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Beyond The Bio: Justina Chen

Welcome to another awesome #BeyondTheBio interview here at PickMyYA! These weekly interview series features YA authors chatting with teen readers, and we’re so excited to have two very special guests with us today.

Our first guest this week is award-winning author Justina Chen, whose newest book Lovely, Dark, and Deep came out last year. Her previous titles have included Nothing But The Truth (And A Few White Lies) and North Of Beautiful. She’s also one of the founders of readergirlz, a cutting-edge social media project for teens. When Justina’s not writing, she’s working for a communications firm up in Seattle.

And our second guest is Vanessa. Vanessa’s a high school freshman who loves Martial Arts and the color pink. Her favorite book of all time is Divergent by Veronica Roth, and she’s so excited to be interviewing Justina today.

Alright, let's get to the interview! And don't forget to stick around to the end to find out how you can win a copy of Lovely, Dark, and Deep, host a future #BeyondTheBio interview, or both!


Vanessa: Hello, Justina! Your book Lovely, Dark, and Deep is incredible. I especially love the strong female lead. Can you tell our readers what they can expect from your book?

Justina: Hi, Vanessa! Thank you for reading it! First, I hope readers will laugh and cry! But more than that, I hope they enjoy all the fun tidbits I loved including—from the Perseids meteor shower, bake sales, sci fi, and crisis management. And most of all, I hope they learn that there can be joy even in the midst of the deepest of despair.

Vanessa: How did you decide on the name Lovely, Dark, and Deep?

Justina: I based the title on a line in a Robert Frost poem: Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening. The end of the poem reads: “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.” that phrase—lovely, dark, and deep”--seemed perfect for a girl who becomes allergic to the sun and is all but imprisoned inside her home, trapped in the dark. Wait: trapped? Think again.

Vanessa: There are a lot of diseases in the world. Why did you choose photosensitivity?

Justina: This book is a love letter to my best friend in the world…who has lupus. One of the side effects is severe photosensitivity. Even when she has to stay inside for months at a time, she lives with such immense joy. It’s astonishing and inspiring.

Vanessa: There’s this moment when Viola and Josh first meet. They’re at a bake sale, and Viola starts to get dizzy. Then she says, "You can't take the sky from me.” What do those words mean to you?

Justina: “You can’t take the sky from me” is just about my favorite lyric from the theme song for my all-time favorite sci fi series, Firefly. Seriously: if you haven’t watched Firefly, you are missing out. In fact, what are you doing after this interview? Go watch Firefly!

Vanessa: Later in the book, Josh and Viola go three weeks without talking. The whole time, Viola was just waiting to receive a text message from Josh. If you were in that situation, would you wait for him to text or would you just send him a text message first?

Justina: This is the most fun question! I would like to think that I would have waited the guy out, playing it oh, so cool. However. The reality is I would have broken down and sent a text, mostly to give myself closure: “Hey, it was really fun knowing you, but I’m moving on.” If a guy doesn’t text you for 3 weeks, then most likely, he’s not your guy. It’s fishing season for you. So enjoy the big huge ocean of other possibilities.

Vanessa: In a lot of ways, your book is about finding your confidence and learning to feel good about yourself. What music do you listen to when you need a confidence boost?

Justina: It’s either Lady Gaga or Pink or Hillsong United.

Vanessa: Your book was so eye-opening. It made me realize how blessed I am, but also it made me want to help others. Do you have any other books coming out soon?

Justina: I’m working on my next YA novel, writing whenever I can.


That’s it for today’s interview with Justina. If you'd like to win a copy of Lovely, Dark, and Deep for yourself, just click on the image below to go to giveaway page. The contest is open to anyone living in the United States, but we'll give you a free extra entry if you're a teen.

Speaking of teens, if you're a book-loving teen like Vanessa, we'd love to have you host an upcoming #BeyondTheBio interview. It's an easy and fun chance to interview your favorite YA authors, and we'll guide you through every step of the process. Click here to learn more!

See you next week when we'll be chatting with Victoria Lee, whose upcoming book The Fever King was named one of our most anticipated books of 2019!

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