writing project at the moment?
Maisie: I am! I’m writing a second middle grade novel which I hope will have the same kind of humour and heart as Danny Chung Sums It Up but still have some themes that make you think about certain issues. I wanted to explore young carers, children who have had to look after another person and how they cope in that situation.
Kathie: Where can our readers go to find out more about you and your writing?
Kathie: Thank you so much for taking some time to answer my questions today, Maisie. All the best to you with your book’s release.
Maisie: Thank you so much for having me! It’s been great and your questions have been brilliant.
Maisie Chan is a debut novelist born in Birmingham, U.K.. She has written early readers (Hachette) and had short stories published in various books such Ladybird Tales of Superheroes (Penguin) and Stories From Around the World (Scholastic). She started the group Bubble Tea Writers Network to support and encourage new British East and Southeast Asian writers in the UK.
She enjoys writing cross-cultural tales that often feature generational misunderstandings; this is due to her background as a transracial adoptee and her experience caring for her elderly parents. She has a Masters in American Film and Literature and has an interest in race and representation. She has lived in the U.K, U.S and Taiwan. Danny Chung Sums It Up (Amulet Books) is her first middle grade novel.