10 Questions with Peng Shepherd

1. Your next novel, “All This and More,” is about a woman who wins a chance to alter every mistake she’s made in her life. What is one thing you would ‘rewrite’ about your life?

There is something I always go back to, and it is this story that my mom, Lin Sue Flood, told me. Right before I was born, my dad worked for an airline called Braniff. He was one of hundreds of pilots throughout the U.S. who were scrambling to find jobs after the airline went out of business. My dad received two job offers, one from Southwest Airlines and one from Singapore Airlines and my parents had to decide if they were going to move to Phoenix or Singapore. They chose Phoenix, which was a wonderful place to grow up, but it would have been so different because it was this thing that was going to happen at the beginning of my life. Everything would have been different from the very first moment, and I daydream about it and often return to this idea.

2. Your passport contains stamps from all over the world. As you return to your hometown of Phoenix on your book tour, what makes it a special place to you?

The food! There is nothing like Mexican food in Phoenix, especially living in New York. I’m always excited to go back home and I demand that we eat Mexican food the whole time I’m there. In addition to the great restaurants, the majority of my family — my mom, stepdad and two of my three brothers — are still there. It is always great to see them and it’s fun because I stay in my childhood bedroom.

3. What do you want readers of “All This and More” to feel during and after they’ve read the novel?

“All This and More” is a book about the choices and sacrifices we all have to make in our lives and that big, timeless, “what if” question. I hope readers think about what they would do if they were faced with endless options like Marsh’s, the main character. While we are not faced with endless options the way Marsh is, there is always something in our modern lives that is newer, bigger, faster or more expensive. I think we all face the question of how you know when to stop seeking something better and learn to live and be happy instead. This is what I hope readers think about and take away from this book.

4. What led you to become an author?

According to my mom, I was reading at an earlier than average age. Every morning, I would wake up and pull all the books off my bookshelf. I would sit in the huge pile of books on the floor, reading them over and over again until she came to get me dressed and fed me breakfast. There was always something magical about opening this little thing with a whole new world in there. From an early age, I wanted to be a part of that, and it occurred to me that if these books were there for me to read, that meant somebody was making them. I wanted to be that person making them for other people.

5. What is something our readers may not know about the process of writing a novel?

They may not know that writing a book is a process of discovery rather than a plan. It might be surprising to learn that a lot of authors, especially when writing the first draft, don’t necessarily know where the story is going. I like this because if you try to plan it out and exert too much control over it, you can end up with something that feels like you’ve crushed the life out of it. If you are brave enough as a writer to follow your own book down the rabbit hole, you have a chance of having more authentic characters or a truer story because you’re letting humanity and imperfection in.

6. You trained in classical ballet, have a master of fine arts in creative writing from New York University and are an award-winning author. Can you describe how the arts have influenced your life?

Both dance and writing have taught me to always be curious and try to see the story in everything. Nothing is random. There’s always a story behind something or someone, and it has helped me stay curious, keep an open mind and to keep learning if I don’t understand something.

7. What inspires you personally and professionally?

I love meeting people who are passionate and almost obsessed about something. It’s such a joy to learn, especially if it’s something that I don’t know anything about or is obscure. I find it fascinating when you meet someone who lives and breathes that thing. It’s my favorite thing to figure out what weird thing you’re into. I want to hear everything about it. Tell me the story!

8. What causes are important to you? Why?

The first thing that comes to mind is libraries because they’re essential. They are the hub of many communities. In addition to books, they provide access to technology, host free classes and provide safe spaces for people to study or a place where kids can go after school. I know there are places where budgets are being cut and hours are trimmed. We must keep our libraries because they are so important.

Arts education in schools, including visual and music arts, gives kids a chance to experience different things to see what they are passionate about. If you’re able to have these experiences at a young age, everything opens up.

9. What destinations are on your travel bucket list?

I am very excited to go to Uzbekistan next year. The trip is related to research for my next book, but I’ve wanted to go there for a long time because there’s so much history. I think it’s easy if you’re American to be fascinated with old stuff because our country is so young.

The next big trip that I want to take is an “oldest daughter trip” to Taiwan with my 88-year-old grandmother and my mom. My grandma is the oldest daughter, my mother is the oldest daughter of her generation, and I am the oldest daughter of mine. My grandma was raised in Taiwan and my mom was born and lived there until she came to the U.S. when she was 4. So the three girls will hopefully go back home to Taiwan.

10. Have you begun working on your next book? Is there anything you can share about it?

I am about halfway through the first draft of my next book and in the process of discovery and figuring out exactly who the characters are and what’s going to happen. The story follows body doubles who have been secretly hired to impersonate a very powerful, rich person and how their lives become increasingly intertwined and dangerous as everything unravels.

Peng Shepherd launches “All This and More” at The Poisoned Pen Bookstore on July 9. To learn more, visit booklaunchparty.com.

About Frontdoors Media

Frontdoors Media celebrates the people and groups who give generously and work to build the future of our community. It’s the premier source of information – and inspiration – for those who strive to make the Valley of the Sun a better place to live.
More in: News

From Frontdoors Magazine

Back to Top