Chloe Gong published her first book, “These Violent Delights,” when she was just 21 years old. The book quickly became a New York Times Bestseller. Now, just three years later, Gong has rocketed to immense popularity; her “Secret Shanghai” series has blown up in the world of YA, and her adult trilogy “Flesh and False Gods” is well on its way to the same success. Having achieved so much before even turning 25, Gong is incredibly inspiring to me and to the young audience of writers, her historical fiction has captured. Her story is one that so many people hope to someday be theirs. And Gong believes it can be. All it takes is a willingness to write.
Gong started writing when she was a kid, telling herself stories after she had run out of books to read. But she didn’t start out thinking she would be an author. Editing seemed like too much work, an audience seemed too foreign, and publishing seemed too surreal. When reflecting on her early projects, she explained, “I always called them stories, not novels.” No matter how long they were, no matter how interesting the plot, she thought her writing was just narratives she told herself and that she would never see them printed out or sitting on a bookshelf. It wasn’t until she was in college, finding a new space for herself and a way to make her world her own, that Gong started to consider sending her work out for publication. And the literary world is so lucky that she did.
Gong describes the traps that writers can get stuck in as thinking they aren’t serious authors until they’ve been published by a certain company or have won a certain award. “Getting published means nothing more than sharing your stories with people,” she explains. “Each [connection with a reader] is as important as anything else.” Now that she’s had more experience being an author, Gong has come to realize that these connections with her audience are one of her favorite parts of being a writer and her favorite part of being a published one.
Not all of Gong’s experiences have been as fun. After all, she entered the industry as a teenager and most of her career so far developed when she was still in college. It’s intimidating being so young and so new to a world that’s already notoriously competitive. Gong describes herself as a toddler in the industry and says, “You’ll always doubt yourself because you haven’t lived much of life yet.” She then reassures both me and herself that this doubt is something you can and will get over. “Everyone goes at their own speed anyway. I felt as though I was ready to share my work at this stage in life.” She smiled adding, “This is what I’m here for. My age doesn’t really matter as much as what I’m producing.”
As someone who spent most of the day feeling like a liar when I started conversations saying, “I’m a reporter” when I was obviously still in high school, Gong’s last point really stuck. No one is ever too young or too old to have a passion and no one is ever too young or too old to do what they love. Chloe Gong is an author. I am a journalist. And you are whatever you and your creations want you to be. No matter how old you are.