Kat Cho is the founder of Asian Author Alliance—a group to celebrate Asian Kidlit and the diversity of stories that originate from the Asian Continent.
When did you first become interested in going into writing and publishing? What sparked your interest?
I always loved to write stories ever since I was really young, but I didn’t write to pursue publication until a few years ago. I was coping with the loss of a loved one and I realized that writing helped me find a bit of joy. The first story I wrote out completely during this time was based on a strange dream I had about ancient Korean warriors and a dark dystopian future. It spilled out of me and I had so much fun.
After talking to my cousin (Axie Oh) who was already pursuing publication, I started to look into finding critique partners and think about if I could get traditionally published.
Tell us about the inspiration behind Asian Author Alliance. How did it come about?
I was inspired by other marginalized communities creating a safe space to discuss intra-community concerns as well as celebrate each other. Even though we call ourselves “Asian Authors” we also acknowledge that the Asian identity encompasses a lot of different cultures and countries of origin. And it’s important for us to understand each other in order to advocate for our community in an inclusive way.
What goals do you have for the alliance?
It’s meant to be a hub to celebrate and spread the word about Asian authors and their stories. It’s also a tool to educate people about the differences between varying Asian identities (whether it’s due to the country of our ancestors, other intersectional identities we have, or due to being diaspora).
We’ve started on this goal by starting a website as a hub of all things coming out of the Asian Author Alliance. So far we’ve been able to host an AAPI Book Month filled with virtual panels all through AAPI Heritage Month (May 2020) celebrating all the diverse kinds of Asian identities and stories. As well as starting our new Asian Author Directory!
What Asian childrens-YA books are you currently reading?
Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar (Harper Teen, 2020) was an amazing and lush South Asian fantasy that’s beautifully written. I just finished Last Fallen Star by Graci Kim (Rick Riordan Presents, 2021) and it was a really fun and adorable Korean American middle grade fantasy.
I’m also in the middle of Rent a Boyfriend (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), an adorable romance by Gloria Chao, author of American Panda (Simon &Schuster Books For Young Readers, 2019).
What else would you like readers to know about books by and about Asians and Asian countries?
That there is such diversity in Asian identities, cultures, and countries. Though many of our cultures have shared things like food or stories, we also cultivated our own unique identities. There are so many stories to discover under the umbrella of the Asian identity. There are multiple religions and cuisines and folktales that help give us distinct and robust cultures.
A reader could spend years and years discovering new things about Asia and its cultures.
I’d also like to say that a story is ours even if it’s not about our history, or culture, or pain. A book about an Asian character being the hero of their own story and having adventures is also amazing and important, and I hope readers can find and love those as well.
We’ve all got fun stories to tell and new spins to put on “classic” tropes. And the easiest place to start discovering is through our new Asian Author Directory.
Kat Cho used to hide books under the bathroom sink and then sneak in there to read after bedtime. Her parents pretended not to know. This helped when she decided to write a dinosaur time-travel novel at the tender age of nine. Sadly, that book was not published. She currently lives and works in NYC and spends her free time trying to figure out what kind of puppy to adopt. Kat’s YA contemporary fantasy debut, Wicked Fox (Putnam Books for Young Readers/Penguin, 2019).
Suma Subramaniam is the contributing author of The Hero Next Door (Penguin Random House, July 2019). She is also the author of She Sang For India: How MS Subbulakshmi Used Her Voice For Change (Macmillan FSG, Winter 2022), Namaste Is A Greeting (Candlewick, Fall 2022), Centaurs (Capstone, Fall 2021), and Fairies (Capstone, Fall 2021). She is the Director of the Internships Grants Committee at We Need Diverse Books and Mentorship Program Coordinator for SCBWI Western Washington. She hires tech professionals for a leading software company during the day and is a writer by night. Suma has an MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and degrees in computer science. Visit her website at https://sumasubramaniam.com.