23 Mar 2023

Event Recap: HarperPresents Summer 2023 Preview

I spent my Wednesday night learning about some fantastic books coming out this summer from HarperCollins Canada. I'm sure you'll be just as pumped as I was to learn about them!

Plus we heard from R.F. Kuang, author of the forthcoming YELLOWFACE (and others!) and Susie Luo, debut author of PAPER NAMES! P.S. do you live in Toronto, Ottawa, or Vancouver (or somewhere close enough to get to them?) Go see R.F. Kuang on tour for YELLOWFACE! Link: https://rfkuang.substack.com/p/yellowface-tour-canada-stops

Summer 2023 Preview #HarperPresents

Spotlight on R.F. Kuang

Special thanks to R.F. Kuang for joining us at the event! I unfortunately had to leave before Susie Luo joined.

Tell us about your new book, YELLOWFACE.

R.F. KuangI describe Yellowface as my goblin era novel. I know everyone drafting in 2020 and 2021 those were goblin era novels. You can see how weird, isolated, and frustrated everyone was and that’s led to interesting art.

It was a period of deep isolation and I felt that was giving us the easy way of being anonymous online.

Yellowface is a satire of the publishing industry and I’m interested in how publishing talks about race and something that is a commodity and a label to use for marketing but it’s still overwhelmingly in your favour to be white, so why would someone choose to pretend to be of a different race?

Yellowface is a major break from fantasy that your readers know you for. What was the catalyst and will there be more later?

R.F. KuangPeople keep making a big deal of making this switch and it doesn’t make sense to me because storytelling is storytelling. All of the stories were equally foreign to me because of the main characters being white. A lot of this comes from not taking fantasy seriously as a literary genre. Craft is involved in all of these genres no matter if you’re writing Babel or Yellowface. It was less a matter of switching genres and more getting bored easily. After the Poppy War I knew I wouldn’t lock myself into the same mode of storytelling again because I want to try a lot of different aspects. There’s so many types of stories I want to play around in and Yellowface is just one of them.

Working in publishing you want to pidgeonhole authors into categories to sell to consumers. In Yellowface, June satirizes what BIPOC have heard, but her struggles will be relatable to readers. What parts do you think people will relate to?

R.F. KuangEvery time I write a villain, I try to make her as relatable as possible. You can structure it around anybody as long as a reader is able to follow them in any way. A pure sociopath isn’t fun to follow because there seems to be nothing that is logical about what is being done.

I’ve had a lot of BIPOC authors say they relate too much to June because in a lot of ways it’s my journey. I’ve experienced her frustrations with publishing. I wasn’t an overnight success story – I was sick to my stomach about how my book was doing after The Poppy War came out. None of the books made bestsellers and I thought I would never get a chance like that again. We don’t talk enough about what being a writer in this day and age does to us psychologically. If you’re an overnight success, great, but what about the rest of us?

We expect writers to have a stiff upper lip and take whatever the industry decides to give us.

What do you think the excitement around this release means for change in the industry?

R.F. KuangWorking with a publisher like HarperCollins highlights the contrast because loving the team you get to work with and at the same time they don’t have a lot of control and are not responsible for what is messed up at the Big 5 Publishers. They do have a union, though, so that’s exciting. My team has been so wonderful about this book. It was a chance to lean hard into the satire and self-criticism. My editors are people who have been through experiences like Candice has and have those horror stories. The manuscript got worse – the picture of publishing got worse through my editors hands.

I really don’t know what Yellowface does to change publishing structurally.

All of the Big 5 continue to do shady things, so I think there’s a way in which publishing absorbs critique and turns it into a profit.

If anything, I hope it serves as a chance for someone who has been through this frustration to see themselves and figure out what is next to be done. Small changes but at least a book written for the community.

Yellowface also criticizes online existence and online hate. As a high profile author, how do you handle interactions?

R.F. KuangI am often asked why I think teaching is valuable and it’s because the classroom is a dwindling space. The classroom lets you have a nuanced space where you can talk about difficult and personal questions and it doesn’t devolve into trolls and ad hom insults. You can’t do that on Twitter anymore – the whole world can watch and misinterpret everything you say. I am still on social media. It’s not like I think social media is worthless, but it works best if you treat it as a space where you figure out what conversations you have a deeper space for.

I think that approach to social media has created how I draw boundaries.

Summer 2023 Releases

We then got into what the upcoming Summer 2023 releases are and there are so many fantastic books! I am going to be preordering some below and I can't wait to get my hands on them.

You can add them all to your To Be Read pile by checking them out on Goodreads!


Author: R.F. Kuang
Series: N/A
Publisher: The Borough Press
Publication Date: May 16, 2023
What's the harm in a pseudonym? New York Times bestselling sensation Juniper Song is not who she says she is, she didn't write the book she claims she wrote, and she is most certainly not Asian American--in this chilling and hilariously cutting novel from R. F. Kuang in the vein of White Ivy and The Other Black Girl.

Authors June Hayward and Athena Liu were supposed to be twin rising stars: same year at Yale, same debut year in publishing. But Athena's a cross-genre literary darling, and June didn't even get a paperback release. Nobody wants stories about basic white girls, June thinks.

So when June witnesses Athena's death in a freak accident, she acts on impulse: she steals Athena's just-finished masterpiece, an experimental novel about the unsung contributions of Chinese laborers to the British and French war efforts during World War I.

So what if June edits Athena's novel and sends it to her agent as her own work? So what if she lets her new publisher rebrand her as Juniper Song--complete with an ambiguously ethnic author photo? Doesn't this piece of history deserve to be told, whoever the teller? That's what June claims, and the New York Times bestseller list seems to agree.

But June can't get away from Athena's shadow, and emerging evidence threatens to bring June's (stolen) success down around her. As June races to protect her secret, she discovers exactly how far she will go to keep what she thinks she deserves.

With its totally immersive first-person voice, Yellowface takes on questions of diversity, racism, and cultural appropriation not only in the publishing industry but the persistent erasure of Asian-American voices and history by Western white society. R. F. Kuang's novel is timely, razor-sharp, and eminently readable.
Amazon | Chapters | TBD


Author: Susie Luo
Series: N/A
Publisher: Hanover Square Press
Publication Date: May 2, 2023

An unexpected act of violence brings together a Chinese-American family and a wealthy white lawyer in this propulsive and sweeping story of family, identity and the American experience—for fans of Jean Kwok, Mary Beth Keane and Naima Coster.

Set in New York and China over three decades, Paper Names explores what it means to be American from three different perspectives. There’s Tony, a Chinese-born engineer turned Manhattan doorman, who immigrated to the United States to give his family a better life. His daughter, Tammy, who we meet at age nine and follow through adulthood, grapples with the expectations of a first generation American and her own personal desires. Finally, there’s Oliver, a handsome white lawyer with a dark family secret and who lives in the building where Tony works. A violent attack causes their lives to intertwine in ways that will change them forever.

Taut, panoramic and powerful, debut novelist Susie Luo's Paper Names is an unforgettable story about the long shadows of our parents, the ripple effect of our decisions and the ways in which our love transcends difference.
Amazon | Chapters | TBD






Which of these are you most excited for? Are you going to preorder any?

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