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Abigail is a New York Times Best Selling Author, a rare woman-in-tech leader specializing in artificial intelligence, a new filmmaker as well as a wife and mother of two. She writes and speaks about tech, AI ethics, women's leadership, implicit bias, equity, and transforming culture.
Abigail penned the New York Times best-selling novel, Loveboat, Taipei (sequel, HarperCollins 2022). She is executive producing the book-to-film adaptation with ACE Entertainment, creators of the Netflix franchise, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. She and her work have been profiled in Entertainment Weekly, Forbes, Fortune, Cosmopolitan, NBCNews, Bloomberg, Google Talk, and the World Journal, among others.
Abigail holds a BA from Harvard, where she took coursework in film, ethnic studies, and government. She also holds a JD from Columbia and MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. In her career in tech, she has negotiated multibillion-dollar deals on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley, worked in venture capital, and hosted Intel’s Artificial Intelligence podcast featuring leading industry experts including Andrew Ng, Facebook's Chief AI Scientist Yann LeCun, and US Congresswoman Robin Kelly. She also serves with the Partnership on AI.
Abigail lives with her husband and two sons in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her third novel (2023) explores cognitive differences in Silicon Valley and she is writing her fourth novel and a feature film script based in Silicon Valley, as well as producing a girls-in-tech animated series.
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Intro: (00:00:00) Hey guys, welcome to Asian Hustle Network Podcast, My name is Bryan.
And my name is Maggie
And we interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals.
We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.
Maggie: (00:00:23) Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Asian hustle network podcast. Today, we have a very special guest with us. Her name is Abigail . Abigail is a New York times best selling author, rare women in tech leaders, specializing in artificial intelligence, a new filmmaker, as well as a wife and mother of two. She writes and speaks about tech, AI, ethics, women's leadership, implicit bias equity, and transforming culture. Abigail Penn, the New York times. Novel love boat, Taipei. She is executive producing the book to film adaptation with ACE entertainment, creators of the Netflix franchise to all the boys I've loved before she and her work had been profiled in entertainment, weekly Forbes, fortune cosmopolitan, NBC news, Bloomberg Google talk, and the world journal among others. Abigail holds a BA from Harvard where she took coursework. Ethnic studies and government. She also holds a JD from Columbia and MFA in writing from Vermont college of fine arts. Abigail. Welcome to the show.
Abigail: (00:01:23) Thank you so much for having me. It's really a pleasure to speak with you guys again. Okay. Is it,
Bryan: (00:01:28) I mean, we've been watching his insight almost day one, right? And the remarkable progress you've been making your accomplishment. We love it, you know, but for a lot of listeners and we've grown substantially since the first time we met too. So a lot of our listeners have heard of your book, but they haven't heard much about yourself. So would you like to walk us through, like, what was your upbringing like and how did you got the inspiration to write these two.
Abigail: (00:01:53) Yeah. Well, thank you. And thank you so much again to Asian hustle network. As I was saying before, we started the podcast. So you guys have been there from the beginning and I'm grateful for all the support, and I've also been really excited to watch the growth of your network and how much you found your community has been helping you. So, um, so for myself, I grew up in Ohio. I, my family immigrated from the Philippines and Indonesia. My dad actually immigrated when he was 13 from Indonesia. And so he grew up partly in the United States. He went to high school in Michigan and then college at the university of Michigan. And my mom being from the Philippines, um, English was actually one of her first languages along with the local language and, and her, her native tongue Fujian, um, Sikh. She came over for college. And so my parents were, I found were a bit more Americanized than. Probably the average Asian American that I ran into around Ohio. Um, and I think, you know, in retrospect I look back, I think that probably gave me a little bit more freedom to explore a bit more, um, outside some of the traditional professions that a lot of my peers are going into. Um, I. I enjoyed grew up in Ohio, but it was definitely a challenge in that I wasn't one of the few minorities there. So when I went to Harvard and then when I went to on love boat, which I'll talk about in a bit, um, that was one of the few times that I actually was in a community of other Asian-Americans and Asians who were really proud of their heritage. Um, and those were formative years for me. So I think that experience is something I tried to capture in love, quote, Taipei, which is the story of a girl from Ohio. Who, um, is trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life, whether it be dancing or music or dancing, or, um, medicine. And she gets shipped off to Taiwan by her parents to learn language and culture. And there, she has a time of freedom to just really explore. What is it that she really wants to do? Who is she as a girl between cultures. And what does it mean to honor her parents while still pursuing her passion? So that ended up becoming Taipei.
Bryan: (00:03:45) I love that story a lot, and I want to dig deep into your, your time in Ohio. You know, like, I want to understand like have like growing up in Ohio, like how aware are you of your life, this city, and how much of that is factory into like creating this, this love of love creating.
Abigail: (00:04:04) Yes, I really great question. Yeah. Because I was one of the few minorities. Um, I was noticed a lot and that's something, actually, my character talks a bit about, she, she, similar to me was not comfortable with that. So, you know, we we'd beat them all walking around and people would point up point to us and say, hello, Chinese people. Or, um, they would think that my brother's sister, I looked all up the same. So they thought we were all twins. You know, and, and there were kind people who were curious and there were not so kind people who would make up Chinese languages at us and talk about chop suey and you know, those things. And so I think I was forced to be aware of my ethnicity. I was forced from the very beginning of time to just be aware I was different than the community I was growing up in. Um, and so I think that caused me to do a lot of just introspection and trying to figure out like who I was. Um, but my parents. Did take me back to Asia to visit. So my mom, as I mentioned, being from the Philippines, we would go back almost every summer and just spend time with her family in Manila. And they were Chinese diaspora and Manila. And so them being an immigrant community, they were also really interested in their heritage and would talk a lot about history, um, in China and, and like kind of the immigrant surety of my family. And so I think I've always been interested in the stories and wanting that sense of connection back to me.
Maggie: (00:05:22) That's amazing. So Ryan and I both, I personally read, I love Bo Taipei and I was just in love with a story. And I remember the first time that we met you, I think it was at the modernist in San Francisco and you were doing a little event, um, to launch the book. Um, and that was the first time we ever met you. And that was when Brian and I were like, Let's read this book. Like, it seems so interesting. And you know, we now knowing you, you know, w we know that you are in tech, uh, you were working in venture capital funding. Um, do you just have so many different roles? And I feel like when I was reading the book, it really reminded me of Everett, which is the main character in the book. Um, I know we had this conversation before, but can you tell us a little bit about like your journey working in tech and in venture capital funding and, um, how that kind of. Ever story, because I remember you mentioning that ever was kind of like a symbolization of, of yourself, you know, just trying to, you know, get your foot into the world. China knew what you wanted to do, um, and what your calling was.
Abigail: (00:06:20) Yeah. Well, thank you for the question. So. I think that ever story might parallel more of my entry into the lawsuit. My story there is I was, um, you know, I studied government at Harvard international relations, and I was thinking about being a law professor. I went to law school, I worked on Capitol hill and I clerked for a judge on the DC circuit. And I'd written an article, um, for the law review at Columbia. So I'd kind of done all the things I needed to do to be a law professor, but I just couldn't bring myself to take the final step, which was to write an article. And, you know, in the, basically I would use that article to go out on the market and I felt like, you know, coming from me, five, people would read this article, it moved the needle for nobody. But I had an idea for a fantasy novel in my head at the time. And my husband was super encouraging. He's like, why don't you just try it? And so when I was pregnant with my second kid, I, you know, I had maternity leave. And so I just started writing this novel and it just came pouring out of me. And I didn't know at the time that I was a creative person. Um, but that was kind of, I would say that was the first choice. I may not to be a law professor. And then the second choice was when I moved out to California and my husband, um, is in Texas. He, he works at Google and my both, my sons are actually AI programmers in addition to being creatives. Um, so, you know, tech I think is just like around me. Um, but I decided to go back to LA because I hadn't really finished my training. So I went to a law firm, but very quickly it was recruited into Metro capital. I'm in a general counsel role for Intel. So those are there. Those jobs are pretty rare. And I was excited to do that and just kind of learn the whole venture space. Um, but the whole time I was doing that, I was also simultaneously writing my novel. Actually I wrote five novels on the way to love bow tie pain. Lebow. Taipei was the first to actually get published. I couldn't get them through the gate. So I think I say that everyone got to think about her decision earlier. So the story is about her. Um, her parents want her to be a doctor because her father was a doctor, but he didn't get to practice in the United States because he couldn't fulfill the very expensive Bredesen residency requirements, which actually does happen to immigrants. Um, so ever has always felt this pressure to live out her father's dreams, because she really does feel the sacrifices that they made for her. And the ways that they've been treated in Ohio, um, by, you know, the, the group of people were that were not so kind about them being, being different. Um, and at the same time she has this passion for dance. And so I think that was me too. I, I kind of been on this track into law and kind of like that more traditional stable path. My family are in the Philippines and my dad's from they're all business people. And so writing and being creative that really wasn't in the equation. Um, so I think I didn't, I didn't have the choice to choose for many years. Lebow Taipei, um, made it through the gates. And so, so now I actually, I have just recently left my job in tech, um, to focus full-time on the content creation, but the tech is still there. It's still a part of who I am and actually my second book love, but reunion follows to the fan favorite characters from book one and my girl, Sophie hall, who you, you know, having read the book is extremely girly. Um, she was. On the vote to get married and, you know, and find a rich husband. And so in book two, she's kind of swung the opposite extreme where she's sworn off boys. And she's going to double down on being an artificial intelligence major at Dartmouth. And then, so there's a bunch of disasters that come through that process as she figures out who she is and how to be a girl.
Maggie: (00:09:28) That's amazing. We cannot wait to hear this story and read the story. I just want to say, you know, you not thinking that you had a creative side and then you kind of like just going with the flow and writing this book and realizing, oh, I do have a creative side. You know, it's just so inspiring because I feel like a lot of people, they grow up thinking like, oh, if they're not creative, um, in the future, they're probably not going to be creative. But in your instance, you know, you found this creative outlet, you found this creative side to use. I think that's just incredibly inspired.
Abigail: (00:09:57) No, I think you have, I had, I had a lot of help along the way, for sure.
Bryan: (00:09:59) Yeah. I like that a lot too. And it's, it's really inspiration because, you know, you're showing your creative side, you're showing what's possible, but I'm kind of curious too. Like what made the difference for liberal type pay to make it through the gates compared to your first five books and how much time effort. Like, did you have to spend in like all five books, see the tearing? What was the winning formula? Did you have other writers, agents influence your creative process or was this all by yourself? And you're like, okay. This is what I want to push through and how it was the process like.
Abigail: (00:10:34) Yeah. So I have really wonderful CRA equity partners that I've been writing and exchanging work with for many years. So Iwo Gregorio, Stacy Lee, um, Stephanie Garber, Saba to here. And Sonya Mukherjee, um, Kelly, Loy, Gilbert, and I've, they were all published before I was even it's like, I joke it's like being a bridesmaid and never the bride. Like they had multiple books out and I still wasn't getting published. I mentioned I had those five books and say, why are you guys still reading my stuff? Right. I just kept getting rejected. I came close at two publishing houses. Um, but it, it was before crazy rich Asians had really opened up the market for Asian American works and, um, the marketing teams, like they did not a position. Right. And so I, I had a lot of people along the way say, why don't you self publish or, or at least, you know, I also had really big agents, so they would only shop to the big editors of the big houses. And so they're like, why don't you try a small, you know, maybe a smaller agent or an up and coming editor. Or, um, you know, even one of like the smaller houses that get behind their books. And I think there was a part of me that was like, you know, maybe I'm just not ready. Um, maybe my work is not at the level that needs to be. And so I think of Lubbock type I had not sold, I might've considered one of those alternative routes because I did feel like that pretty strongly about Lego Taipei. Um, but it did sell. And I think in retrospect, I'm glad that I waited. Um, even though it was really painful for those many years, I'm glad I waited because it came out really strongly and that helps us set up the rest of my books. So I've got the second book coming out in January, and I have a third book that hasn't been announced yet coming out with Harper Collins in 2023. And then I have multiple books that have been proposed to me from other places. And so I feel like I have a lot of momentum now. Um, but it's definitely not an overnight success. It was 12 years of writing. For buried books and Lebow, Taipei, I think I told you as before, um, it was rejected at version 26 and I had to rewrite the whole thing from the ground. So the only reason, the only way I made it through that, that was, again, my critique partners that I named, they, they came around me and they said, your stuff is good. There's some reason why you're not getting through the gates. You just have to keep going. And they gave me good advice for how to fix the book and. This was born.
Maggie: (00:12:42) Wow. That's amazing. Um, you know, it really does take a lot of patience and the right people around you to make sure that you can get, you know, your work, um, and book out the door. And I really want to know, because, you know, if there's anyone who has tried to write a book, they would know that, you know, one it's extremely hard, you know, you're trying to capture the right audience, but then it's a whole nother level when you're trying to write an Asia. Related book, right? Because you really have to, if you're going to get it in the bookstores or if you want it to get it to the broader audience, just like ours side of the Asian community, you really have to make sure that you to, you know, communicate about the Asian culture inside the book. But at the same time you realize that people who are not Asian as well. Right. And I think you captured a really, really good essence and lumbo Taipei, because it can be relatable to so many people. Asians and non-Asians right. And I want to know from your perspective, cause you talked a lot about like positioning your book, making sure you have the right positioning. Right. Did you ever come across, you know, complications about like, okay, how do I make sure that I communicate about Eastern culture very clearly in this book, but at the same time, I want to broaden my, my audience to communities that are non-Asian as well. And then how were you able to do that?
Abigail: (00:13:56) Yeah, that's a really great question. I don't know that I have the perfect answer yet. Um, I think with Lebow type, Hey, one of the, one of the unique things about it, it has 30 different Asian American characters. They're all on this trip together. And we have that many Asian American characters and in some ways they, their ethnicity. It's still a part of who they are collectively, but it's also not really as relevant because you get to know the individual characters. So everyone wants to be a dancer. Um, and she's a, she's a leader and she's kind and forgiving to her friends, um, recru who is boy wonder. And he's been profiled in all the major papers is like the bane of our existence, but he's like, he seems like, you know, the wonder boy, but he actually has. Uh, a girlfriend suffering from depression and he feels like he needs to carry the weight of that. And Sophie has, I mentioned, um, comes from a really conservative family that just wanted her to get married. Um, but she's brilliant. And she has to come to realize that that's like, that's part of who she is. And she's so much more than what her, her family thinks she is. And, and then Xavier. Has a secret. He can't, he sticks locks. Like he can't read, even though he's surrounded by all these really high powered, um, you know, students around him. And so each of them I think have, is like, they're a real person, right. They're unique. Right. And because they have all these different facets to them, I think it just ended up being more really. Um, I also like my editor at Harper Collins is, um, is Italian-American and she told me like, she felt like ever's family was like her family. So I th I definitely, and I heard that from multiple, um, other cultures, like readers of different races that just really related, I think, just to that, that part of it as well. So I think just the authenticity of being themselves. Um, and then maybe that, that uniqueness of just having so many different Asian Americans in it,
Maggie: (00:15:36) Yeah, I love that. I got chills just hearing that because it is definitely very relatable. And as soon as you relate to the main character you get real, then you're like, I need to keep reading. Yeah. Thank you.
Bryan: (00:15:48) Yeah. I love that. Position the pockets, not to give too many spoilers, to encourage more people to read the bugs. So you guys are listening, please, you know, support Abigail, pick up a copy of the liberal tip pay. It's an excellent book and we're really excited for, um, book to you as well. So I'm kind of curious too. I know that you are adapting your book into a movie production rate. What does that entire process life like? Are you working the film director? Do you have any say at which scenes are crucial or how involved are you with the process? Cause we're excited to hear more about that and see on the base screen.
Abigail: (00:16:25) Yeah. I'm excited too. It's been really fun. So I'm working, as you mentioned with ACE entertainment there. Yeah. Um, the creators of the, to all the boys I loved before franchise. And part of the reason why we chose to go with them is because they did just such an amazing job with Jenny Hans work. And, you know, at a time that, um, a lot of Asian characters were being whitewashed in Hollywood, they were like, no, we feel really strongly that you should keep your Korean American main character. And so, you know, here I have my love of TV with my 30 Asian American characters. And they said, what is the most important thing to you? And I said that, like, I want these characters to all, to be there. I want to showcase the diversity. Within our community. So it's been really fun. We've worked with, um, really incredible writers on the script. I can't say who they are yet. Um, but there's like, you know, I think that, that moment when I first got the draft of the script was incredibly surreal. Like I think I don't even know how to describe it. Like these characters that I made up in my head that I wrote about in this book, um, somebody else basically was like moving them around and making them do things and having. You know, talk and have dialogue that is like them it's really authentically them, but I didn't write it. Right. So, um, you know, as I'm involved in like kind of, we talked about like the overall structure, um, they, you know, they follow the structure of the novel because they felt the novel itself was already, um, really well done in terms of a three-act structure. That's typical for film. Um, we talked about which characters were important to keep in, in the story and like, which were more ancillary. And then which characters are going to be in the second book. Um, so you know, those types. One of the things we played around with, um, and then like leaning into the scenery Taiwan, like, so I think one of the criticisms of the novels that there wasn't enough of Taiwan, like there, we want to see more Taiwan and I wish I could have put more in, I think I had word count issues. Um, so for the film, then that's an opportunity to actually showcase more of the city and, you know, it's, it's really intended to be seen. Um, you can't, you can only do so much with words, um, like describing like Taipei 1 0 1 and the skyline and the food. And, um, so I'm excited to see those scenes. Yeah. And then the other element we've talked about is just leaning into the dance elements and really kind of bringing that out more, ever as a dancer. And so there, and the book itself is set up with five major dance sequences. And so, um, it's exciting to just think about how that'll play as well. But I think seeing the script for me and just also watching the evolution of the script has been incredibly rewarding and I'm really excited for just, you know, moving forward.
Maggie: (00:18:44) So exciting. I mean, personally, when I'm reading the book, I already feel like I'm actually in the story. So I can't imagine. You know, watching the movie, um, just actually like feeling every, every scene and every moment. Um, I do want to know, you know, I'm sure there are, you know, very. Um, many differences between the book and the movie, um, from your perspective, how do you want your readers to take away? What do you want your readers to take away from the book and how's that different from how you want the viewers to see the movie and what they, what they're trying to take out of the movie as well?
Abigail: (00:19:18) Yeah, that's a great question. So there are some things that are the same, like one. For me, it took me many, many years till I wrote an Asian American main character, because I didn't know that an Asian American girl could be the main character. And that was actually true. There was a story I've shared in the industry. 15 years ago, someone had written a story with an Asian American boy character and the publishing industry picked it up. They said, you have to change him to a white character. And she did. She said it was like taking a spoon to her heart, but it's really hard to get a book deal and she did it. And I think she's gone on to subsequently published other books. Um, and this is still happening in Hollywood. Like even as of two years, People, um, were asked to whitewash their characters, Asian American characters, it's actually in someone's contract. Um, and so I think that's the biggest one for the book. Like, yes, you can be the main character of your life. Um, and you have so much to bring to the table, right? I it's one of the rewarding things of being an author is I get to see the quotes that resonate with people. And, uh, one of my favorites that, that people quote is we are powerful and that is something that ever comes to realize at the end, like we are powerful. Um, and I think that's true for the movie too. Like, I, I would love people to see like, you know, Asian Americans, as well as non Asian Americans, like, guess like, this is, this is us. We are human. Um, we are multifaceted and. We are as much a part of the society as, as everyone else.
Bryan: (00:20:37) Yeah. That's a good point. Um, and asked me to talk to my mind that I remember it last time we had a conversation, especially on our Facebook live. So I'm kind of curious when you're writing or the passion is seeds inside your book. Did you talk to your husband about it?
Abigail: (00:20:58) All right. So we need to tell the audience . because you have younger listeners, um, Harper Collins, I think said it was 13 plus, um, I saw some book reviews. I said it was 14 plus and someone told me for Taiwanese Asian Americans. It's 15 plus. So I don't know if I talked to my husband about them. Honestly, he has read the book. He's very supportive. Um, But, you know, I think for me, like those scenes are also just, it's more of the same, like the same theme of like, we are human. We fall in love, get our hearts broken. We make stupid decisions about relationships. We recover and we make better ones afterwards. Right. And so ever make some bad choices. And then she makes some good ones and. All of that is to show like the reality of that. It's real.
Maggie: (00:21:42) I love it. I love those passionate scenes. So do you guys need to pick up a copy and read it? Because I was just feeling so hot
Abigail: (00:21:51) piece of that is, you know, wanting, I mean, I I've sons. I have a husband. I have, my husband has amazing front guy friends, and I did feel like Asian American men in particular were . underrepresented in Hollywood and as main characters. Um, I remember hearing like a bunch of nights, like the guy never kisses the girl on screen. Right? Like, was it Chilean fat? Like he's and he's actually been that last year. He doesn't kiss the girl. Right. And so I think that was part of it too. Like I knew a lot of really, really romantic Asian American boys. And so that's just, again, the reality of our community.
Maggie: (00:22:20) Yeah, absolutely. So Abigail, we know you work extremely hard, you know, writing a book, it really goes down to the degree of the author actually doing their own marketing as well. Right. I think a lot of authors go into writing a book and thinking if they go with a publishing company, if they think that the publishing company will do all the work right. But we know that you did so much work. And we, we had a lot of other people, you know, talk to us about how much work you put into a, you actually went out there and did your own events, did your own shows and your own marketing. And it really does take all that work for, for the book to be so big. I want to know like what your experience was like for that process. Doing all .of that nitty gritty work and doing the marketing yourself. Um, and when do you kind of learned out of that process? Because I don't think a lot of other authors who write a book, they realize how much work goes into it.
Abigail: (00:23:11) Yeah. That's incredible as amounts of work and it takes a community. I could not do it for myself. So when people ask me, like, how did your book hit the New York times list, especially as an Asian American novel? Um, I say that there's three reasons. One is Harper Collins was really behind it. And you know, I, I, I owe that to. Um, you know, the book sold at auction. So we had a bidding war and we were able to get top dollar for it. And for us, the top dollar meant that it was a sign of commitment from the house that they would back this book. Um, and that was actually really important to set it up that way. Um, you know, we definitely hear stories of people whose are ignored by their publishing houses or they fall through the cracks or they're forgotten. And so I think that was really the most important. Stop initially, and then Barnes and noble picked up the book as the young adult book club pick. And that was huge. That was a really huge hit. Um, and that meant that in February, everyone around the country at Bronson Nova was reading love with the Taipei and discussing .that at Barnes and noble. And they had these like, um, uh, Questions that were developed, which I put on my website, which is just my name, Abigail sanguine.com. Um, and they held events and there, they were posting it on all their social media channels and they continue to be super supportive of the book today. Like they're constantly like they're still tagging it. Cause right now the hardback is actually where the paperback is about to launch. It's going to launch on August 24th, so the hardback will phase out. And so they're actually putting it out on their lake sales tables now. Tagging me on their posts. And someone else sent me a photo of my book, connects to Obama's book behind the counter a couple of months ago. Right. And so like, that was incredible real estate, incredible exposure. And I'm so grateful to them for backing the book so strongly. Um, and then the third is the Asian American community and they really came out for this book. You guys came out for this book and really helped to get the word out, like how important it is to have representation. Um, And I was, I was really overwhelmed. So like all these events around the country that I ended up going on, those were . like, like some of them were organized by Harper from an official Harper tour. And then a lot of them were just organized by the Asian American community. And I'm incredibly, incredibly good.
Maggie: (00:25:09) Amazing. Yeah. And we're honored too, because we hosted an event with Asian and got work with Abigail to talk about Lebow, Taipei. So, you know, it, it just goes to show how much work you put into doing your own outreach and, and making sure, you know, the Asian community, um, was able to back this book as well. It's, it's, it's really inspiring.
Bryan: (00:25:27) Yeah, it's definitely very inspiring. I mean, it's a lot, a lot of work. So flowers, CU virus, your team making this happen. And I love the fact that we get the opportunity to interview each time you come up with a new book, you know? So let's quickly talk about book number two. And what was the difference between writing this book and the last book, you know, like what kind of inspiration did you have? Did you have to go travel some more. How do you meet more people to get character development ideas? Did you watch other movies agreed on your books? So you self reflect, what was the process like for you?
Abigail: (00:25:58) Yes. All of the above. So, um, . so as I mentioned, book one, I wrote 26 drafts and then I had to scrap the whole thing. And those 26 straps are actually written from four points of view, plus a little fifth from another character, but it was, it was my main character, Rick, Sophie ever. And I, the problem with that was I couldn't fit it all into one book. It was 120,000 words and it was just too shallow. And so when I scrapped it, I read the whole thing from Everest point of view, first person present. Um, so I had a lot of leftover scenes and I always knew that I wanted to follow the Xavier in particular. He's a fan favorite I've I think there are some people who are angry with the way book one ended and without splitting things, I keep seeing the signs, justice for so-and-so, um, you know, which I love, I do love the debates. Um, but I did want to follow this story because I felt like we didn't get to have the whole thing fit into book one. So book two follows both Xavier and Sophie and they're on the cover of, of it. Um, they, it begins. The talent show at the auction where Sophie is auctioning off Xavier's work. And there's a surprise that happens there. Um, . and then we, then we're at the airport and we're, everyone's saying goodbye to each other at the end of love boat at the end of this program. And then, then there's a new adventure that begins. So Sophia, as I mentioned is sworn off boys. She's trying to, um, be the best, like CS major as she can at Dartmouth and Xavier just wants to get his trust fund. So he actually gets his trust fund. When he turns 18, his mother passed away when he was 12 and set up this trust fund for him. And he's, he's ready to get out from under his father's thumb. It's not about the money for him. It's about freedom, but his father pulls the rug out from him at the last minute. And now he's stuck repeating his senior year of high school. Probably the worst possible thing that could happen to this kid. So from there, Sophie and Xavier basically have to team up to try to take control of their own futures and they go on another journey. They end up, they find themselves on a bubble reunion back to Taiwan during the main festival. So I ended up traveling myself to Taiwan during the new moon festival to do my research and I was able to go, I got a special visa from the government, um, and. I did quarantine for 14 days. I did an interview actually with ABC . seven to talk about what that process was like of just going out there and getting through all of that. Um, but it was really important to be there because I really connected with my characters while I was there. And that was true for book one too. I did, I did an in-person research trip. Um, but I, you know, I, I realized where Xavier lives, I realized that he would go look for his mother's grave. Well, not look for it, but actually go visit his mother's grave. And, and same with Sophie. Like I kind of found the things that I knew she would connect with and I also magically ran into, um, the most important one. Person that she would have met on her particular mission, which I don't want to spoil, but I, I, I randomly ran into them at an event and, uh, did a lot of research around that. So I will talk about it after the book.
Maggie: (00:28:41) Amazing. That's so awesome that, you know, you actually went to Taiwan to find inspiration. I think that's really important for you to actually be in that creative outlet and really immerse yourself in that. Um, for those of, you know, our, our, our audience who doesn't know love hotel pay is actually based on an actual event in Taiwan. Is that . correct? Abigail that's right. Okay. Can you talk a little bit about that? Because before I had read your book, I didn't even know that there was an event in Taiwan. Um, so I want to know a little bit more about that and how likely are the scenes. Um, are how likely are they to happen at the actual event?
Abigail: (00:29:17) Right? Right. So the vote is the nickname for an actual summer program in Taiwan that has been around since the 1960s, parents have been sending their kids there to learn language and culture like Wong, but also in many cases to find a spouse, especially like in the sixties, there was a lot less interracial dating. It was less socially acceptable. And I think parents, it really mattered to like go here and find someone that you could potentially get married to. So that's how it got its nickname love vote. Um, the program is kind of known for a lot of debauchery. Um, a lot of drinking, heavy partying, sneaking out clubbing. And so there are definitely, definitely quintessential stories that have come out of the program over time. So the seeking out clubbing, drinking, the sink, blood soccer, um, taking glamour shots was a thing. And so, so those, those are our kind of set pieces in the novel that ever gets to go .through. Um, and then I, you know, there's also a Korean love vote, and I would hear stories about that program. And so there is like one little, little story from book one that came from. The Korean love boat is actually the girl washing the sheets and the bathroom. Um, um, but you know, I just, and I've heard, heard stories and you go to parties and you'd run into people who been on love and it was kind of the full secret and you'd laugh and you're like, oh my God, you went up a little bit too. And you're kind of embarrassed about it, but also it was really, yeah. Crazy experience that one knew about. And so I think that was probably what I was trying to capture with the swamp. And it's like, oh, we, this is like a different side of Asian Americans that I think you didn't really see. It's like the party Asian-Americans like us, but they're also really high-performing and, and good people.
Maggie: (00:30:44) So yeah, I think that's what makes, what makes it so relatable too. Right. Because if you've been on the, at the event and you find other people who've been at the event as well, it's like an automatic connection there. Yeah.
Abigail: (00:30:56) And the love boat alum are incredible. That's probably why I wanted to write a reunion story because I feel like . I got to have a little bit of a reunion with other little bit alum in my book tour. Like every, every place they went to, all my, my tour, people came out of the woodwork like, oh, it was, I love it too. It's just really, and they're doing incredible things. I think the benefit of going on a program like this, and I hope I capture that benefit in the story for my readers. I think we, that rebellion was actually really important, um, as leadership development. So, you know, especially in the United States, um, in Silicon valley, we look for the disruptors that people are going to just like exactly what Asian hustle network is doing. You know, we disrupt industries and, and I think I'm a boat. That's what we did. We just like, we rebelled against everything in a safe environment and learn like, okay, there are consequences. Sometimes, sometimes it's you shouldn't go too far, but sometimes it's actually okay to. Okay. The roles,
Bryan: (00:31:44) I think right now it's like, we kind of view as a pioneer in this space. Right. Because when you look around the bookstores, you don't see it that much easier orientations stories yet. I think I mostly see your books and we see the creative nutrition books, you know? So it's like, so being one of the . pioneers, what kind of. Setbacks of happy you face being one of the first ones to publish a book like this, you know? And how have you been troubling seeing the blade the road for more other Asian writers to kind of follow your path and have any of that reach out?
Abigail: (00:32:19) Yeah. So I am seeing a lot more Asian American stories coming out now, which is wonderful. They're like they're usually set in the states with an Asian American protagonist. And, you know, as I mentioned, my critique partners are all writing books. So Stacy Lee for example, has, um, five, five books now where she writes, she writes historical Asian American books where the protagonist is. As an Asian American girl in the past. So she has one, that's like the wild west. Um, she actually has one called the downstairs girl that just hit the New York times list is set in Atlanta, Georgia. So during the, the, um, the shootings out there, um, the book, I think picked up some steam and people started to realize like, oh, Hey, this is out there. Um, it got picked up by Reese Witherspoon's book club. So that was really .awesome. And I'm just, I'm so proud of my critique partners and what they're doing. Um, and there are others that are coming through the ranks for sure. Which is incredibly sad. Um, and I think that's really important because again, this, the theme of diversity within our community, like we need many, many voices because we have many, many stories. Um, but it is still hard. And I'm glad you asked, because I think sometimes people look and like, oh, your book is really successful to New York times. You don't need help anymore, but actually, no, it's still hard. Um, book two needs to do well. Um, like you're, you're you, you always want, the books always need to be doing well because that's what the publishing community is looking for. Right? Like, oh, like, are people still interested in this stuff? Is there still a market or was it a fad? Uh, you know, some of the other challenges is like, for example, the New York times, this is about, um, it actually heavily weights, independent bookstores, but it turns out Asian-Americans, don't tend to buy in independent bookstores, but they should, you know, I think we, we all want to support a local community. So I think that's something they just did not say, think about they're they're often on Amazon. Um, so that it makes it harder finish American, but to hit the list. Um, but you know, so why I'd I say to that is . please support your local bookstore, your local independent bookstores and Barnes and noble. Um, and then another aspect that's hard is good reads for example, good reads is a really important engine for driving organic book, um, growth book sales, um, but Asian Americans don't tend to rate, like I would get a lot of direct messages. I loved your book, but then they don't, they're afraid to post on, on, um, online. So then like what you guys are doing is incredibly out there. It's like really vocal is very visible and like, that's, we need more of that. Right. We need more people saying like, kind of putting their stamp of approval on things. Go forth and help. Right. So, um, I think those are just some cultural aspects that don't work with the industry that we have to work through over time.
Maggie: (00:34:43) Absolutely. Thanks so much for sharing that. Um, Abigail, we know that you wrote a third novel as well, and you're working on a fourth novel. Um, on top of that, you are producing a girls in tech animated series. You're just working on a lot of stuff and we're so excited to just learn more about it. . Um, tell us more about it. Tell us more about your third and fourth novel and the animated.
Abigail: (00:35:05) Yeah. So the third novel, um, as much it's not been announced yet, but it is, it's a graphic novel, and it's about intergenerational cognitive differences. Um, I can't say much more about it, but, um, like I mentioned, it's, it should be coming out fall of 2023 and we're looking for an illustrator now. Um, and then I have a new project, a new novel that I'm super excited about. It's um, I get, I can't say a lot about it, but it kind of draws on my background with international relations and. My upbringing being in a very multiracial family in the sense that my dad was from Indonesia. My mom was from the Philippines, my grandparents from China, and then I'm I'm American. Um, so it kind of brings a lot of that together. International relations. It's a, it's kind of a big, high concept story and it's probably going to be like a duology or a trilogy. Um, and that one, I actually just got inspired to write. In may, it's a completely brand new thing and it just poured out of me. Like I'm at a hundred, I don't know, 130 pages now. .Um, and it was kind of an example to me. Like when you have that idea, it really will just kind of go. Um, but, and then I have, I have a short story. That's coming out with Macmillan in January of next year as well. It's called the idiom algorithm. That's about it. Asian American guy in Silicon valley whose girlfriend gets kidnapped and he builds an algorithm to find her. So it's a short and sweet, like 8,000 words. Um, but I I'm excited for that one to come out as well. Um, and then they have other novels that are kind of in the works that haven't been done yet. Then on the film side, that has been really exciting. So I think Luvo Taipei opened up a lot of doors for me in Hollywood, which was not expected at all. Um, I ended up talking with, I, I, I said, I've talked to all of Asian American Hollywood now. It was just, you know, especially I think on the producer side, um, Producers, just reaching out and saying, what else do you have? And at the time I didn't really have anything. Now I have more things in the pipeline. Um, so I started pitching like my critique partners, books. And, . um, so I, not all that's been announced either, but I am. I'm actually developing, um, a new project I've attached a couple. Really exciting producers, um, that are working on it with me. Um, but then the one I can talk about is like the elevate engineer series. So it's an animated series based on a comic book series by Deloitte, um, that's to encourage girls to go into stem and ideas. Like you kind of expose them early on to, um, So basically seeing, seeing themselves on the screen, like girls that are doing techie things, that Alan is an engineer, some of her other friends are, um, robotic roboticists. And, you know, there's a there's, um, boy characters as well. And that one I brought in the university of California, Berkeley. Um, so they're, they're helping to develop kind of the science behind it and the Gina Davis media Institute, which is really focused on like the representation of girls and yeah. So I'm excited about that one. And, you know, I think all these projects are still really early staged and high risk. . So they come with like a level of uncertainty, but it's also really exciting just to be able to work on projects that I feel deeply passionate about. And, and that's kind of become a metric for what I do and how I spend my time. It's like, what do I care about? And what do I want to try to, to really bring forward and bring to the. Of it.
Maggie: (00:38:17) We can't wait for all of these upcoming projects and, oh my gosh, you mentioned the, the boys created an algorithm to find the girl. I really want to read more about that. That's really interesting.
Bryan: (00:38:29) That's exactly how I found Maggie. The boy based on me. No, I'm just kidding.
Maggie: (00:38:35) Awesome. Well, Abigail, we have one last question for you, and that is if you could give one advice to, let's say a young leader, let's say an ever wall. Who's trying to find her calling in life, trying to find her own identity. What would that one advice be
Abigail: (00:38:51) such a great question. And only one that's hard. Right? Um, only what you can give to explore, . give yourself the freedom to explore and imagine yourself in different roles because you don't really know it'll stick. Um, and it's okay if you have. If you don't have the opportunities to explore, like I just saw this really hilarious post on Facebook, where someone is watching the Olympics and she was like every single sport out there. She goes, I have not exposed my children to these different sports. We don't know if they're actually good at them. And now they're going to lose the opportunity to find out they're actually Olympic material. She was completely joking, but it's hilarious. So, but you know, there are a lot of opportunities to find out, you know, what your. Well, you potentially could be interested in those great extracurriculars. I think reading widely, um, can also open your world. I have recommended to most of my friends, this book that I read that was important to me called, um, getting unstuck. And I think it's probably an old book now, but it was written by a guy who was a fellow at Harvard business school. And there was a survey called the a hundred jobs inventory where you check off like jobs. That could be cool. That could be in there, like jobs that I actually wouldn't have thought of doing like fire man, um, and, and other things. And at the end, Yeah, you do . an inventory of your, your interest in your abilities. And that was the first time that I rated myself doing that and it came up creative and that was actually the first time I was like, oh, am I creative? Right. And obviously I'd done this years and years ago, but that was kind of the first spark. And I, I saw, I don't think it could be that survey. It could be other services. I actually find these jobs, surveys and inventories of your interests and skillsets, like to be really interesting because I. Part of being immigrants. I felt like, I didn't know what was available to me, what the job, what the market potential jobs were out there. Um, and so like that was the information I craved and I went after. So, so I, you know, I'll give another example. My kid, uh, my, our son is a musician. He's a composer. And when he was, he's been a composer since he was one years old. And I was like, am I making this up? But because he would have musical preferences and it turned out he, he is actually a composer. And so he's now, um, at the San Francisco, conservatory of music has been one of the youngest composers for years. But I remember asking my friends, like, what do you do with a composer kit? And they told me, you know, expose them widely. . Um, and that there are actually many ways to become a composer. Like you could actually do the business of composing or you could yeah. You know, you can score for a filmmaker or like, or you can make music for video games, right. Or you can do commercials. And so, and, and like, I think that opened up another universe to like, like whatever it is that you're interested in, there are many, many ways to go about pursuing that and it doesn't have to look like the paths you see. Instead if that path is not able to financially support yourself in one path, you can find another path and still be able to pursue it.
Maggie: (00:41:33) Thank you so much for that advice, Abigail.
Bryan: (00:41:35) I fully agree with that. And it's partly the reason why we create a hospital in the first place. If you want to show that there is a lot of different paths to success, it doesn't have to be the traditional power and, and
Abigail: (00:41:47) how I'd love to hear actually how you guys have came upon this, this idea and like, cause you have, it seems to me that you've also found a calling for yourselves. And how did you know and how did you come upon what you do? .
Bryan: (00:42:00) Yeah. Um, I think for us is we love meeting people. We love sharing stories. You'll elaborate people together. And more importantly, we saw a void in arts immediately where, you know, the Asian diaspora is very historically divided on top of that. I feel like most of the Western society makes Asian history or Asian people are highly invisible. So if we are sticking together, how, how are we supposed to make it? You know, so we realized that really. Okay. Why is the, what else do we, something like this? And we decided to take that out into our own hand and creation also, network to show them. We are cool. We are different and there's so many different ways to success. It's just that we haven't heard these options growing up
Maggie: (00:42:48) and there's just so many agents in our community and not agents as well, allies of Asian community who want to share their stories. And it's, I think a lot of what we're trying to do is show to the world. We . haven't been silent. Um, it's just that, uh, before no one was really listening to our stories and, and now we're demanding to be, to be heard or demanding for our voices to be heard. Right. And we just have so much to share with us.
Abigail: (00:43:12) It's incredible what you guys are building, and I'm really grateful and so honored to be able to watch it grow.
Maggie: (00:43:18) Thank you, Abigail. We're so grateful for you to be a part of the community as well. So Abigail, where can our listeners find out more about Lebow? Taipei? When is the paperback coming out and when is the CQL coming out and tell us where we can find it.
Abigail: (00:43:32) Q so I have a website, my name, Abigail penguin.com. Um, the Lebow Taipei is available everywhere. It's on Amazon Barnes and noble target Walmart. It was at Costco's forbid, but, um, Like you can, you can find all the links on my website. I have a newsletter that I'll send out periodically, so you can sign up for the newsletter on my website. And then I'm also on social media. Abigail hangin on Instagram, Twitter, TOK, Facebook, um, LinkedIn, I think I'm everywhere. Um, so you . can find me there as well, but I find that it's less reliable, but really the most direct way is through, um, the newsletter on my website and then love, but reunion. The SQL comes out in January of next year. So actually at the stage. If people can pre-order, that would actually be enormously helpful because it starts as a signal to the publishers that there's there's interest from the community. So pre-ordering again on edit any of these links is preferably independent bookstores, um, but Amazon and Barnes and noble as well.
Maggie: (00:43:18) Amazing. Thank you, Abigail. It was awesome. Just hearing her story today. Thank you so much for being on our part.
Abigail: (00:44:32) Thank you so much for having me.
Bryan: (00:44:33) Thank you so much, Abigail. We appreciate you.
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