Today I’m so excited to be able to share an Interview I got to do with Pintip Dunn, the author of Dating Makes Perfect (out August 18, 2020). I read this book and loved everything about it from the main character Winnie to her arch-nemesis Mat, the yummy food and the amazing own-voices story that was told. My full review will be up next week, but for now you can see both the Dunn and I gushing about this book in the interview!
Meet Pintip Dunn
Pintip Dunn is a New York Times bestselling author of young adult fiction. She graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B., and received her J.D. at Yale Law School.
Her novel FORGET TOMORROW won the 2016 RWA RITA® for Best First Book, and SEIZE TODAY won the 2018 RITA for Best Young Adult Romance. Her books have been translated into four languages, and they have been nominated for the following awards: the Grand Prix del’Imaginaire; the Japanese Sakura Medal; the MASL Truman Award; the TomeSociety It list; and the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award.
Her other titles include REMEMBER YESTERDAY, THE DARKEST LIE, GIRL ON THE VERGE, STAR-CROSSED, and MALICE.
All About Pintip Dunn & Dating Makes Perfect
What inspired Dating Makes Perfect?
I’ve had so many conversations with other Thai Americans and Asian Americans, whose parents seemed to change their minds in an instant about their children not dating and settling down. One moment, the parents wanted their children to focus on their studies, and the next, all the parents asked about were relationship statuses and grandbabies. That magic moment might happen during college or grad school or a first job, but all these instances were characterized an abrupt and sudden switch.
I thought it would be fun to turn this phenomenon on its head. What if the parents realized that their stringent rules about dating backfired? What if they had to completely backtrack and require their youngest to date in high school? What if they had no experience dating in America and had to rely on classic rom coms to draw inspiration for the fake dates?
And then, presto. Dating Makes Perfect was born.
How much of Winnie’s experience of being an Asian American comes from your own personal experiences?
Oh, nearly all of it! At least, Winnie’s experiences were inspired by moments in my own life, even if they’re not direct translations.
People always ask me if characters in my books are based on real people. I always say, no, because real people don’t have the particular qualities that I need for my plots to work. However, my characters are inspired by my emotions surrounding real people. The same holds true here. None of Winnie’s experiences have ever happened to me (because my life is not that fun or interesting), but the feelings surrounding her adventures were drawn from my own life.
What was dating like for you in high school or college?
My parents were actually more flexible than Winnie’s, and I was allowed to date in high school — although they probably weren’t too happy about it. I always had dates to my high school dances, as well as the random boyfriend here and there. I also had a steady boyfriend my junior and senior year of high school.
Dating Makes Perfect features fake dating, which is one of many beloved romance tropes. What’s your favorite romance trope?
I love enemies to lovers! And fake dating! And friends to lovers! In that order.
That’s probably also why I decided to smash all of those tropes together in this book.
Winnie’s Mom plans her dates based off those featured in famous Rom-Coms. What are some of your favorite rom-coms and why?
I love rom coms, and my favorites are probably the ones that I mention in this book: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Crazy Rich Asians, Always Be My Maybe, My Best Friend’s Wedding, How To Lose a Guy in Ten Days, Pretty Woman, and When Harry Met Sally.
Why? Well, I love the first three movies because I ADORE the Asian representation. I cried while I was watching Crazy Rich Asians, partly because I couldn’t believe I was seeing all these beautiful people on the big screen and partly because the movie theater was packed with Asian people. I watched TATBILB with my daughter, and it was so special for me to see her experiencing something that I never did as a teenager — a mainstream movie with a gorgeous Asian girl as the heroine. As for Always Be My Maybe, I’m pretty sure I had a smile on my face during the entire movie.
The other movies I listed are ones that I watched in my teens and early twenties, and they just make my heart warm — which is exactly what a rom-com should do.
Winnie is the ultimate klutz and is always getting herself into sticky situations. What’s your most embarrassing memory?
I was twelve years old and performing in a piano concert, which took place in this huge hall and involved a dozen pianos playing at once. I didn’t own any dresses — not a single one! The best I could do was a black shirt tucked into a black and white plaid skirt. Meanwhile, all the other girls who were performing wore these gorgeous, flowing dresses — what I thought was the appropriate attire. Feeling like I stuck out miserably, I made a comment while we were standing in line about how I didn’t like my skirt. A tall, pretty Indian girl said, “Why did you wear it then?” She meant it in a matter-of-fact way, but I didn’t know her well enough to understand this. Instead, I just wished that the floor would open up and swallow me.
A few years later, I was properly introduced to this girl. Her name is Sheila Pai, and she became one of my dearest friends. Incidentally, she also serves as the inspiration for Winnie’s best friend, Kavya.
I felt like food played a major role in this novel and is something Winnie uses to connect to Thai culture, from sugar on toast to her favorite desert Khanom Krok. What are some of your favorite Thai foods?
Food is a huge part of Thai culture. We socialize around food, but more importantly, we use food to take care of or express affection for each other. Thus, the inclusion of Thai food in this book came naturally.
I have so many favorite Thai dishes, just like Winnie. As her mom even says at one point, “They’re all your favorites.” I will, however, narrow it down to just one:
Nam prik kapi, which is a shrimp paste chili sauce. I like this dipping sauce served with deep-fried eggplant and a scoop of hot white rice. Heavenly.
How would you like to see representation in novels change in the next five years?
I would like representation of marginalized groups in novels to be the norm and embraced by all readers. I would like marginalized creators to be compensated and marketed fairly and equally. I would also like there to be many more BIPOC employed as publishing professionals.
About the Book
The Tech sisters don’t date in high school. Not because they’re not asked. Not because they’re not interested. Not even because no one can pronounce their long, Thai last name—hence the shortened, awkward moniker. But simply because they’re not allowed.
In a move that other Asian American girls know all too well, six months after the older Tech twins got to college, their parents asked, “Why aren’t you engaged yet?” The sisters retaliated by vowing that they won’t marry for ten (maybe even twenty!) years, not until they’ve had lots of the dating practice that they didn’t get in high school.
In a shocking war on the status quo, her parents now insist that their youngest daughter, Orrawin (aka “Winnie”), must practice fake dating in high school. Under their watchful eyes, of course—and organized based on their favorite rom-coms. ’Cause that won’t end in disaster.
The first candidate? The son of their longtime friends, Mat Songsomboon—arrogant, infuriating, and way too good-looking. Winnie’s known him since they were toddlers throwing sticky rice balls at each other. And her parents love him.
If only he weren’t her sworn enemy.
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