Jamaica Plain resident Katie Li recently wrote her first book, “Somewhere In Between,” which came out earlier this year. The Gazette conducted a question-and-answer session with her through email about the new book. (The session has been edited.)
The book is available as an e-book, and as a paperback on Amazon and at local indie bookshops, including Papercuts J.P.
What inspired you to write the book?
I’ve always had a difficult time with labels. I’m biracial, and I grew up acutely aware of our culture’s need to categorize identities and experiences. I’ve had to remind myself, sometimes daily, that life isn’t in absolutes, we live in grayscale. With “Somewhere In Between,” I wanted to create a world where two characters could find a sanctuary to be themselves.
Where does the title come from?
“Somewhere In Between” follows two main characters, Rom and Magnolia, during two different periods in their lives—when they are juniors in high school, and shortly after they graduate college. Those were two of the most confusing times in my own life—mostly because I felt pressured for answers that I didn’t have yet. I was trying to capture that listless feeling of the unknown in their emotional state, the mysterious place they hang out in, and the title, too.
Who is your target audience? How would you describe the book?
“Somewhere In Between” is a speculative young adult/new adult crossover story. I think people can enjoy it from all walks of life, but I wrote it for older teen girls and young women—the girls like Magnolia. It’s crucial for us to find characters who look and feel like us as we search for a sense of self in a world that’s sending us mixed messages.
What writers have influenced you and why?
I love it when authors depart from traditional storytelling conventions—perhaps because of my own background as a multidisciplinary artist. Mark Z Danielewski’s book, “House of Leaves,” left a big impact on me when I first read it as a teenager, particularly his use of experimental typography. I’m also fascinated by the surreal, emotional dreamscapes that Haruki Murakami produces in his work. I’m a big anime fan, too.
Are you working on any other projects?
“Somewhere In Between” is the first title from my publishing company, Kung Fu Girl Books. Our mission is to produce “kickass literary media that entertains, empowers and inspires,” including short novels and comics. My next book is about graffiti artists and female friendships. [Editor’s note: For more information, visit kungfugirlbooks.com.]
Where did you grow up?
My family has lived in the same house in West Roxbury for four generations, but I was a busy, adventurous kid. I spent a lot of time at my parents’ martial arts school downtown, or later when I was a student at Boston Arts Academy, I was constantly doing workshops and internships all over the city after school. I really just went home to sleep!