Kaitlin Solimine’s debut novel, Empire of Glass, will be published in July by Ig Publishing. This novel explores Solimine’s personal ties to China which were solidified during her time there as a Department of State Fulbright Creative Fellow. In her interview, she discusses how the book came about, the complications of writing about Chinese culture as an American, and her day job.
The Writing Process
Originally, Solimine imagined her book as creative nonfiction. She wanted to tell a specific family’s story, but after doing her research, she felt that while the family was interesting, writing their history as nonfiction did not have enough narrative power. She subsequently made the decision to write it as fiction, a genre that she found more well suited to her lyrical writing voice. She has been working on this book since 2008 and has re-written it about 5 times. She says the final draft is definitely a huge departure from the initial ones.
Who gets to write about what? An American Perspective On China
While writing this book, Solimine was concerned about the complications of writing this as an American and not a Chinese person. She was aware of the fact that she had a responsibility to tell a story with Chinese protagonists while still acknowledging herself as an outsider. To address this, she inserted the character of the translator as an avatar for herself. This way, she simultaneously used the translator as a narrative device as well as a means of depicting her ultimate distance from Chinese culture, despite her deep personal ties to it.
Her Day Job
Finally, Solimine was asked about her day job, as writers almost always have one. Although her day job sometimes “bleeds into the night,” Solimine feels lucky to be the co-founder of Hippo Reads, a network that connects academics and scholars, and also produces content such as thought leadership pieces.
Fun Fact: Solimine first started writing in college for a travel guide called “Let’s Go: China.”