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Helen Hoang on Personal Reflection and Discovery through Her Debut Novel
Written by
She Writes
July 2018
Written by
She Writes
July 2018

Debut author Helen Hoang read her first romance in middle school, sparking a passion that ultimately pushed the storyteller to write her novel The Kiss Quotient, which came out last month.

On Inspiration:

“Everything around me is a source of inspiration: other books, the news, people, life. But I derive extra inspiration from movies — romantic comedies, specifically. They’re an ideal mixture of laughs, swoons and tears wrapped up with a fun catchy concept. I try to do the same thing with my writing.”

[The above excerpt was first featured on USA Today. Read the full interview here.]

On the Process:

In 2016, Hoang was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder – a personal journey that inspired The Kiss Quotient. She opened up about the obstacles she experienced while writing this personal novel in an interview with Publisher’s Weekly.

“The most challenging part of writing this book was devising the situations where Stella failed socially. I rewrote the scene where Stella meets Michael’s family more than half a dozen times, and the closer I got to the final version, the more frustrating it got. How do you write something you don’t understand? This is when my agent’s editorial experience really helped me. Her suggestions guided me in the right direction as I analyzed my own past social blunders, got a better grasp of what went wrong and why, and incorporated parts into the story.”

[Read the full interview on Publishers Weekly here.]

The publishing process is a learning experience, and as a first-time novelist, Hoang gained her share of wisdom along with a newfound appreciation for patience.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned in publishing so far is how little control you have over any of it. As an author, all you can do is write the best books you can. Everything else—timing, popularity, sales, etc.—is just blind luck. Because of this, there is absolutely no sense in comparing one author’s success to another’s.”

“I feel that my path toward publication has been a good one. It didn’t happen as fast for me as it did for others. Life got in the way so many times, and I always have to do things wrong before I can do them right. But I don’t have any regrets. Every failure and delay is another story to tell.”

On Attracting Readers:

“I did have a modest social media platform in place before my book deal, but I’m not sure it’s helped me gain significant readership. I’m not the type of person who writes viral posts, and I don’t have a massively popular blog. The best thing I’ve done to gain readers is improve my craft and write more books.”

[The above interview was first featured on Writer’s Digest. Read the full interview here.]

On Writing Characters:

Hoang and her main character, Stella, share an autism diagnosis. This unique bond paved the way for a reflective process through character development.

“I kept Stella’s experience very close to mine. It’s been a consistent worry of mine that I might inadvertently harm the autistic community with inaccurate representation, and I’m most confident of what I’ve personally lived. With the next book in the series, I branched out somewhat, but only after further research, interviews with multiple autistic people, and sensitivity reads.”

Khai, another autistic character plays a crucial role in The Kiss Quotient.

“I wanted Khai’s autism to be more “visible” than Stella’s. It’s my experience that outer signs of autism in women can be subtle (which I think contributes to the underdiagnosis of autism in women in general), and I hoped to illustrate this difference somewhat.”

She also modeled several of her secondary characters after inportant people in her own life.

"Michael’s grandma is an exact replica of mine. She passed away years ago, and bringing her back to life on the page was special to me. His mother and sisters are also mine. Maybe my love for them shines through in the writing. The idea of that makes me happy."

"Growing up, the stories I wrote all took place in historical or fantasy settings, and the characters struggled with grand problems like war and the fate of mankind in addition to love. These stories were a far escape from reality and the problems I faced. The Kiss Quotient was a turning point for me. Not only was it my first attempt at contemporary romance, but it was also the most personal book I’d written. Instead of hiding from my insecurities, I confronted and explored them on the page. That’s the biggest thing I learned from this book: When stories are personal, they’re better."

[The above interview was first featured on Publisher’s Weekly. Read the full interview here.]

On What’s Next:

The next book in the series is called The Bride Test, about an autistic man who avoids relationships and the mail order bride his mom gets for him. Stay tuned for more from Helen Hoang!

(Photo Credit: HelenHoang.com

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