Welcome Y.S. LEE to the blog!!!!:
Y S Lee was born in Singapore and raised in Vancouver and Toronto. In 2004, she completed her PhD in Victorian literature and culture. This research, combined with her time living in London, triggered an idea for a story about a women’s detective agency. The result was the Agency novels.Books:
Ying is also the author of Masculinity and the English Working Class (Routledge). She now lives in Kingston, Ontario with her family. From her website.
I was slow to realize this, mainly because I’m a bit of a coward. I spent a long time doing graduate work, persuading myself that I wanted to be a university professor, or a teacher, or a policy analyst. Once into my PhD, though, I realized I wasn’t really happy as an academic. It was only then that I thought: now or never.
2. Where did the idea for The Agency: A Spy in the House come from?
I spent 6 months living in London, doing research (for my PhD) at the British Library. I really fell in love with the city and knew I wanted to write something about London – and, specifically, Victorian London.
3. What was the hardest part about writing The Agency: A Spy in the House? The easiest?
The hardest part of any book, for me, is the last third of the first draft. It requires so much discipline and it’s SO tempting to abandon it for something fresh and exciting. Starting a book is the easiest and most fun – it’s an explosion of ideas, all of which are possible and require lots of juicy research.
4. Even before reading The Agency: A Spy in the House, I knew that there was a lot of research involved. I also know that you got your PhD work in Victorian literature and culture. Can you tell us why and what you find so fascinating about this time in history?
In 2010, we’re bombarded with messages that our world has never been so modern, so fast-paced, so technologically advanced, or so confusing. Well, the Victorians felt the same way. They developed technologies that changed communications, manufacturing, travel, everything – their world shrank and changed so fast it must have been dizzying. Although we often hear about the C19 as an old-fashioned and distant time, I prefer to think about how close it is to our own age.
5. I love reading about the Victorian! But I’m sure there weren’t any places like the Agency around (right?). So why did you decide on having a place like the Agency?
I wanted to write about a regular girl – someone without a rich family or the connections to help her get ahead. But when I thought about the usual choices for a girl like Mary Quinn (marriage, factory labour, domestic service), it was so depressing. I created the Agency as a deliberately unrealistic antidote to the fate that otherwise overtook poor, clever, Victorian girls. And you know, if an organization like the Agency had existed, it wouldn’t have left a trace anyway. So I think there’s room to live in hope!
6. With so many different types of genres out there to write about, why did you choose YA?
I fell into YA by accident. I originally wrote A Great Stink (the book that became Spy) as an adult historical mystery. My agent’s the one who pointed out that it was actually a coming-of-age story and suggested I revise it as a YA novel. I was startled at first, but quickly realized that she was absolutely right.
7. How many books will be in the Agency? What about after that?
There will be 3 Mary Quinn novels, for sure; there’s a slight possibility of a fourth. And right now I’m researching a stand-alone book set in Southeast Asia during the Second World War.
8. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers? You have to be a reader before you can be a writer. Read as widely and deeply as you can; nothing will be wasted.
9. What comes to your mind when I say:
1. Love –blissful connection
2. James Easton – that smile
3. Music – harmony, tension, resolution
4. London – din, garden squares, stone, grime
5. Writing – best job in the world
6. YA – hope for the future
7. Spy – my debut novel, of course!
10. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you very much for having me here!
You can visit Y.S. Lee: