Author Questionnaire Extraordinaire: Gloria Chao

This post is one in a series introducing the contributors. We hope you’ll stick around to learn more about us and to follow our writing adventures in and around Chicago!

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Who is your fictional hero?

I love Audrey Rose from Stalking Jack the Ripper. She was a girl ahead of her time, wanting an education and career before that became the norm. She fought her arranged marriages and snuck out behind her father’s back. She loved science and was badass enough to go after a murderer, yet she still loved pretty dresses and gossiping.

I don’t want to chase serial killers, but I admire her intelligence, confidence, and all-around-badassness.

Who is your real-life hero?

I look up to J.K. Rowling for her creativity, dedication, and talent. She created an entire world and brought us in using third person! Harry Potter made me fall back in love with books after a long hiatus and was an important part of my journey.

I also look up to my husband, who pursued what he loved and gave me the confidence to chase after my dream. Without him, I would have never started writing.

If you were a fictional character, who would you be?

All of my own characters have a bit of me in them. I guess you write what you know.

What is happiness to you?

My husband of course, and sitting down at my desk to write with a cup of tea. I’m also obsessed with Dance Dance Revolution, board games (Takenoko or Ticket to Ride, anyone?), and of course books.

What inspires you to write?

I first started writing because it was my escape from dental school. When I came up with the idea for American Panda, it was partly therapeutic, but more so, I wanted to write the book that I wish teenage me (and me right now) could have so she would know she wasn’t alone in her struggles to fit in, straddle two cultures, or have different dreams and priorities than her parents.

I want other teens to know they aren’t alone. I also want to show them how to find the humor in their struggles, which took me almost thirty years to find.

If you could give three books to every young adult, what would they be?

What’s your favorite work of art (book/movie/song/sculpture/etc.) with a Chicago connection?

There’s a Renoir in The Art Institute of Chicago that will always be special to me. When my husband and I first visited to decide whether or not to move here, we visited the museum and we were both blown away by the Renoir—how lifelike the woman’s eyes were, how vivid the colors—and we stared at that piece for quite some time. Seeing that painting always makes me remember how we fell in love with the city before we moved here, and how it’s now home.

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What’s your favorite hidden gem in Chicago?

I love 57th Street Books. It extends much farther back than you would initially guess, it’s underground meaning you can go stacks-spelunking, and it has a fantastic selection of young adult books. I spend a lot of my weekends there!

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