Welcome A.Y. Chan! – Author Interview

We Need Diverse MG

It is my extreme pleasure to welcome A.Y.Chan today and learn about her book the Legendary Mo Seto! I have to say, the second I saw this book I was drawn to it. Who doesn’t love an action packed middle grade book with themes of courage and friendship. Plus, taekwondo!

All about A.Y. Chan

For those who aren’t familiar with A.Y., she grew up in Canada’s Greater Toronto Area reading all the middle grade and young adult books she could get her hands on. To this day, those remain her favorite genres. After achieving her black belt in Taekwondo, she explored other martial arts, such as Wing Chun, Hapkido, and Muay Thai. These days, she continues her martial arts training some mornings, writes in the afternoons, takes long walks to muddle out plot points, and falls asleep reading.

 

How did you come up with the title for your book?

Best Book Titles | The Blog | The Novelry

Coming up with the title was a complete challenge! I went through so many iterations, but nothing felt quite right. Let me give you a peek behind the curtain at some of the contenders: “Master Mo,” “Lights, Cameras, Attack!,” “Flicks and High Kicks,” and “Taekwon-Mo!” The one that got away was “The Art of Being Small.” I used it during submissions and adored it, but my publisher pointed out it didn’t scream “middle grade.” And they were right. After several more rounds of brainstorming, my editor threw “The Legendary Mo Seto” into the ring, and everyone loved it. And just like that, we had our title!

What was the hardest scene to write and why?

The hardest scene to write was a tie between the first scene and the Legend of the Three Sisters. I must have rewritten each of these scenes a million times!

Young acrobats inject energy into ...

The first scene was like trying to nail a perfect backflip on a tightrope. It had to hook the reader while giving them the scoop on Mo—who she is, what she wants, and what her challenges are. The beginning of a story is critical, and there are entire books and workshops just for those first pages. No pressure, right?

Then there’s the Legend of the Three Sisters. This one needed to be epic, like a real Chinese legend, but also had to weave the whole story together. It had to be thrilling, mysterious, and seamlessly threaded throughout the book. I think the next time I attempt to create an ancient legend from scratch, I’ll set aside a few months just for that!

 

Do you love or hate Kata’s?

Oh, it’s a total love-hate rollercoaster! On one hand, they demand discipline, precision, and tons of

The Shotokan Katas – Karate-Do Sanchinpractice—challenging and often frustrating. But on the other hand, when done right, they’re absolutely beautiful to watch and perform, plus they teach valuable lessons about focus and technique.

Now, because I have a memory like a sieve, I’m not the biggest fan of poomsae, which are the taekwondo equivalent to katas. Every single step must be perfectly sharp and precise, which I can never seem to get juuust right. But when others do it? It’s mesmerizing. So, yeah, I’ll cheer from the sidelines!

What’s your favorite Taekwondo maneuver? What is Mo’s?

training - roundhouse kick (left stance ...

My favorite taekwondo maneuver is the spinning hook kick. There’s something so exhilarating about its power, elegance, and speed—like a tornado! As for Mo, she’s all about the roundhouse kick. It’s lightning-fast, versatile, and she’s mastered it to perfection. Plus, it’s the best move to score a quick point in a sparring match. Her second favorite would definitely be a jumping kick—any jumping kick—for the extra height advantage it gives her 😉.

 

Celebrate that which Makes You Unique

One thing I love about your book is that Mo learns to celebrate that which makes her unique. I feel like this may be an important lesson for lots of your readers. Do you feel it was an important lesson for you?

Absolutely! Growing up, I always saw myself as a sensitive, introverted kid who shied away from anything uncomfortable—public speaking? No thanks! Meeting new people? Yikes! Even now, I sometimes feel the pressure to be more “this” or “that.”

Tips to Help Kids Embrace Their ...

Society often rewards extroverts—the outgoing, outspoken, and gregarious types. I tried to fit into that mold for years, but it was like wearing shoes two sizes too small. Then I read QUIET by Susan Cain and other books and articles that celebrated introverts. I realized it’s okay to be quiet; that perhaps it’s simply that my preferences and strengths lie in the written word, not the spoken. That’s when I truly embraced who I am and decided to become a writer…though I never anticipated just how much stepping outside my comfort zone would be involved in promoting a book!

Can you tell us what you learned from your first Taekwondo competition?

UTRGV student earns silver ...

For my first (and only) taekwondo competition, I had to choose between poomsae (forms) and sparring. I chose sparring. We were grouped by age and belt level, not size. I progressed well, defeating my competition, until I reached the finals and faced a boy bigger than me. I was intimidated and lost, going home with a second-place trophy and a bruised ego. Unfortunately, that experience made me not want to compete again.

Looking back, I wish I could tell my younger self to keep going, to keep training, and come back next year for the win. That’s what I wanted to convey in my story: getting knocked down is part of the journey, but persistence, determination, and grit lead to success.

Do you believe authors are born or taught?

I’d say it’s a mix. Some folks are born with a wild imagination and a knack for storytelling, but becoming an author takes practice—kind of like taekwondo, minus the bruises (that is, if you don’t count a bruised ego!)

Born or made? — Revive Your Work

You need to hone your skills, learn the craft, and keep writing, even when your story feels like a mess. Did I mention to keep writing? Seriously, that’s the secret sauce. Never stop, never give up, keep improving, keep learning. Write like your keyboard is on fire and the only way to quell the flames is to pound the keys with everything you’ve got!

 

What’s your favorite under appreciated novel?

I’m not sure if it’s underappreciated, but my favorite novel is THE BLUE CASTLE by L.M. Montgomery, the creator of “Anne of Green Gables.” While most people are all about Anne, they’re missing out on Valancy, the fabulous heroine of THE BLUE CASTLE.

This book is like a warm hug on a chilly day, filled with stunning scenery and L.M.’s signature poetic language. Plus, it’s romantic enough to leave you swooning. So, if you need a little extra charm in your life, give this a go!

The Power of Words - Jack Hayford ...

What was an early experience that taught you words have power?

It probably goes back to when I became obsessed with reading. Picture a super restless kid who couldn’t sit still for more than a minute (hence my love for martial arts!). But with books? It was like I was under a spell. I could sit for hours, lost in those rows upon rows of small, black-inked text. That’s when I realized how powerful words could be—they transported me to fantastic new worlds which made me dream bigger, feel deeper, and imagine endless possibilities. And that’s when I knew I wanted to wield that kind of magic with my own writing.

Book recommendations! Can you tell us what book you’re currently reading, books that inspire you.

Thorn (Dauntless Path Book 1)

Talking about books is my favorite topic! Right now, I’m deep into THORN by Intisar Khanani, and it’s an absolute thrill. Next on deck, I’ve got LIA PARK AND THE MISSING JEWEL by Jenna Yoon, and I can’t wait to crack it open.

Lia Park and the Missing Jewel: Lia Park

Books that inspire me are too many to name! I adore the fun, cheeky voice of fellow Canadian Gordon Korman’s books, the bright cheer of Kelly Yang, and the dreamy, poetic language of L.M. Montgomery.

Books featuring martial arts or Asian characters or culture… Again, too many to list! Grace Lin’s beautiful storytelling and focus on Chinese legends are awe-inspiring, along with Axie Oh’s dreamy tales, Sue Lynn Tan’s majestic worldbuilding, R.F. Kuang’s poignant narratives, Frances Cha’s haunting societal insights, and David Yoon’s sharp wordplay—these authors are just a sprinkling of those I’ve adored. Honestly, there really are too many to count, and I wish I could list them all here!

Legends of the Condor HeroesAs for books featuring martial arts culture, the only books that come to mind are classic translated Chinese Wuxia stories like THE CONDOR HEROES trilogy by Jin Yong. And if you’re looking for

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo

something more current, F.C. Yee’s hilarious YA book THE EPIC CRUSH OF GENIE LO dabbles with martial arts, though it’s not the main focus. I guess what this means is that we absolutley need more books in this genre!

 

You can keep up with A.Y. Chan here.
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K.D. Garcia
Author
A veterinarian and an author, K.D. is passionate about animals and story-telling. As far as story is concerned, she particularly loves stories that include ghosts, vampires, and anything that goes bump in the night. When not pounding out stories, she spends her time with her usually wonderful children, mostly well-behaved dogs, and her absolutely devious cats. She’s grateful for a very tolerant husband.

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