We are officially less than a month out from the release of These Violent Delights! I’ve been looking forward to this book so much, I’m a sucker for Romeo & Juliet retellings, and have heard nothing less than amazing things about this one. Gong was so incredibly sweet when I reached out to her at the beginning of this COVID mess and I’m so glad her release date has not been effected. I honestly have no idea how she managed to write a book while double-majoring like seriously she’s Wonder Woman. Check out my interview with her below and be sure to snag These Violent Delights on release day!
Meet Chloe Gong
Chloe Gong is an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, double-majoring in English and International Relations. Born in Shanghai and raised in Auckland, New Zealand, she now lives at the top of a crumbling, ivory tower in Philadelphia (also known as student housing).
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. Her debut novel, THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS, is being published by Margaret K. McElderry/S&S in 2020 with a sequel to follow in 2021. She is represented by the wonderful Laura Crockett at TriadaUS Literary Agency.
All About These Violent Delights
Why don’t you tell us a bit about what inspired These Violent Delights?
I would love to, and thank you for having me here!
These Violent Delights was inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet and my desire to reimagine this incredibly popular story in a way that was newly accessible. The play is so deeply ingrained in pop culture, but not everyone can or wants to read/watch the original source all the way through… which is so fair because while I love Shakespeare, he’s incredibly difficult to understand in the 21st century. But I think there’s a reason why the play is so timeless: the tension of a blood feud with characters caught on two sides of what is essentially a war is such an interesting story to me, and I thought that when told anew, it would be a story that could really take root. Of course, then I plopped in a monster and a whole new political climate, making it a product of my own head and not just Shakespeare 2.0!
Introduce us to your main character(s)!
The main characters of These Violent Delights are Juliette Cai and Roma Montagov, heir of the Scarlet Gang and heir of the White Flowers respectively. Juliette loves pretty jewellery and pretty dresses, and is especially fond of sharpening her knives right in the living room for no reason other than to frighten her relatives. Roma loves quiet rooms and reading poetry, but too often he’s forced to be out and about, patrolling the streets and getting into fights.
Why Shanghai and why 1926?
Shanghai has always been one of my favorite cities. Part of it is because I’m visiting so often, and I hear so many stories from my whole family, who are originally from Shanghai. Another part is because the history there is so complex and rich. So why Shanghai is tightly linked to why 1926: Shanghai in that decade was one of the crown jewels of the world, a place that people from all over the world congregated to. It was also deeply divided because colonial powers had taken various territories as conquests from the Opium Wars, so the atmosphere of the glamorous Roaring 20s was deeply intertwined with its political climate. It was the perfect setting for a story about hate and love and loyalty, all while shedding light on a part of the world that the Western world of literature hasn’t delved deeply into.
The ultimate question: why should we read your book?
Because it’s a fast-paced story with lovable characters, in a city that almost feels alive, and I think you—reader of this interview—will enjoy it 😉
All About Chloe Gong!
Describe your publishing journey so far. Was this the first book you queried?
It was! However, it was far from the first book I had written. I’m from New Zealand, so I was very much under the mistaken mentality that U.S. publishing wasn’t open for me. New Zealand publishing wasn’t for me either, because most New Zealand literature tends to be about, well, New Zealand. I wrote my first book when I was 13 and it was a fun paranormal adventure during the time that book series like Fallen and The Mortal Instruments were at the height of popularity, so to me, writing was a thing that kept me entertained by mimicking what I liked to read rather than an actual goal I was pursuing.
I’m actually really glad that I got into writing like that, because I wrote several manuscripts throughout high school without any pressure on my shoulders. I just kept writing and improving my craft. By the time I was applying to colleges in the U.S. and simultaneously realizing that the U.S. publishing market is actually open to the whole world, my craft had gotten to a point where I could pursue traditional publishing and query very successfully. I signed with my agent with These Violent Delights an exact month after sending my first query, which looks great on paper, but in reality it was a journey almost 6 years in the making!
Your theme song or personal anthem?
Oh, god, this changes all the time because my music taste flitters across so many sounds, but right now I’ve been listening to Charli XCX’s Trophy on repeat. I really cannot explain why.
What’s your most embarrassing memory?
I’m not entirely unconvinced that my most embarrassing memory wasn’t a fever dream: I was, like, six years old and I wandered over to an old man at the supermarket and started rummaging through his shopping bag because I thought it was my dad. Obviously, as soon as I looked up I realized it was not, and I was so embarrassed I ran away.
About the Book
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.