Setting the Scene: Love and Other Moods by, Crystal Z. Lee

I am so excited today to have author Crystal Z. Lee joining us on Books, Tea, Healthy Me as she sets the scene for her first novel, Love and Other Moods. This interview is SO much fun. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. When you are done reading here, be sure to pop over to Instagram and enter the giveaway where you can win a prize pack based on the book!

Love and Other Moods
by Crystal Z. Lee
Release Date: December 10th 2020
Genre: Adult, Coming of Age

Love and Other Moods is a coming-of-age story set in contemporary China, about falling in love, learning to adult, finding strength, and discovering one’s place in the world.

Naomi Kita-Fan uproots her life from New York to China when her fiancé’s company transfers him to Shanghai. After a disastrous turn of events, Naomi finds herself with no job, no boyfriend, and nowhere to live in a foreign country.

Amidst the backdrop of Shanghai welcoming millions of workers and visitors to the 2010 World Expo, we meet a tapestry of characters through Naomi: Joss Kong, a Shanghai socialite who leads an enviable life, but must harbor the secrets of her husband, Tay Kai Tang. Logan Hayden, a womanizing restaurateur looking for love in all the wrong places. Pan Jinsung and Ouyang Zhangjie, a silver-aged couple struggling with adapting to the ever-changing faces of their city. Dante Ouyang, who had just returned to China after spending years overseas, must choose between being filial and being in love. All their dreams and aspirations interweave within the sprawling web of Shanghai.

This multilayered novel explores a kaleidoscope of shifting relationships——familial friction, amorous entanglements, volatile friendships——in one of the most dynamic metropolises of the twenty-first century.

Goodreads | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Bookdepository | B&N | Google Books

Crystal Z. Lee is a Taiwanese American bilingual writer. She has called many places home, including Taipei, New York, Shanghai, and the San Francisco Bay Area. She was formerly a public relations executive who had worked with brands in the fashion, beauty, technology, and automotive industries. ‘Love and Other Moods’ is her first novel.

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And now, Crystal Z. Lee sets the scene of Love and Other Moods for us…

Love and Other Moods is based in Shanghai, a city you had once lived and worked at. What’s your favorite thing about Shanghai?

I love that Shanghai is a city of contrasts. You can see its history and modernity coexisting everywhere in that metropolis. There are ancient temples right alongside skyscrapers, traditional food stalls outside of fancy restaurants. It’s a city that attracts people from every walk of life, from all corners of the globe. 

A favorite scene you enjoyed writing?

Chinese New Year is probably the most significant holiday in the Chinese-speaking world. In Love and Other Moods, there is a whole chapter that takes place in Nanjing and Shanghai during Chinese New Year, where some major developments happen to the characters. I relished writing this scene, and not just because it’s full of drama. I also enjoyed sharing all the cultural details of this holiday!

Were the romantic relationships in the book based on people you had known in Shanghai?

Somewhat. Almost every character or situation was inspired by something that had happened in real-life. For example, I had known people in China whose family were opposed to them dating a Japanese person because of what had happened during World War Two. I knew some Joss and Tay types, where the second generation was loosely connected to the government in some capacity yet decided to date outside of their circle. I also knew many Logans in China—western men who had moved to Shanghai and treated the city as their personal playground. Although many foreigners have left China recently ahead of the pandemic, there is still a sizable expatriate contingent in Shanghai. Many of my friends are still there, and have married or are dating somebody from China.

There are many, many delicious Chinese dishes mentioned in your novel. Do you have a favorite?

In Love and Other Moods, one of the characters is a magazine food editor, one is a restaurant and bar owner, and one cooks as a hobby. Naturally there are many gourmet meal scenes in the book! Here is a sampling of some of the dishes that appear in the novel: Shanghainese truffle-flavored xiao long bao dumplings, Chongqing style liangfen spicy noodles, glutinous zongzi rice stuffed in bamboo leaves, lotus root pork bone broth, sticky niangao rice, Taiwanese oyster pancake, Peking duck and hairy crab. My favorite would be xiao long bao dumplings!

In your book, you have one chapter entirely in correspondence form. What was your thinking behind that?

I think letters, whether in e-mail or handwritten form, can reveal so much about our character. I also think it’s very romantic. There is just something so intimate about waiting in anticipation for that letter from someone you love.

There are many cities and locations outside of China mentioned in Love and Other Moods. What are some of them, and do you have a favorite city?

The majority of the settings in my novel is in Shanghai. However my characters also travel to a wide range of destinations. Here are some of them:

– Albrecht statue in Vienna

– Osaka Castle in Japan

– Paphos in Cyprus

– Houhai Lake in Beijing

– Broken Bridge in Hangzhou

– Legion of Honor in San Francisco

– Shifen and Pingxi in Taiwan

– East Village in New York

– Yebisu Garden Place in Tokyo, Japan

My favorite cities in the world besides Shanghai: Taipei, Venice, Singapore.

Which films do you think readers of Love and Other Moods would enjoy?

I’ve been told by some of my readers that the mood of my book evokes the following titles: The Farewell meets Lost In Translation meets Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong. Another reader said it was like an Asian version of Emily In Paris and The Devil Wears Prada, but set in Shanghai. I’m grateful for these comparisons because I’m a fan of all of these visual stories, especially the film Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong.

What would be the playlist for Love and Other Moods?

In Love and Other Moods, there are numerous references to songs or musicians that set the tone of the story. Here are some of them:

 – “Plastic Love” by Japanese singer Mariya Takeuchi

– “Memory Loss” by Malaysian musician Fish Leong

– “A Waltz For a Night” by French-American singer and actress Julie Delpy

– “Windows to the City” by Taiwanese singer Angela Chang

– “Flooded” by Hong Kong singer Jacky Cheung

– “Shanghai Nights” by Chinese singer Zhou Xuan

– “City of Heartbreak ‘n Horror” album by Beijing band Rustic

– “Rhapsody in Blue” by George Gershwin

– “City of Blinding Lights” by U2

What are some books set in China that you would recommend?

Here are some fiction and non-fiction books set in China that I had enjoyed!

Remembering Shanghai by Isabel Sun Chao and Claire Chao
– Spa Girl by Virginia Gray
Shanghai Style by Lynn Pan
South China Morning Blues by Ray Hecht
Foreign Babes in Beijing by Rachel DeWoskin
Bury What We Cannot Take by Kirsten Chen
Above sea: Contemporary art, urban culture, and the fashioning of global Shanghai by Jenny Lin

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