Ask the Author: Pintip Dunn
What would you like readers to know about you?
I am a Thai American who grew up in a small town in Kansas. From there, I went on to graduate from Harvard with an A.B. in English Literature and received my J.D. from Yale Law School. I’m a NYT bestselling author of YA fiction, and I write in a range of genres, from science fiction to contemporary thrillers to rom coms. My #ownvoices Thai YA rom com, DATING MAKES PERFECT, is my eighth book!
I’m obsessed with penguins, and my childhood dream was to marry someone whose last name is “Gwynn” — so that my name could be “Pin Gwynn.” Alas, I got stuck with Dunn instead, but my husband and three children are worth the sacrifice.
What is your book about for those who haven’t read it?
DATING MAKES PERFECT is an #ownvoices YA rom com, featuring a nearly all Thai-American cast, with heart-warming family dynamics, fake dating, and an enemies-to-lovers romance.
Winnie and her twin sisters have never been allowed to date in high school. However, six months after her sisters get to college, their parents ask, “How come you’re not engaged yet?” The sisters are outraged, as romance is not a switch you can turn on and off. They declare that they won’t marry for at least thirty years, not until they’ve had lots of practice dating.
Realizing that their strict rules have backfired, the parents now decide that their youngest daughter, Winnie, must date in high school in order to practice necessary relationship skills. However, her parents will not only design the dates (basing them on classic rom coms), but they will also choose the boy she will date. Their first candidate? The son of their long-time family friends, Mat Songsomboon.
Mat is as gorgeous as he is infuriating. The only problem is… he just happens to be Winnie’s sworn enemy.
What has been your inspiration for writing it?
I’ve had so many conversations with other Thai Americans and Asian Americans, whose parents seemed to change their minds in an instant about their children not dating and settling down. One moment, the parents wanted their children to focus on their studies, and the next, all the parents asked about were relationship statuses and grandbabies. That magic moment might happen during college or grad school or a first job, but all these instances were characterized by an abrupt and sudden switch.
I thought it would be fun to turn this phenomenon on its head. What if the parents realized that their stringent rules about dating backfired? What if they had to completely backtrack and require their youngest to date in high school, in order to get relationship practice? What if they had no experience dating in America and had to rely on classic rom coms to draw inspiration for the fake dates?
Presto. Dating Makes Perfect was born.
What was your favorite scene or part of your book to write?
Oh my goodness, there are so many! I loved writing any scene with the sisters, and I loved writing the text message exchanges between Mat and Winnie. I also loved the first kiss and near-kisses. If I had to pick one favorite scene, however, it would have to be the first chapter, when the sisters are wrapping egg rolls with their mother. Not only does this scene remind me so much of my own childhood, but the characters really came to life for me during this scene.
What books or authors inspired you to become a writer?
I’ve wanted to be an author nearly all of my life. I know this because I distinctly remember my first-grade teacher asking us, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I immediately answered, “An author.”
My response might be surprising because I didn’t even speak English until I started school. (Thai was my first language, and the only phrase my parents taught me to say before starting pre-school was, “Can I use the bathroom?”) I didn’t speak much those first few years, since I was worried that the other kids would make fun of my pronunciation (which they totally did). I escaped by losing myself in fictional worlds. Even at that young age, the only thing I wanted to do was to create such imaginary worlds for others.
I suppose the book that inspired me the most was LITTLE WOMEN, by Louisa May Alcott. I was so infuriated with the ending that I took it upon myself to re-write it, so that Jo ended up with Laurie. This was perhaps my first venture into creative writing.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors who want to write a book?
Know who you are. Understand, at a very deep level, why you want to write. Over the years, before and after I was published, I wasted so much time doubting myself. “Am I good enough?” was a constant refrain. “Should I put my time and energy into something else?” was another favorite. And then one day, I realized that writing wasn’t something I did. It is who I am. My passion for writing is just as much a part of me as my Thai heritage; it is as central to my identity as being a mother. I can no sooner change my burning desire to write than I can change the color of my skin. This revelation put many of my doubts to rest.
Publishing is a rough, rough road, riddled with nasty bumps of insecurity and ugly potholes of rejection. I’ve been able to travel it only because of a very steady sense of who I am and why I write.
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