Our Friend is Here! is a guest feature at The Quiet Pond, where authors, creatives, and fellow readers, are invited to ‘visit’ the Pond! In Our Friend is Here! guest posts, our visitors (as their very own unique character!) have a friendly conversation about anything related to books or being a reader — and become friends with Xiaolong and friends.
A little over a year ago, I had dinner with Chloe Gong and the friend who connected us when Chloe was back home in Aotearoa (New Zealand). At the time, These Violent Delights hadn’t released yet and we yarned about books, upcoming debut life, and all the other things that friends talk about over pasta and ice cream. Then, I told Chloe that, one day when she comes back home, we’d go out and celebrate all of her successes. Because of how the world is right now, travel is hard – and I don’t think we’ll get the chance to celebrate in-person for awhile longer. But, even though Chloe can’t visit me in Aotearoa, she can, however, visit me at the Pond – which brings us to this truly exciting and wonderful post today.
Friends, I have the delight of having Chloe visit us at the Pond once more. Chloe is a familiar friend here – she’s taken us on a These Violent Delights-themed tour across Shanghai and we helped her reveal the cover of These Violent Delights last year – and we’re so excited to have her visiting us again! Funnily enough, even though Chloe has visited us before, she never got a pondsona (which was my bad). Which is why, today, Chloe visits us as a Chinese dragon (龙) holding a dagger and wearing a qipao!
With Our Violent Ends right around the corner – and personally knowing the pain that is in store for you all – I hope all of you will enjoy the interview that I did with Chloe. But, in case you haven’t come across These Violent Delights before, allow me to introduce to you this fiery duology that promises immeasurable pain, violent delights indeed, and an unforgettable love story.
These Violent Delights & Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong
Synopsis for These Violent Delights:
The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.
A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.
But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.
Author Interview: Chloe Gong
CW: Hi Chloe! A big and warm welcome back to the Pond. The last time you visited, it was almost one whole year ago, shortly after the release of These Violent Delights! (And the last time I saw you, we had pasta!) Our Violent Ends is on the horizon, Foul Lady Fortune is coming next year, you hit the New York Times Bestselling List, graduated, moved to New York, and you have also become a huge presence in the book community. First of all… how are you doing? How has the journey been so far?
Chloe: HELLO CW, MY LOVE. I’m so happy to be back at the Pond, I’ve missed Xiaolong dearly. I’m doing well! It has truly been a rollercoaster since I was last here. I feel like a different person, but still stubbornly the same person? As if I’ve gone through about ten thousand different Pokemon evolutions and grown wider shoulders and thicker skin but at the core of it I’m still just delighted to be here and be telling stories.
CW: Things have changed so much since this time last year. Recently, R.F. Kuang tweeted something very profound, about how one of the challenges of being an author was “staying the same person … long enough that the novel when finished, if ever finished, forms a coherent whole”. I imagine you’ve grown a lot as an author, since writing These Violent Delights and now moving onto its spin-off series, Foul Lady Fortune. Can you share any reflections that you’ve had regarding your growth as an author and as a person?
Chloe: I love that I made a little Pokemon evolutions metaphor before I even came down to read this question, haha! I’ve definitely grown a lot, both on a person level and as an author between writing my debut and now working on Foul Lady Fortune. Some things come easier to me now, and because of that writing becomes 100 times harder because I have much higher expectations of my character work and story arcs and right off the bat I’m trying to hit everything right on the nail. I do see my books as self-contained eras though, and I think personally I like to slide in and out of the Chloe that wrote a certain book rather than try to force myself to move from one mindset to mindset. The versions of me that write each book are always there and existing—like onions, to quote Shrek.
CW: Let’s talk about how readers have responded to These Violent Delights, because – wow. The popularity for These Violent Delights has been staggering (and wholly deserved), and even my friends outside of the book community recommend the book to ME. Looking back at all this, what have been some highlights in this journey so far? (Did young Chloe Gong living in New Zealand ever imagine that you would be here now?)
Chloe: AWW! I hope you looked them dead in the eye after they recommended the book and stabbed a finger at the acknowledgements, HAHA. The highlights are all the readers. I’ve always said that, in my eyes, the difference between being a writer and being a published author is that I’ve chosen to be an author because I want the readers, I want the give and the take that I wouldn’t get if I was just happy writing stories and then locking them away in a drawer somewhere. My books wouldn’t be what they are without the reader responses and the passion that readers bring in! It’s just been so wonderful to see and it warms my heart each time. Young Chloe running into Whitcoulls to go buy the newest Cassandra Clare release could never have imagined being on the other side with other people doing the same to her books.
CW: Let’s talk about Our Violent Ends, which I had the pleasure to read earlier this year. (I vividly remember reading it in one day and sending you so many messages in all-caps.) A lot of readers are very keen to know what happens and what awaits Roma and Juliette. We won’t spoil anything for anyone – but what are you most excited for readers to discover in Our Violent Ends?
Chloe: Is it cheating if I say everything? Okay, okay, I guess it’s cheating. I’m really excited for readers to get to some of my favorite character scenes! I feel so lucky that this cast of characters have received so much love and enthusiasm—especially as far as the ships go—and writing ship scenes is one of my favorite things to do. A lot of these scenes were revised many, many times to get them to their maximum potential and I’m super proud of what we ended up with. I want to see the screaming, the shrieking, the flailing *insert smiling devil emoji*.
CW: I enjoyed the historical context of Our Violent Ends, and how the story culminates to a significant historical event in Shanghai’s history. What research did you do to write the historical components of Our Violent Ends? What considerations did you take into account, particularly in how it interweaves with Roma and Juliette’s stories?
Chloe: In writing historical fantasy, I’ve always been very particular about wanting to portray history and shed light on happenings that I want more people to learn about, without being entirely tied down to the history so I can tell my own story as well. I did a lot of primary source research—like flipping through invoice logs and reading literature from the time—alongside secondary source research—like reading textbooks recording these historical events—and then I took that knowledge to form my own story. For every giant textbook I skim through, I swear I used a single line of information! But ultimately it was super worth the research in order to get the larger atmosphere and vibes right. History is sensitive, and nuanced, and what survives to be told is also chosen and curated. I wanted my characters to come from different perspectives so that I wasn’t only telling one side, using true history to motivate their fictional differences and character arcs.
CW: I think this interview wouldn’t be complete without asking one question about Foul Lady Fortune. Everyone is eager to know more, particularly who Foul Lady Fortune is about! Can you give your readers any clues or any hints about what we can expect in Foul Lady Fortune?
Chloe: It honestly pains me that there’s very little I’m allowed to tease about Foul Lady Fortune since we can’t give away anything before Our Violent Ends is in the world! All I will say is that Foul Lady Fortune is about two fake married spies who have to work together to carry out an anti-imperialism mission even if they don’t entirely get along with each other. While it has my usual sort of content that readers have come to expect in the Violent Delights duology, I think… Foul Lady Fortune might be a little funnier? Take from that what you will 😉
CW: You are currently writing an adult fantasy and I am so excited to see what world you’ll take us to and the new ways that you’re going to break out hearts. Can you give us any clues about your adult fantasy too? Should any lovers of specific tropes pay attention?
Chloe: I’ve finished it! It’s sitting tight somewhere, hopefully I’ll be able to bring it to the world soon! If you’re a fan of “reluctant allies to lovers to enemies to ???”, please rejoice, because I’ll be bringing the Good Content. My adult fantasy is my first true fantasy (since These Violent Delights and all its subsequent content is set in an alternate version of the real world) but I did base the setting off a bit of history and a bit of a true city since I love worldbuilding. Since it’s inspired by Shakespeare’s Antony & Cleopatra and Antony and Cleopatra have often been discussed as the adult, jaded versions of Romeo and Juliet, you’ll definitely get a bit of the sense that my adult fantasy has These Violent Delights vibes while being more obsessive and more raw and more messy. I’m very excited!
CW: Chloe, it was so, so wonderful to have you visit us at the Pond again – and on a personal note, I can’t wait until you come home to visit me in New Zealand! My final question is one that I ask all of our friends of the Pond: What is a food that reminds you of ‘home’ – wherever or whoever that may be?
Chloe: Thank you for having me at the Pond, and I can’t wait to hug you in real life!!! (Hopefully soon!!!) I have two answers! Sausage rolls for New Zealand and xiaolongbao for Shanghai. Now that I’ve said that I’m going to be craving both of those foods all day.
About the Author
Chloe Gong is the New York Times bestselling author of These Violent Delights and its sequel Our Violent Ends. She is a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where she double-majored in English and International Relations. Born in Shanghai and raised in Auckland, New Zealand, Chloe is now located in New York pretending to be a real adult.
After devouring the entire YA section of her local library, she started writing her own novels at age 13 to keep herself entertained, and has been highly entertained ever since. Chloe has been known to mysteriously appear by chanting “Romeo and Juliet is one of Shakespeare’s best plays and doesn’t deserve its slander in pop culture” into a mirror three times.