Natasha Ngan: “I love how she can be optimistic and keep smiling in the face of adversity”

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[Note From Frolic: Our resident YA expert Aurora Dominguez got the opportunity to interview author Natasha Ngan and ask her five(ish) questions. Natasha’s novel Girls of Storm and Shadow is out now!]

Aurora: What was your inspiration behind your most recent novel? 

Natasha: I always envisioned sequels to Girls of Paper and Fire, so I’m really happy I’m getting to continue Lei and Wren’s story! The first book was so much about Lei’s life at the palace and how the things she experienced there impacted her, but it was the immediate kinds of impacts, the moment of and shortly after trauma. I feel like a lot of stories don’t go further than that, or have their characters miraculously untouched in the long run by the awful things that have happened to them, and being a survivor of sexual assault myself, I know it’s not that easy. The awfulness, the wrongness of what happened to you lives on inside you, like a kind of poison, often impacting you in the most unexpected ways. I wanted to explore what that’s like for Lei and the other girls. 

What character do you most relate to and why? 

I’ve also felt so close and protective of Lei, and I like to think we share a lot of the same qualities. Her loyalty for others, how much she cares about everything, how she can be reckless in ways that can sometimes be self-destructive. Aoki is someone I empathise with a lot, too, and I definitely share her naivety. But I love how she can be optimistic and keep smiling in the face of adversity. She’s a tough little one. 

Why do you feel books with powerful and relatable characters, and fantasy themes, are so popular and have such a voice right now? 

Our world, just like so many fantastical ones, are dark, dangerous places, and I think it’s empowering to read about characters – especially in YA, young girls – that manage to stand up and fight against everything that tries to oppress them. It’s the hope we need right now.  

Please describe the content of your latest book and what can readers expect from the read. 

We’ll see more of Ikhara in Girls of Storm and Shadow, as Lei and Wren travel in secret with a group of fellow rebels across the Kingdom to win allies before their war with the Demon King. There is dark magic, elegant parties that end in bloodshed, love and betrayal in equal measures, and a whole lot of stabbing. 

What’s next for you in the book world?

I’m currently writing the third and final book in the GIRLS series, and I’ve also just started work on a middle-grade urban fantasy that I’m so excited about! I also have a standalone YA to work on after I’m done with GIRLS which is an enemies-lovers queer love story between two elites warriors set in a magical world of two long-warring queendoms. 

Who is your favorite writer right now and why?

I don’t have favourite writers so much as favourite books, but right now I’m in the middle of Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo and I have to say I’ve not met a book of hers I haven’t loved yet! 

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