Author Interview: Of Jade and Dragons by Amber Chen

Crushed on by Kelly BookCrushin, on June 27, 2024, in Author Interview, New Releases / 0 Comments

Author Interview: Of Jade and Dragons by Amber Chen

Of Jade and Dragons by Amber Chen is a debut, silkpunk, romantic fantasy that has a lot of things I am looking for in a summer read! So if you like retro-future tech that you may have seen in recent media like Fallout or read in Iron Widow, I think you will enjoy this epic fantasy, steeped in mythology, with a hint of Mulan reimagining. Of Jade and Dragons is available now!

Author Interview: Of Jade and Dragons by Amber Chen

Of Jade and Dragons (Fall of the Dragon, #1)

by Amber Chen
Published by: Viking Books for Young Readers
on June 18, 2024
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Mythology/Folklore, Young Adult

Eighteen-year-old Aihui Ying dreams of becoming a world-class engineer like her father, but after his sudden murder, her life falls apart. Left with only a journal of her father’s engineering secrets and a jade pendant snatched from the assassin, a heartbroken Ying follows the trail to the capital and the prestigious Engineers Guild—a place that harbors her father’s hidden past—determined to discover why anyone would threaten a man who ultimately chose a quiet life over fame and fortune.

Disguised as her brother, Ying manages to infiltrate the guild’s male-only apprenticeship trial with the help of an unlikely ally—Aogiya Ye-yang, the taciturn eighth prince of the High Command. With her father’s renown placing a target firmly on her back, Ying must stay one step ahead of her fellow competitors, the jealous guild masters, and the killer still hunting for her father’s journal. Complicating everything is her increasingly tangled relationship with the prince, who may have mysterious plans of his own.

The secrets concealed within the guild can be as deadly as the weapons they build—and with her life and the future of her homeland at stake, Ying doesn’t know who to trust. Can she avenge her father even if it means going against everything he stood for, or will she be next in the mastermind’s line of fire?

Author Interview: Amber Chen

1. How has your experience of being a debut author been playing out now that the book is released?

Being a debut author means that every emotion at every single publishing milestone is amplified ten times, just because it’s the first time I’m going through things and everything feels shiny and special and very, very monumental. Honestly, I think it’s helpful that I’m based in Singapore, far away from the publishing hotspots in the US and UK, because it means I have a little more breathing room since I won’t have as many events to be anxious about! My debut journey has been very enjoyable so far, and I’m super happy to be seeing the book going out into the world and reaching the hands of readers! The biggest thrill for me about having my book published is getting tagged in the most amazing reviews and photos from readers out there. I appreciate that very much, particularly when it comes from readers within the book’s target age group—teenagers!

2. Of Jade and Dragons is pitched as an epic fantasy, but it is also kind of a mystery to be solved wrapped in Chinese mythology and a slight Mulan retelling; how hard was it to write all of these aspects, I assume the prep and research took a lot of time?

I think weaving everything together was the most fun part of writing the book! Of Jade and Dragons was actually inspired by real historical events that I happened to be curious about, specifically the story between the first Qing emperor and one of his most well-known concubines. When I was working out the plot for the book, what I was really doing was trying to fill in the gaps in historical records with my own imagination, to imagine what the lives of these real people might have been like off the pages. To that end, I did quite a lot of historical research so that I could better blend reality with fantasy! A number of the inventions that appear in the book are based off actual inventions that existed in historical China, with a bit of imagination adding on to them here and there. That was important to me, because it I wanted the tech to be believable, and I was super pleased when an early reviewer said that the book made them wonder if the Qing dynasty could actually have been this technologically advanced.

3. I love when retro-tech is written into a steampunk or in this case a silkpunk book, what inspired you to write those aspects?

I am a STEM girl at heart, so the idea of constructing a tech-based fantasy world was something that I naturally gravitated toward. Some of the fantasy tech” that you see in the book draws from actual inventions that existed in the past! One of the historical texts that I referenced is a firearms manual called the Huolongjing (Fire Dragon Manual) that dates to the early Ming dynasty.

4. Was there an unexpected moment when you were writing that took you by surprise, and had to go and rewrite or rework the book?

I think the bones of this book have remained more or less intact from the very first draft, but I have definitely reworked big chunks of it several times before we got to the final published version. One of the most unexpected moments was realizing that I could, in fact, put an actual (or close to actual) dragon into the book—and then going on to do just that! Fun fact: the “dragons” in the book’s title was very much symbolic until the third or fourth draft of the book. I’ll leave everyone to find out how and when this
mysterious dragon appears!

5. The cover art is absolutely mind blowing, was the cover process a surprise for you, or did you get to have any parts of how you wanted it to look, pick an artist, etc?

I absolutely love my cover! I definitely got very lucky in the book cover department, and I’m thankful that my publishing team was very open to seeking suggestions from me about what the cover design could look like. Before we started the entire process, I did provide some input on possible design elements and also provided the team with the names of some artists and cover comps that I love. I am super blessed to have landed my super talented cover illustrator, Kelly Chong, who is a fellow South-east Asian creative! Kelly has designed some of my absolute favourite covers out there (think Six Crimson Cranes and The Hurricane Wars), and now she’s designed my debut cover too! My gratitude also to my cover designers Lily Kim Qian and Ellice Lee for putting everything together into its fabulous final form!

6. What books/media would you recommend for readers to read after they’ve loved Of Jade and Dragons?

For readers who are interested in more silkpunk fantasy, here are two series that I would recommend:

  • The Dandelion Dynasty series by Ken Liu is a silkpunk fantasy re-telling of the founding of the Han Dynasty of China, following the journey of a bandit and the son of a deposed duke as they lead rebellions against a despotic emperor. This series is one of my all-time favourites, and my introduction to the world of silkpunk!
  • The Tensorate series by Neon Yang comprises four silkpunk novellas that are set against a backdrop of the ongoing conflict behind two groups of people—elemental mages known as the Tensors and a rebel group known as the Machinists—who have fundamentally different ideas about the development of technology and who should hold the power to wield it.

About Amber Chen

Amber Chen is a Singaporean Chinese author of SFF and contemporary fiction. She spends much of her free time living within Chinese fantasy novels and dramas, and also drinks one too many cups of bubble tea. One of her webnovels, The Cutting Edge, has been adapted for television. She is also the author of Of Jade and Dragons. You can find her online at and on TikTok, Instagram, and X @AmberWrites88.

Many thanks to Penguin Young Readers for the gifted finished copy!

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