MEET ‘GREEN ISLAND’ AUTHOR, SHAWNA YANG RYAN | Tricia & Friends


Hey guys! Welcome back to my channel, ‘Tricia
& Friends’. Today I’m going to be doing something a little bit different from my usual main
channel videos because I recently interviewed one of my English professors. She is also
an author and she just wrote a book recently and it’s called ‘Green Island’. So, I did
an interview with her and asked her a few questions about her new book, so here’s the clip. Set against the backdrop of a changing Taiwan, Shawna Yang Ryan’s ‘Green Island’ is a story about the Tsai family and a nation as they struggle to find normalcy of family
life amidst the chaos during Taiwan’s martial law ruling. It is a stunning story of love, betrayal and family. How did you get the idea to write your book? Shawna Yang Ryan: That’s a great question.
It began a long time ago. I went to Taiwan after graduating from college and I was wandering
around Taipei and I just happened to stumble into a museum about the massacre that I covered
in my novel and I was really intrigued by the story. I never heard of it before. It was
a secret. It was a national secret, like it was illegal to talk about it. So, that just
stuck in my mind and I returned to the United States, I went to graduate school and I kept
thinking about the story and I just decided that I want to write a book about it, so I
applied for a fulbright which allowed me to return to Taiwan and continue researching
it. So, it just came about, the idea came about…by serendipity or accident.
Tricia (interviewer): That’s really great! So it was just a spontaneous way of finding
inspiration? Shawna Yang Ryan: Yeah, I think that’s what
I tell my creative writing students…to just keep their eyes open cause you never know
what you’re going to encounter and it could be your next book. What were some of the challenges writing ‘Green Island’? Shawna Yang Ryan: There were a lot of challenges. I mean, one big challenge was working in Mandarin. So, I had already been taking Mandarin
classes for quite a while. I was sort of like an intermediate level when I began the project,
so I continued to take Mandarin classes. I’ve been studying it for 20 years and I’ve been
taking about 7 years of formal classes. Tricia: Wow! That’s really long.
Shawna Yang Ryan: Yeah. Yeah and so I needed to do that and I needed to find sources which
means that I needed to find people who would talk to me and those were the people who knew
about the event that I write about where there were older people, those in their 60s, 70s,
80s, 90s…and then I needed to figure out how to tell the story that was respectful
and true to what people had experienced and that was really hard to do. I had to do a
lot of writing and rewriting, rewriting and rewriting.
Tricia: So, were there any people that you came across that they didn’t want to talk
about the issue or they didn’t want to share any personal experiences and was that challenging?
Shawna Yang Ryan: Yeah, there were…there were some people who were willing to talk,
but didn’t want to let me write down personal information about who they were, so that I couldn’t
trace back to them. There were some people who I think trusted me because I was coming
from another place, that I wasn’t from Taiwan, so they’ve told me things that I think they probably wouldn’t have told someone from Taiwan or their friends, you know, things they, maybe, terrible
things they’ve been involved in and so, I heard from both sides and then…yeah, I think
that people were generally willing to talk, but maybe, they just did it in different ways
or some of these people were more invasive than others. How has the book tour been so far? Shawna Yang Ryan: It has been really surprising,
actually. I… because my last book tour, I think it was pretty standard, like you go
and you read and then, people get their books signed, but this one is different because
it’s a history that is still really relevant to people and it’s an experience that people
are still really connected with and so, actually, in the events that I did in California and
Seattle, I had people coming up to me afterwards and some people were thanking me for writing
the book which hasn’t happened before and then, some people were sharing their own stories
of their families who were affected by the massacre and family members who had been killed
or disappeared, so it was really intense and very moving and so, I feel really lucky that
I’ve had the opportunity to maybe, give people a chance to share a story they’ve been wanting
to share. Tricia: That’s really great! This book tour
is going just across the U.S. or is it in other countries too?
Shawna Yang Ryan: Well, the tour is just in the U.S. and…but the book has been released
in other countries. I heard that it’s doing pretty well in the Philippines. Yeah, there
have been a couple features in Malaysia and Singapore. It’s the March pick of the month
in a book store in Switzerland. Tricia: Congratulations!
Shawna Yang Ryan: Thank you! Yeah, so it’s good that I can spread the story, I think. Any advice for writers and future authors? Shawna Yang Ryan: Yeah, a couple of things. I think, like what you’re doing, like you
have made writing a part of your life, you’re writing for the paper, right? and connecting
with writers and finding mentors is really important. That was a really critical part
for me, it was actually meeting people who were writing and seeing that that was possible
cause I grew up in a family where I didn’t know any writers, right? So, it seemed like
something…so far away. Tricia: Yeah, so far away
Shawna Yang Ryan: Yeah, so when I went to college and met actual writers, I was like
Oh! this is something that real people can do
Tricia: It’s like an achievable goal. Shawna Yang Ryan: Yeah! Exactly!
Tricia: Because I didn’t really grow up with a family of writers either, so seeing other
writers and…it’s…it gives you that leeway of possibilities that are really opened.
Shawna Yang Ryan: Yeah and they can also help guide you and give you advice because…yeah,
if you don’t grow up in that environment, you don’t even know how you begin or how it
works, right? you don’t know what the path is, so they can show you the path. The other
advice is kind of what I said earlier is– to pay attention to things. It’s nice to be,
like in your own world writing, but that writing, I think draws on the real
world, so you have to remember to engage and be out there and meet people and have new
experiences. Tricia: Because writing, like from my view
of it…it kind of feels isolating somtimes and I know a lot of other writers feel the
same way too, so it’s good to have that engagement with other people and hear feedback.
Shawna Yang Ryan: Also, important too, I mean speaking of isolating is that if…sometimes,
I think that the characters just start to act the way that you personally would act
and…and people are just so varied and interesting and surprising that they might do things you
would never expect, so it’s good to meet as many people as possible, then you have more
to draw from when you create your characters. Tricia: Yeah, because people are so complicated
and then, it’s just like a new perspective that you learn from, from just like tapping
into that character. That’s really cool. Shawna Yang Ryan: Yeah, one of the things
I’ve discovered is… cause… How do I say this? Like, people who are like literature
professors in the English department, they study literature, they study books and I was
like, “What do creative writing people study?” I mean they kind of study books, but what
they really study are people. Tricia: Yeah and everything.
Shawna Yang Ryan: Yeah Okay guys, that’s it for this video. Thank
you so much for watching and I hope you use this as a source of inspiration in your own
life, especially if you’re a writer or if you’re just, you know, curious about writing
in general. I will also link my vlog to the behind the scenes of where you can see more
of Shawna Yang Ryan and more of the interview and the behind the scenes and all that stuff…I’ll
link that in the description box below. I will also leave the link of where you can
actually buy Shawna Yang Ryan’s book in the description box, so thank you so much for
watching this video and stay safe, stay healthy, be happy and I will see you in my next video.
Bye!

3 thoughts on “MEET ‘GREEN ISLAND’ AUTHOR, SHAWNA YANG RYAN | Tricia & Friends

  1. Thank you so much for the video!
    I am a college student from Taiwan. Recently I am working on the issue of the transitional justice after 228 event and how KMT (the political party who operated the martial law ) going to deal with it after decades. Now I am planning to get a book and can't wait to read it! Thank you again for the nice interview! 🙂

  2. Thank you for making this video. I just finished reading the novel last night. It was interesting to hear Shawna Yang Ryan's thoughts surrounding it.

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