Today, we are so pleased to be hosting the first stop on the official blog tour for The Walled City by Ryan Graudin — a thrilling story based on a REAL walled city, and the crime that thrived there. The book is a fantastic read, made all the more compelling when you learn that it’s based on something that really existed.
We talk to Ryan about the real-life inspiration and more in our exclusive Q&A below. Then keep reading for more about The Walled City and your chance to win a copy of the book & other cool prizes!
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THE WALLED CITY is set in this very dangerous labyrinth, where teens are forced to run drugs or sell themselves into prostitution. Tell us about the real-life Walled City that inspired your book’s setting?
The Kowloon Walled City was a neighborhood in 1980s Hong Kong that housed over 33,000 people in its 6.5 acre borders. The buildings were so thickly stacked that the sunlight couldn’t reach the streets. The passageways through the city were a labyrinth of tunnels. There was always water leaking down the building’s walls since there was no proper drainage. Conflicts between Britain and China ensured that police had no jurisdiction there, so anyone who wanted to do anything illegal flocked to the Kowloon Walled City. Dentists who were licensed to practice in China but couldn’t work in Hong Kong set up shop there. Dozens of manufacturers set up factories there to escape taxation and quality control. The place was crammed with noodle-makers, steel factories, seafood restaurants…. Anything and everything. The Triad maintained a large presence there, which accounted for much of the drugs and brothels.
What came first: the Walled City, or the characters?
The Walled City came first! I learned about it back in 2011 when I met a woman named Jackie Pullinger, who worked in the Kowloon Walled City for over twenty years before it was torn down in the early 90s. As I listened to her talk about the neighborhood I was amazed that such a place existed, much less that I’d never heard of it before! I went home and fell into a rabbit-hole of research: watching documentaries about the city, reading biographies of people who lived there. The more I found out the more I wanted to know. As I researched I started to imagine the different people who lived there, and the stories they might tell. Thus Jin Ling, Mei Yee and Dai all came into being.
You’ve done lots of traveling. Did you travel at all to the Kowloon Walled City Park, or to Hong Kong, while writing THE WALLED CITY? Have any other real-world locations inspired this book?
Traveling is one of my passions, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to do a good deal of it. My husband and I did go to Hong Kong and visit the Kowloon Walled City Park in January (it was at the very tail end of the book writing process). The park was so fascinating! They have a museum there dedicated to teaching visitors about the former lawless neighborhood. They also have some of the original cannons and the remains of the Old South Gate (both of which make an appearance in the novel).
Other travels helped inspire this novel as well. In 2007 I spent six weeks living and working in the slums of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Meeting the children there and seeing what they did to survive had a huge influence on Jin Ling’s storyline. I probably would never even have had the courage to attempt Mei Yee’s brothel storyline if I hadn’t spent several weeks in El Alto, Bolivia with my sister-in-law, who works with a non-profit that provides women in the red light district with health classes, child care and the opportunity to leave prostitution through microbusinesses. Setting the book in Asia was also a very daunting task, which I probably wouldn’t have tried to tackle if I hadn’t lived in South Korea for a year. (Chinese culture and Korean culture are, of course, very different, but spending time in Korea gave me the courage I needed to research Chinese culture thoroughly.)
You have a lot of very cinematic music on the playlist for THE WALLED CITY on your website. Do you listen to music while you write? While you brainstorm? How does music influence your writing?
Music is a must for me. I almost never write without it. (It’s been that way for me as long as I can remember. I used to do all my homework with my headphones on.) I create different playlists for each of my novels. The songs I pick usually reflect the mood of the novel in some way, as listening to them helps put me in the mood I’m trying to create on the page. For THE WALLED CITY I actually created three separate playlists, one for each character.
A lot of Jin Ling’s songs were frantic and fast, suited to her chase scenes and choppy voice. (“Mombasa” by Hans Zimmer from the Inception Soundtrack, “Love is Gonna Save Us” by Benny Benassi, “Kodo – Inside the Sun Remix” by Yoshida Brothers.) Mei Yee’s tracks were much slower. Soft and full of longing. (“Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by Emily Browning, “Any Other Name” by Thomas Newman.) Dai’s songs were a little more lyrical and desperate. (“Some Nights” by Fun. , “Pompeii” by Bastille, “Idioteque” by Radiohead.) Other albums, like Zack Hemsey’s The Way, held an overarching feel for the story and made it onto all three characters’ playlists!
THE WALLED CITY has three rules: run fast, trust no one, and always carry your knife. What would you say are “the three rules” of being a writer?
Don’t give up. Don’t be afraid of what people think. Get Macfreedom and use it mercilessly when you’re procrastinating on the Internet.
Must-have writing snack?
Does black coffee count as a snack?
Favorite Disney movie?
The beach or the mountains?
Beach. I’m fortunate enough to live a short drive from one.
Song that can always get you dancing?
Gangnam Style by Psy. Or really any K-Pop.
Favorite Halloween candy?
Starbucks beverage of choice?
Grande, non-fat, no water dirty Chai latte.
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There are three rules in the Walled City: Run fast. Trust no one. Always carry your knife. Right now, my life depends completely on the first. Run, run, run.
Jin, Mei Yee, and Dai all live in the Walled City, a lawless labyrinth run by crime lords and overrun by street gangs. Teens there run drugs or work in brothels—or, like Jin, hide under the radar. But when Dai offers Jin a chance to find her lost sister, Mei Yee, she begins a breathtaking race against the clock to escape the Walled City itself.
Ryan Graudin grew up in Charleston and graduated from the College of Charleston with a degree in Creative Writing in 2009. She is the author of All That Glows and The Walled City. She resides near Charleston with her husband and wolf-dog. You can find her online at http://www.ryangraudin.com.
Her work is represented by Josh Adams of Adams Literary.
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(1) Grand prize pack: It includes: A finished copy of THE WALLED CITY, rice candy, a miniature lucky cat, a traditional Chinese paper cutout of a dragon, and a pamphlet from the real Walled City Park! US ONLY
(9) winners will receive: A finished copy of THE WALLED CITY. US ONLY.
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Blog Tour Schedule
- 10/27/2014- Novel Novice- Interview
- 10/28/2014- Seeing Double In Neverland- Review
- 10/29/2014- Reading YA Rocks- Guest Post
- 10/30/2014- The O.W.L.- Review
- 10/31/2014- Parajunkee- Interview