Celebrated Author Kailin Gow Discusses New Novel Turned Film ‘Loving Summer’
Author Kailin Gow actually began writing at age 9 when she wrote a fantasy book about a squirrel knight. But that was put aside, and she became a professional author shortly after 9/11 when she thought the world was ending, and she knew she wanted to write one book because she didn’t want to have any regrets in life.
Learn more about Gow as she dives into her history as writer, her love for the written word, and what she has in store for fans with future projects!
Tell us about your history as an author. How did you start your journey?
Because I wanted to send a message of hope to the kids watching the devastation that was going on, I wrote the Gifted Girls book series, had a traditional publisher who would publish it, but since it would take at least a year to publish it, I started my own publishing house instead. The Gifted Girls book series were published one month after 9/11. The series became a bestseller, selling thousands of books within a month to schools, libraries, and clubs.
It was recommended by the U.S. Mental Health Association as well as Kids television channels. While still working as an Executive for Fortune 50 companies, as well as a producer and television writer; I continued writing more books as well as publishing other authors’ books. Our books were one of the first books that were on Amazon digital, before the Kindle. When the Kindle came out, many of our books were published digitally.
Bitter Frost Series, PULSE Vampires Series, Wordwick Games, and Phantom Diaries were some of the first series made available digitally. In 2012, I sold over a million books worldwide. Many of my books were number one bestsellers in Asia where I had translations in Korean, Chinese, and Japanese.
Today, I have over 680 books published under my name and pen names in all genres from YA, fantasy, romance, science fiction, mystery, thriller, to non-fiction. With over 14 million books sold, I was also featured along with Neil Gaiman and Nicholas Sparks as a successful author in terms of IP value or worth back in 2017.
I also just found out that I am in the Who’s Who as the most prolific Asian American author, which is quite an honor. It has been a long 20 years since I started in 2001 as a professional author, yet I’m still learning and loving every minute of it. Especially how I am able to connect with people through stories.
Who were your biggest literary inspirations growing up?
I am inspired by Jane Austen for her keen sense of characters and situations. She is one of the first women to write romantic comedy, and one of the first to create the arrogant bad boy romantic lead which is popular in romances today. I am inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien for his epic fantasies.
There’s a bit of Tolkien in all my fantasies, especially the Bitter Frost Series where kingdoms and different creatures are in an epic war. As far as Jane Austen, I’m extremely blessed and excited to be writing and directing Pride and Prejudice, but re-imagined with an API and diverse cast, and as I think Jane Austen would have wanted it.
My fascination with her stems from when I first visited England and went to Bath, where I visited her home. As a fellow women writer, who wasn’t openly encouraged to write romance books, I could relate to Jane Austen. I think I can bring a different perspective to Pride and Prejudice, which is true to its source yet also enlightening.
Your book Loving Summer is currently being turned into a feature film. How closely does the film follow the source material?
Loving Summer is very close to the book since I wrote the script and is directing the film. However, the characters will be older, which makes more sense. This book and film touches upon topics that are more mature such as growing up, mental health, family issues, first love, and even death. It’s more than just a beach romance book, but delves deep into the complexity of the main characters and their relationships growing up.
The books start off being YA but grows with the characters into college and beyond. It is perfect for a book club book and even has book club questions at the back of Loving Summer. As far as Loving Summer becoming a film? I am beyond excited about Loving Summer’s story finally being told through the beautiful and enduring film medium.
The story of an unforgettable love and bond between Summer and the Donovan family, as well as the family and personal struggles they face are relatable yet still global. Mental illness as well as the dissolvement and building up of family are especially relevant in today’s global social climate.
People of all ages, especially young adults can relate to Loving Summer Series and its spin-offs because the issues brought up in the book series are ones many families are or have experienced. With Loving Summer, I hope its positive message will be able to help those facing some of these issues.
How much input do you like to have on adaptations of your work?
Of course I like to have quite a bit of input in order to be true to the book. However, I’ve seen others’ adaptations of my books, and they’ve done wonders bringing out more of the stories. I love collaborations and as a filmmaker as well, I understand how to work the delicate balance between being too precious with the source material as well as letting it all go. The ultimate goal is to have the best work out there.
Your books have been credited with raising the profile of Asian Americans in terms of authentic depiction. How important has this element been to your writing?
Portraying an authentic experience void of cultural stereotypes is important to de-emphasize differences. In this climate of ‘Asian Hate’ in America, it’s the responsibility of entertainment and media leadership to have authentic portrayals of Asian Americans to de-escalate the “those” people and Asian Americans as always “foreigners” stereotypes.
APIs are a large social, economic, and cultural base in America, where many purchasing consumers as well as essential products are from APIs, yet APIs are still under-represented on screen, in the media, in books, ads, magazines, and leadership. If they are portrayed in books and on-screen, even from American book publishers and producers; they are still portrayed stereotypically as Asians in mythical ancient folklore or they are simply casting API actors into books or films originally written with a Caucasian character as lead and is from a Caucasian author.
Portraying APIs authentically in America is to take works written by APIs about APIs in America as first, second, or even third generation Americans who are relatable to everyone. That begins with taking written works of Asian Americans and adapting them to screen.
Because of this, I am working with Hollywood and Asia in an initiative to bring more authentically-told API stories written by APIs to the screen. My own novels, featuring API leads in non-stereotypical roles are being adapted such as Married in Malibu, Love Letters from Las Vegas, Chinatown Christmas, Sweetest Season, Bubble Tea Book Club, and Ramen Romance.
You will serve as the narrator of the upcoming show Golden Girl. Can you tell us what that experience has been like, given the show’s autobiographical nature?
Golden Girl is autobiographical but still fiction. Narrating Golden Girl is fun since I play myself, but in the present. There is some humor in this which is also tongue-in-cheek. Golden Girl is like Wonder Years and also Never Have I Ever so it is a bit nostalgic as well.
Do you feel it’s important to write a story that you have a personal connection with?
Yes because it gives the story a deeper connection. You know where the story is coming from, and you feel the author’s voice. For me, I try to bring a part of me, a personal connection into every book. It’s a part of authentic storytelling since it comes from actual experiences although the story itself can be fiction.
You’ve worked in YA science fiction and more grounded, autobiographical work. Is one genre or style of writing easier for you than the other?
I must admit that writing fiction versus non-fiction is a lot more fun for me. It’s also escapism for me and a way for me to let go. Fantasy, romance, science fiction, and suspense are my favorite genres to write because it allows me to be more creative. I’ve also ventured into exploring exploratory genres, which haven’t been labeled as a genre, under a couple of pen names to see what readers would like to read and are actually wanting to read.
I’ve heard other authors tell authors to “stay in your lane” but I’ve been writing as an author for over 20 years, and I think it’s alright to venture into different genres because authors should treat their work as art. You want to push yourself to be more creative. Because I’m a filmmaker, as well as an author, I do approach writing this way which is why all my books have twists and turns.
Authors are often the harshest judge of their work. Have you gone back and read any of your early books? If so, how has your style changed?
Yes, they are! I have gone back to read my earlier books and I am glad to say that my earlier books portrayed a freshness to them versus a more seasoned work, and I think my voice back then did sound a little younger. But that’s just me being subjective and knowing that I was younger then.
When it comes to film, you’ve worked as an actress, writer, director and producer. Which role do you enjoy most and why?
It’s hard to say since every role is crucial to the film. I studied filmmaking in college back when filmmakers learned every role. To me, a lot of it goes hand-in-hand. My favorite filmmakers are film auteurs like Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan, and Gus Van Sant. I am also an avid enthusiast of old Hollywood filmmakers such as Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, and John Huston.
I am also influenced by the storytelling of Television’s Golden Era auteur Rod Serling. Having grown up near Hollywood where our family’s restaurant/diner was used in a few films, my elementary teacher’s husband was a filmmaker, film scouts came to our school looking for actors; being part of Hollywood was normal. I love all the roles from actress, writer, director and producer because they all fit together to tell the story.
You’ve had success in multiple mediums (literature, film, TV, podcasts). Is there a medium you’d like to venture into that you haven’t yet?
A couple of my books were made into games, which I would love to see more of, especially since the books lend themselves to a wide possibility in world-building. I was working on creating live escape room games from my books in some key locations before the Pandemic happened so you may see some of that in the future.
My cousin is also a roller coaster designer who has worked on Nintendo Universal so that would be amazing to see Bitter Frost, Red Genesis (which involves a spaceship and star wars-like fighting), or even FADE which has Fast N’ Furious racing, become roller coaster or simulated roller coaster rides.
I have a lot of projects coming up. I’m thrilled that Red Genesis, which I co-wrote with Kira G. has been optioned by a Netflix production team. FADE has also been optioned by the same team. These two book series are being developed into NFTs as well by the same agency developing Stan Lee’s NFTs.
Bitter Frost Series is currently filming and NFTs are being developed for this series right now as well. Loving Summer is filming. My romantic comedy novels, Sweetest Season and Chinatown Christmas are in the script, and I will be starring in it as well.
I also have a few reality television series in development which I am hosting and even starring in such as Inn-herited, about a hotel I inherited and is fixing up, but am finding out it is pretty haunted. On that same note, my upcoming YA fantasy series, The Last Lodge on Earth, is based on this hotel but in a fantasy way. All of these projects start off as books of course so readers can read it first, deep dive into it, before they see it.
What’s your mission as an author? Name the most important thing you want viewers to experience when watching your projects.
As an author, I want to be a positive influence on people and the world. I want people to know that within darkness, there is light, and that no matter what current state you are in, there is always hope. Like my characters who are sometimes in a dark place, they find they have the strength to climb out of it. It may not be easy, but it can be done, and that at the end, you might find love as well as hope. Red Genesis and the Bitter Frost Series really embodies this.
Advice for aspiring authors
Write what you love. Don’t get discouraged by naysayers. Currently there is a lot of competition out there, but there are also a lot of readers who will resonate with your story or you. There is so much to learn and the industry keeps changing, so it’s important to keep up with what people are reading as well.
Favorite book of all time
It’ll have to be a toss up between Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. They are what inspired me to become an author in romance as well as fantasy.