what is your name?
Y S Lee. The “Y” stands for Ying.
how would you describe what you do?
I’m in the extraordinarily privileged position of making up stuff for a living. I’m uncomfortable with the term “artist” and approach writing as a craft – though this itself might be a form of reverse-posturing. Sometimes I’m suspicious of my own suspicions.
A novel, THE TRAITOR & THE TUNNEL. It’s the third in my YA series, THE AGENCY, about a women’s detective agency in Victorian London. Think Charlie’s Angels meets Sherlock Holmes.
what has had the greatest influence on your work?
When I finished my PhD in Victorian literature and culture in 2004, the prospect of an academic job made me profoundly unhappy. I loved writing my dissertation – the research, the spark of following an unexpected thread, the thrill of a new realization – but I didn’t want to be a professor. However, I didn’t want to stop thinking and writing about the nineteenth century. So I was motivated by my scholarly background both to flee the academy and to embrace my interests. I’m still a bit shocked to find that it worked out (so far).
what is the greatest misconception about you or your work?
I don’t think I’ve been around long enough to inspire misconceptions. Unless it’s that I would make a good spy. I really wouldn’t.
what do you see as the main strengths and weaknesses of the medium you work in?
I’m completely besotted with language, so tend to see its strengths – rhythm and cadence, endless malleability, the visual beauty of many words. Weaknesses? It’s easy to be lazy with words, rather than to stretch for something more apt. And sometimes I use internal rhyme to the point of parody – but that’s why you edit, right?
how has technology impacted upon the work you do?
I grew up with computers, so write only on my laptop. I don’t think I could write much beyond a point-form list with only pen and paper. I’m not an early adopter, otherwise – only started social networking recently, and still feel very ambivalent about it.
what’s the greatest piece of advice you would like to pass on?
You have to be a reader before you can be a writer. Read as widely and as deeply as you possibly can. The rest will sort itself out.
where can we find you online?
I update my site, www.yslee.com, weekly (usually on Thursdays).
what are you reading at the moment?
Just finished Lisa Mantchev’s EYES LIKE STARS and am looking forward to Anthony Burgess’s Malayan trilogy, which starts with TIME FOR A TIGER. I’m also snacking on Zadie Smith’s CHANGING MY MIND.
what are you listening to at the moment?
Rufus Wainwright, Florence & the Machine, Elbow, Brahms.
anything else we should know?
The first Agency novel, A SPY IN THE HOUSE, is published this week [Paul: March 9 is the official date] in North America by Candlewick Press. You can download the first chapter from my publisher, here: http://www.candlewick.com/cat.asp?browse=Title&mode=book&isbn=0763640670&pix=n. You can read a different excerpt at my website, here: http://yslee.com/a-spy-in-the-house/excerpt/.