Hello dearest Poppy Readers! Today we get to celebrate Weina Dai Randel’s second book launch this year, THE EMPRESS OF BRIGHT MOON! Publishers Weekly says it’s “…a rich conclusion… Randel has done much to breathe life into the life of Empress Wu.” 

Randel Empress of Bright Moon CoverHere’s a bit more about her new book.

At the moment of the Emperor’s death, everything changes in the palace. Mei, his former concubine, is free, and Pheasant, the heir and Mei’s lover, is proclaimed as the new Emperor, heralding a new era in China. But just when Mei believes she’s closer to her dream, Pheasant’s chief wife, Lady Wang, powerful and unpredictable, turns against Mei and takes unthinkable measures to stop her. The power struggle that ensues will determine Mei’s fate–and that of China.

Surrounded by enemies within the palace that she calls home, Mei continues her journey to the throne in THE EMPRESS OF BRIGHT MOON, the second book in Weina Dai Randel’s acclaimed duology. Only by fighting back against those who wish her harm will Mei be able to realize her destiny as the most powerful woman in China.

To celebrate her book, Weina stopped by to talk covers, critique groups, and writing advice.

Could you please talk about your book’s cover and the title of THE EMPRESS OF BRIGHT MOON?

You know people usually say that you could not decide the title of your books or the book cover? I think I’m very lucky – my editor didn’t change the titles of the two books. But I didn’t have a say in deciding the book covers for The Empress of Bright Moon or The Moon in the Palace, the first of the series. The current cover of The Empress of Bright Moon is the second design. With that said, the book cover for The Moon in the Palace is the third design. My publisher changed the covers a few times.

The first time they designed The Moon in the Palace, it was very European looking, so my publisher changed it to an Asian woman draped in a red veil. It was stunning, but then we received some feedback from Barnes & Noble, so the design was changed again to a profile of a young girl and a palace. I like the latest cover a lot. I thought the young girl was very attractive and the palace picture gave a strong sense of the Chinese setting.

But I didn’t expect this: when I was at the book launch of The Moon in the Palace last month, people pointed at the book cover and asked me, “Is that you?”

Do you use an outside publicist?

A few people asked me about this since I have two books published a month apart. But no. I didn’t use an outside publicist. The idea never crossed my mind, in fact. It would be wonderful if someone assists you, but then, the cost of hiring someone is way too much for me.

I did, however, pitch to many reviewers and editors personally for almost six months. I also had a few friends help me arrange a blog tour – I’m so wonderful to have their help! So for about two months, I was writing one blog a day, then polishing it the next day. I also emailed some well-known writers and begged for a review, but most of time I never heard back.

It sounds a cliché to say that publishing is very competitive, but it’s true, if you don’t go out, tweet your books and promote them, no one would. So it really is a good idea to some support, have a network of supporters, etc. Or join a group like Tall Poppies!

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Characters are like needy mistresses; they need your attention and nurturing so they could live and thrive. So write everyday. Stay connected with them, know their needs, their wants, their fears and their tears.

Simplify your life if you’re too busy. Make priorities. Three priorities, if you can. No more. For me, it’s my kids, husband, and my writing. Yes. In that order, and my husband is okay with it – don’t laugh. This is very important, and honestly, if my husband doesn’t support me in my ten year’s writing endeavor, I would never be able to finish the novel.

Find serenity in your head. This is very important too, because I cannot write when there are too many things happening around me, too many trips to the doctor’s office with sick kids, too many home renovation projects, too many power outages, or simply too many worries. Sometimes even an oil change or a traffic ticket interrupts my routine and I couldn’t focus. So stay calm. Find your inner peace in your head and keep your eyes on your project.

Do you have a critique group? A regular first reader?

When I started out, I had a critique group. There were four of us and we gathered once a month to critique our pages. We also shared our experiences of querying and getting rejected. But one member relocated to a different city, the critique group disbanded. Around the same time I signed the contract for The Moon in the Palace and The Empress of Bright Moon. Since then, I haven’t had a critique group.

I don’t have a regular first reader. I had a friend who was a beta reader of The Empress of Bright Moon, but she didn’t have a chance to read The Moon in the Palace. What I do now is I usually put the manuscript aside for two to three months, read more books, and then go back to edit the manuscript. The months of reading other people’s books give me some distance to my own story, and when I read it again, I usually have a fresh view of my writing.

Have you tried writing in a different genre? How did it turn out?

How funny you’re asking that question! The thing with me is that I get bored easily. I don’t think I’ll write another book with similar plot and narrative. Well, I’ll write about adventures and strong women – I’ll always write about strong women, who are my eternal fascinations, but I’ll probably try something else, a different narrative, even different genre. It would be a challenge, no doubt. But I like it.

Thanks for stopping by Weina! We can’t wait to read the conclusion!

Weina Randel PortraitWeina Dai Randel was born and raised in China. She came to the U.S. when she was 24, and English is her second language. She has worked as a journalist, a magazine editor, and an adjunct professor. She received an M.A. in English from Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas, where she was inspired to write about Empress Wu of China. She lives in Texas with her husband and two kids, and THE MOON IN THE PALACE is her debut novel. You can learn more about Weina and her books (including her upcoming sequel, THE EMPRESS OF BRIGHT MOON, out April 5th) on her website, and connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.