Atom Yang on Red Envelope ~ Interview

Prism Book Alliance® would like to thank Atom Yang for stopping by today.


Title: Red Envelope
Author: Atom Yang
Publisher: MLR Press
Cover Artist: Kris Jacen
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction, Gay, Gay Fiction, Humor/Comedy, M/M Romance, Other Holiday, Romance, Winter Holiday


About Red Envelope:

The Lunar New Year is the biggest holiday in the Chinese calendar, a time for family reunions, and for saying goodbye to the past and hello to the future.

Clint, however, doesn’t want to bid farewell to what happened after last year’s celebration, when he and his Cousin Maggie’s handsome Caucasian friend, Weaver, shared an unexpected but long-desired passionate encounter.

East is East and West is West, and Weaver seems to want to keep it that way, but maybe Clint can bridge that great divide this coming New Year, and show Weaver what it means to be loved and accepted.


We are here today to talk about your debut story, Red Envelope. What can you tell us about it?

“Red Envelope” is a story close to my heart, and arose from both a personal experience and MLR’s openness to a winter holiday tale that wasn’t about Christmas, Channukah, or the other usual holidays we associate with winter. It’s set during the Lunar New Year (commonly known as “Chinese New Year,” but really, other cultures celebrate it, too), which usually occurs in February of the solar calendar. The story is about two men, one Asian and one Western, who fall in love, get separated, and how their family and friends bring them back together.

Tell us more about our main characters?

Clint is Asian American and named after Clint Eastwood—his grandfather loved the TV show Rawhide and wanted his grandson to have a very American, very cowboy name. He has a great relationship with his family, but has to learn to trust in those bonds and their acceptance of him.

Weaver is a European American (Caucasian) and I named him after the weaver girl from the classic Chinese myth of star-crossed lovers that my story is based on, The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl. (Do you see where the “cowherd” gets translated to a “cowboy”?) Weaver has a difficult relationship with his family, and as a kid, he spends most of his time with Clint’s cousin, Maggie, and kind of grows up Chinese!

Maggie is Clint’s favorite cousin and Weaver’s best friend. She’s fierce and loyal, a love child of Clint’s aunt and uncle, and plays a key role in getting Clint and Weaver together.

What about Red Envelope makes you the proudest?

That’s an interesting question! I would say that writing “Red Envelope” out of love makes me the proudest. I hadn’t written any prose fiction for about ten years, and then last year, I fell in love, moved to be with my partner, and for the first time in my life, I felt truly loved, supported, and safe. So it makes me proud that I wrote “Red Envelope” out of feeling that I can trust the world again, and believe in a happy-ever-after for myself.

As a new author, if you could give one piece of advice to aspiring writers, what would it be?

I’m going to assume an aspiring writer is writing, so I won’t say, “keep writing” if all I have is one piece of advice to give—what I will say is, and this is supremely important: Keep improving.

Feedback can be hard to take, and for aspiring writers, they can feel tender, fragile, or even arrogant about their writing. However, it’s important to keep improving—take a class, find a trusted friend who can be honest, submit your work and pay attention to what the editor might write back (if they reject or accept your work). The point of art and creation is not to show off how bad or perfect you are—it’s about process and growth. Readers and your future self will thank you for, and notice, how you strive for excellence.

Tell us the story behind your pen name.

Names mean a lot to me, and my characters will always have names that mean something. For my own pen name, I wanted something that combined East and West, and also didn’t have religious connotations. I picked Atom for several reasons, the main two being: the Greek etymology (it means “indivisible” and I appreciate the strength in that); the manga character “Mighty Atom” whom we mostly know as “Astro Boy” in the English-speaking world (he’s a robot, a Pinocchio with chutzpah, based on an old East Asian fairytale about a boy who was born from a giant peach and commits acts of bravery and heroism). I picked “Yang” because it is the masculine energy side of the yin-yang symbol, and it means that plus “sun.” Funny thing is, some people told me the name didn’t sound “real,” but I’ve found several guys on the Internet with that name, and had to find some creative workarounds when it came to claiming handles on certain social media!

If you could have coffee/tea (your favorite beverage) with any 5 authors in history, who would it be and why?

I would have oolong or pu-erh tea, and I’d have it with:

Madeleine L’Engle: She wrote one of my all-time favorite books, A Wrinkle in Time, and I love her philosophy.

Alan Moore: His run on the comic book, Saga of the Swamp Thing, is why I’m a writer. He sees what others don’t see, and creates a beautiful story around this insight.

Haruki Murakami: Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World blew my mind—he’s considered one of the best novelists, and his prose completely envelopes me.

Nora Ephron: I didn’t read her books, but I’m a huge fan of her screenwriting. She sees the comedy in romance, which for me, is seeing the comedy in being alive. There’s heartbreak and pain, too, but we have similar coping styles! Laugh at tragedy.

Stephen King: I wanted to say Jane Austen, because she was so astute in her observations of relationships, class, and society in general—romance as a genre owes a huge debt to her. However, I opted for Stephen King because I admire his work ethic and his storytelling, and his relationship with his wife and family.

What are you reading right now and what is next on your to-be-read list?

I read several books at a time, and my reading list is super long (and I never know what I’m going to read next, because I want to read all of them, so when I start a new book, it’s based on whatever I feel like reading in that moment). Right now, I’m reading Why Straight Women Love Gay Romance, The Night Circus, and several others by very talented friends I’ve made since joining the MM/gay romance community. I’m a slow reader (getting better) and it takes me forever to finish books, especially when I’m working on my own projects!

Rapid Fire Time

  • Love Story or Thriller? Love story.
  • Vanilla or Chocolate? Vanilla.
  • Underwear and socks: folded in the drawer or tossed? Folded.
  • Music or TV/Movies? TV/Movies.
  • Electronica or Jazz? Jazz.
  • Coke or Pepsi? Coke Slurpee.
  • Fire or Ice? Fire to look at, Ice to live in.
  • Salty or Sugary? Sugary, although I don’t like either. I prefer spicy (heat).


What are you working on? What is next?

I have five projects I’m working on, and I’m pushing my own boundaries to write novel-length books. Given deadlines, etc., I may put out a novella first—I’m submitting one that takes place during a natural disaster, and I hope that gets accepted.

Other than that one looming on the horizon, I’m writing a poly erotica story about witches, a historical romance involving vampires in the Wild West, and a contemporary romance focused on food. I’m having a blast and only wish I had more time and energy to write more and faster!

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About the Author

atomyangFBAtom was born to Chinese immigrant parents who thought it’d be a hoot to raise him as an immigrant, too–so he grew up estranged in a familiar land, which gives him an interesting perspective. He’s named after a Japanese manga (comic book) character his father loved, in case you were wondering.

October 14, 2015: Wednesday Walkabout

November 2, 2015: Jeff & Will’s Big Gay Fiction Podcast

November 23, 2015: A Gaysian Romance from Atom Yang on Apopolis

December 2, 2015: MY Guest: Atom Yang on author N.J. Nielsen’s blog

December 3, 2015: How I Came to Write Romance on Speaking of China

December 4, 2015: Recent Release Spotlight on Prism Book Alliance

December 5, 2015: Guest Author: Atom Yang on Nic Starr’s blog

Farewell Giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

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