June 14, 2022

Interview with Sylvia Liu, author of Hana Hsu and the Ghost Crab Nation

Hi friends! I am so excited to welcome Sylvia Liu, the author of Hana Hsu and the Ghost Crab Nation to my blog today! The book comes out in one week (on June 21, 2022), so there's still time to get your pre-orders in and add it to your TBR. I wanted to take this opportunity to interview Sylvia and get to know her a bit more. 

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Sylvia!

*Please note - this post contains affiliate links, from which we may earn a commission (at no additional cost to you) if you make a purchase

About the Book

Perfect for fans of Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee, this thrilling, cinematic sci-fi novel follows Hana Hsu’s mission to save herself—and her friends—from a dangerous plot to control their minds.

Hana Hsu can’t wait to be meshed.

If she can beat out half her classmates at Start-Up, a tech school for the city’s most talented twelve-year-olds, she’ll be meshed to the multiweb through a neural implant like her mom and sister. But the competition is fierce, and when her passion for tinkering with bots gets her mixed up with dangerous junkyard rebels, she knows her future in the program is at risk.

Even scarier, she starts to notice that something’s not right at Start-Up—some of her friends are getting sick, and no matter what she does, her tech never seems to work right. With an ominous warning from her grandmother about being meshed, Hana begins to wonder if getting the implant early is really a good idea.

Desperate to figure out what’s going on, Hana and her friends find themselves spying on one of the most powerful corporations in the country—and the answers about the mystery at Start-Up could be closer to home than Hana’s willing to accept. Will she be able to save her friends—and herself— from a conspiracy that threatens everything she knows?

Q&A with the Author

Science and technology are heavily involved with the story. How much research did you have to do before and during the creation of the book?
When I started writing the story, I had the premise in mind and began to write based on no research. As I delved into the story, researched the state of the science around connecting brains to the Internet (scientists have wired rats’ brains together and Elon Musk is looking into the technology); certain viruses and parasites that play a role in the story; and how gene therapy works. The best part was finding interesting and fun innovations that feel like science fiction, but that are happening now, such as bioluminescent plants.

What came first for you while writing Hana Hsu and the Ghost Crab Nation - the storyline/plot or the characters?
The premise came first, and the rest flowed. In November 2017, I wrote to a friend about an idea I had: “My story is about people who get ‘jacked"’ (neurally enhanced) when they turn thirteen, and they have a year to get ‘conditioned’ (they go to a school where they learn about it, figure out what they want to specialize in, etc). The MC rebels against this system and is drawn towards a rebel group that is more mystical/ medidates/ nature-oriented.” Surprisingly, the book I ended up writing basically follows this premise.

If you could befriend one character in the book, who would it be? Personally, I think I would get along well with Chuck.
I love all my characters, but I have a soft spot for Tomás, who is hard to get to know in part because he struggles with secrets that weigh him down. I also would be good friends with Hana, who loves to work with her hands, loves her family, and wants to save the world. 

A lot of Hana’s actions in the book are influenced by her relationships with her family. How has your family influenced your life and your writing?
I’ve been lucky to have supportive and loving families, from the time I was growing up to my spouse and kids. My Chinese immigrant parents encouraged me to succeed in traditional ways (which led me to become an environmental attorney for a decade), but they never were “Tiger” parents and they fully supported me when I switched to children’s illustration and writing. Without my spouse’s support, I wouldn’t be able to have the time to be an author, and my kids inspire me every day. 

What do you hope readers will take away from the book?
First, I hope readers are entertained by a fun, exciting, and thrilling high-tech story. Second, I hope some of the ideas I include make them think about how they relate to technology and our current society. 

The ghost crab is an important symbol in the story. If you had a spirit animal, something to represent you, what would it be and why?
I’ve learned that it’s not a good practice claim a spirit animal, as that is appropriative of Native American cultures. But an animal I admire is the octopus, because they are so smart, blend in with their environment, and have so many mysteries left to uncover.

If readers enjoy Hana Hsu and the Ghost Crab Nation, what other books would you recommend they read?
Recent middle grade sci-fi I’ve loved are Tiger Honor by Yoon Ha Lee and Last Gamer Standing by Katie Zhao. Exciting, fun middle grade fantasies include Shad Hadid and the Alchemists of Alexandria by George Jreije and Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor by Xiran Jay Zhao. Other immersive middle grade fantasies that have a strong point of view about justice are The Verdigris Pawn by Alysa Wishingrad and The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy by Anne Ursu. 

What does your writing space look like?
I bounce around different parts of the house. My two main writing spaces are the kitchen island and my office which has a bookshelf filled with books by authors I love.

What books are on your to-be-read list right now?
I’m looking forward to these 2022 middle grade sci-fi debuts: Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun by Tolá Okogwu, Molly and the Machine by Erik Slangerup, and Ruby Finley vs. the Interstellar Invasion, by K. Tempest Bradford.
What projects are you working on next?
I’m revising a Chinese myth-inspired fantasy as well as a fun project that is in early development.

About the Author

I'm a children's author and former environmental attorney inspired by oceans, kraken, and cephalopods. I write middle grade novels and picture books.

My works include Hana Hsu and the Ghost Crab Nation (Razorbill, Summer 2022); 
Manatee's Best Friend (Scholastic, 2021); A Morning with Grandpa, illustrated by Christina Forshay (Lee & Low Books 2016); a spidery poem in Thanku: Poems of Gratitude, edited by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Marlena Myles (Lerner Books 2019); art in the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art New Waves 2012 exhibit; and art and infographics in Huffington PostOceana, and World Wildlife Fund.  

​I co-founded Kidlit411, a resource website for children's writer and illustrators.

I grew up in Caracas, Venezuela, went to Yale College and Harvard Law School, and was lucky to do what I loved for over a decade, protecting the oceans at the U.S. Department of Justice and the non-profit group Oceana. Now I'm even luckier, spinning stories for kids. I live in Virginia Beach with my family and a floofy cat. 

I'm represented by Jennifer March Soloway at Andrea Brown Literary Agency. 

Author Photo Credit: K. Woodard Photography
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  1. This book sounds awesome! Thank you for the opportunity with the giveaway!

  2. I read an ARC of this exciting book and loved it, so having a signed finished copy to reread would be amazing and one to treasure. Thank you for the chance!

  3. Looking forward to reading this and sharing with students in my library!

  4. Congrats, Sylvia! This sounds like such an exciting story and the cover is gorgeous! I’m very excited to read it soon!

  5. This book sounds so great! Can’t wait to read it and add it to our school library for the fall!


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