Daughter of Xanadu is a rather unique YA historical. Where did you get the idea for the setting and story?
Dori: I wanted to write a story about Marco Polo because I can relate to him. He went to China and then wrote about it for readers back home; that’s what I did as a foreign correspondent. Once I read his book, I realized that he visited China at a time when it was ruled by the Mongols, as part of the Mongol Empire. I knew a lot about China, but I had to start from scratch learning about the Mongols and Mongolia. Once I started reading about their unique culture and history, I got hooked!
What kind of research did you do? Did you visit any of the real places in the book?
Dori: I read lots of books, including an intriguing one called The Secret History of the Mongols. Then I visited Mongolia, where I rode camels, stayed in a ger (yurt), and explored the Gobi Desert; that was super-fun and gave me a good idea about Mongolian customs. I also visited the ruins of Xanadu and the Khan’s capital of Khanbalik, now known as Beijing, as well as the city of Da-li in southwestern China, which was described by Marco Polo. I felt like an explorer myself, touching history. Like Indiana Jones Yang!
What do you hope readers will learn from Emmajin's story?
Dori: My main hope is that readers will find it a fun, fascinating story. But I also hope they’ll watch the way Emmajin’s view of the foreigner Marco changes over time, and how her understanding of her own culture deepens as she learns to see it through the eyes of a foreigner. Maybe next time my readers talk to a foreigner, they will also try to see the world from their foreign friend’s perspective.
If you could go back in time for a day (with guaranteed safety!) what place and time would you like to visit?
Dori: Oh, Xanadu, for sure, in the days of Khubilai Khan! I’d love to be a fly on the wall when Marco Polo first met him. I would observe their clothing, food, gestures, habits, gardens, and palaces, and they’d I’d fly safely home and write it all down! Maybe I should have done that before Daughter of Xanadu was published . . .
What are some of your own favorite books and authors?
Dori: I love historical fiction and novels about China, by such authors as Lisa See, Amy Tan, Margaret George, Tracy Chevalier, and Susan Vreeland. I also love historical novels that tell stories through the less well-known perspective of women, such as The Red Tent, The Mists of Avalon, and many of the books by Philippa Gregory, such as The Other Boleyn Girl.
Can you tell us anything about your next book?
Dori: Well, I’ve already figured out what happens next in the story of Emmajin and Marco. Do you think enough readers would be interested for a sequel?
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Dori: I’d like to add a message to you and the many other bloggers out there who read and review books online: How cool is that! In an age when ‘pundits’ want to tell us books are dying, you are proving otherwise – avidly reading books (even before they’re published!) and using the Internet to form a vibrant community of book lovers. Book reviews are no longer the sole privilege of a tiny elite. Kudos to you!
Also, please come visit me at http://www.dorijonesyang.com/.
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