Q&A with Elizabeth Lim, Author of Spin the Dawn

“Exploration” can mean so many different things: traipsing to new lands, wandering in one’s own backyard, or digging into family history. For Elizabeth Lim, writing her latest book Spin the Dawn allowed her to explore herself and her childhood as well as her imagination: Spin the Dawn is an audiobook filled with magic, fierce characters, and awe-inspiring settings. We caught up with Elizabeth to discuss other kinds of exploration she’s been thinking about lately.

Tell us a little about Spin the Dawn.
Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping YA fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Was there a character in Spin the Dawn that you found yourself wanting to explore more? Why?
I loved exploring all the characters, but I found myself wanting to explore Lady Sarnai, the emperor’s betrothed, more. She’s such an enigmatic character in Spin the Dawn: wholly unpleasant, bitter, and fierce–but there’s a spark in her that’s only teased at in Book 1, since we only see her at key moments in Maia’s journey. I can’t wait to explore more of her arc in Book 2.

Is there a book or character that you’ve written that helped you explore parts of yourself?
Each book I’ve ever written carries a personal element, but while writing Spin the Dawn, I especially explored my childhood. I basically wrote the fantasy I wanted to read when I was a teen, and incorporated some of my favorite myths and fairy tales, and I drew on many of my own insecurities and ambitions to create the main character, Maia Tamarin.

What audiobook (or voice) would you take with you on vacation?
I’d LOVE an audiobook of Marie Lu’s The Kingdom of Back. I know it isn’t out yet, but I was a very serious musician for 95% of my life, and I know I’d love it.

If you could explore any part of the world, where would you go and why?
My father’s family is from Southeast Asia, and I’ve often gone back to visit but haven’t really explored much. I’d love to do that! I’ve also never been to South America, and would love to visit El Chalten in Patagonia as well as Santiago.

Is there a fictional world you’ve written that you would personally like to explore? Why?
Yes! The main country in Spin the Dawn is A’landi, which is inspired by Ancient China, and I would want to visit and travel the Spice Road in a heartbeat.

Listen to a clip of Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim, read by Kim Mai Guest

Psssst; read a Q&A with Spin the Dawn narrator, Kim Mai Guest!