Q & A

What inspired you to become a writer?
Ever since second grade, I’ve wanted to be a writer. In fact, I wrote my first 50-page novel about two teenager when I was eight. It's either frightening or foreshadowing that I was writing Young Adult books even before I could ride a bike.

What are your favorite recent reads?
I love all the books featured on my online book community, readergirlz, which I manage with my fantabulous author-buddies: Martha Brockenbrough (Things that Make Us SIC), Dia Calhoun (Avielle), Holly Cupala (Tell Me A Secret), Liz Gallagher (The Opposite of Invisible), Lorie Ann Grover (On Pointe), Micol Ostow (So Punk Rock), Melissa Walker (Violet series). 

Are you working on a new book?
You bet! I'm hard at work on my next novel, RETURN TO ME.  And I have another contemporary YA novel in the works along with a 3-book fantasy series.

How do I get in touch with you?The best way is through email at justina (dot) chen at live (dot) com.

Do you accept speaking engagements?I love speaking at schools, colleges, libraries, and conferences. Give me a shout at justina (dot) chen at live (dot) com.

What is your favorite quote?
The quote that keeps me most motivated to take a risk is one by Jack Kerouac: “The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…”  I love this quote so much that one of my characters uses it in GIRL OVERBOARD.

What are your favorite non-profit organizations?
My all-time favorite right now is Youth Venture. The group inspires and invests in teams of young people to create and launch their own sustainable, community-benefiting Ventures. Along with Burton Snowboards, Youth Venture co-sponsored the Go Overboard Challenge Grant with me to fund the best youth-led ideas to change the world.

Why did you write North of Beautiful?To tell you the truth, I was sick of our society glamorizing a really narrow definition of beauty:  blonde, size 00.  You know. A chance comment from an acquaintance whose son has a port wine stain completely inspired the book. When I was lauding her parenting because he's such a confident, cool kid, she stopped me and said, "That's because he's a boy..."  There it was, my next novel.  What if a girl had a birthmark on her face? Could I tackle the notion of real beauty--true glorious beauty--with this character?

Why did you write Girl Overboard?Frankly, I was concerned about the glamorization of uber-wealth, and thought it would be interesting to write the dark side of the rags-to-richest story. I wanted to show that life isn't necessarily better just because your back account is filled with a lot of zeros to the left of the decimal point.

Why did you write Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies)?
A couple of years ago, I took my kids to the Children’s Museum. A group of few teens hung-twung-wung’ed us (you know, mocked us with pseudo-Chinese). That night, my character, Patty Ho, started giving a soliloquy about what it feels like not to fit in either at home with her ultra-strict Taiwanese mom or at her high school. Her observations were so wry, I started to laugh, which probably accounts for why the other runners on my path veered out of my way (or not).