Hullo bookdragons!

Welcome to another post of Who Stokes the Fire where I talk to content creators who keep the flames burning in our bookdragon hearts. THIS FEATURE IS THRIVING I AM IN TEARS.

Last month, I interviewed two of my most favorite authors and now I’m proud to say that I have another guest on the blog who wrote one of my most-anticipated releases of the year! I fell in love with Descendant of the Crane at first sight. It was instalove all the way through, okay??  Its cover + its murder mystery premise really caught this dragon’s attention.

I’m sure the general populace heard my shriek when I got approved for an eARC of DOTC. My screams were also heard across town when I was reading the said book because it destroyed me THAT MUCH. I’m so happy that I had the opportunity to interview the stabby genius who is Joan He because now is her time to explain things and tell us more about Descendant of the Crane! Joan, thank you so much for taking the time to answer the questions of my fuzzy brain. I will forever be a DOTC trash. That’s for sure.


Let’s get this interview started, shall we?


Rain: When I first heard about Descendant of the Crane, I immediately said, “THIS IS A BOOK I WANT TO READ ASAP.” It literally spoke to my soul, so to speak. I’m just curious: what inspired you to write DOTC?

Joan: I watched one too many Chinese dramas with nasty palace harem politics and thought to myself wouldn’t it be nice if we could get the complex plots and sprawling casts without the female characters all trying to one up each other?

Rain: Reading Descendant of the Crane brought so much emotions to my heart and I can’t describe how happy I am to see this Asian-inspired fantasy making its way to the world. Can you tell us more about your publishing journey and a bit about your writing process?

Joan: Others have had longer and harder publishing journeys, but mine wasn’t smooth, to say the least. Though DESCENDANT is my debut book, it’s also my fourth completely drafted manuscript and the third I’d queried. It took me about 2.5 years of constantly slinging stories into the query trenches before I found a literary agent, and almost another 2 years before I sold. Miraculously, the book that my agent signed me on was DESCENDANT, and it was also the book that sold. I say miraculously because more often than not, the book that gets you an agent isn’t the one that sells—not at first. I was pretty lucky in this regard, but those 2 years between signing with my agent and selling was really hard.

Getting DESCENDANT to a publishable state was so hard, in fact, that it changed my writing process. I used to be a pantser (someone who writes by the “seat of their pants” and doesn’t outline ahead) but pantsing a book as complex as DESCENDANT was, as you can guess, a pretty bad idea. Since my subsequent books have been just as twisty—if not twistier—I’m now a fully converted plotter and like to make sure I know where the story will take me before diving in.

Rain: ‎Your book has quite the dynamic ensemble of characters. There are characters I want to hug, support, or stab until the ground turns red with blood. A lot of bookdragons are excited to meet them, I’m sure. Here’s a challenge: can you describe your characters while only using emojis?

Joan: Ohh this will be fun!






These correspond with the 5 character cards. I’ll let you guess who is who 😉

Rain: I love Hesina but I would be lying to myself if I say that Sanjing isn’t my favorite character. He’s definitely someone I would want to spend a lot of time with (I don’t think he’ll like that though). If you were stuck on an island, which of your characters would you like to be with and why?

Joan: If my goal were to get off the island, eventually? Caiyan without a doubt. Caiyan would not allow us to be stuck on that island for long, I assure you! I think Akira, to a similar degree, is also an efficient problem solver and would figure out some creative way to get us off the island, but I think it’d take him a few days to understand the severity of the situation while I’m stressing about being stranded, so that wouldn’t be fun.

Now, if there’s no way off…then anyone but Hesina is cool with me.

Rain: ‎The murder mystery subplot and the legal system in Descendant of the Crane make it stand out among other YA fantasy books. How challenging was it for you to write about these two important plot points?

Joan: The legal system needed a lot of clarification work throughout revisions, simply because it’s at once similar to our own but also foreign. But it was mostly straightforward work—the system is there to support the plot, and I never wanted it to steal the show.

The murder mystery, on the other hand, took a lot of rewriting to perfect. In the earliest draft, Hesina doesn’t even find out who murdered her dad by the end of the book. Spoiler alert: she does now.

Rain: ‎After reading DOTC, I had a huge craving for fantasy books with mystery subplots but I hardly found any. Do you have book recommendations that have these same elements in them?

Joan: I’ve really fallen behind in my reading game, but a 2019 debut does come to mind that’s fantasy with mystery elements, and that’s SPECTACLE by Jodie Lynn Zdrok. Another 2019 debut—or Novel19 as we call them—that has a great mystery at its core and will keep you guessing is WILDER GIRLS by Rory Power. I’ve personally read and loved both, so they come with my (clearly important) stamp of approval!



Rain: ‎I am sure that the debut author experience isn’t all cupcakes and rainbows. What’s the most difficult thing about being a debut author? What’s the best thing about it?

Joan: The best and worst thing is realizing I now have readers! And with readers comes trying to figure out how to manage my relationship with them.

Let me explain. Some authors write purely for the sake of art and don’t care if people read what they write. Some write to spread a message or experience, and yet others write for respect and fame. I write because I love finding people who love the same things as me, and what better way to do that than pour your thoughts and soul onto paper and see which readers connect best? It’s why I got into fanfiction. Those were probably some my happiest writing times, and sometimes I do miss it. Obviously, not every piece of fanfiction is for everyone, but people rarely post negative reviews. Fanfic readers set out to find pieces that they love, and most comments, you’ll see, are purely gushing or striking up discussion about the fandom.

I wrote to find those people. I wrote, fully understanding that people treat “real” books differently and will take the take to elucidate what they didn’t like since not everyone has been inducted as a “fan.” In the last year, I’ve learned to distance myself from negative reviews, a rite of passage every debut author must undergo. I’ve learned to not care, to avoid reading them entirely. But in order to not care about people disliking my book, I’ve also found that I’ve had to care less about people liking my book. I’ve had to care less about what other people think in general, good or positive, because it’s just the way my brain works—it won’t let me put blinders on only one side. As a result of that, I am trying to rediscover why I write. I started out writing for the readers. I still derive a lot of joy from connecting with readers who loved the book. That’s the best part of this journey so far, and I’m trying to keep it that way as I move forward.

Rain: ‎Writing a book with a complex plot must have been very difficult. Do you often experience writer’s block? How do you overcome it?

Joan: I always experience some degree of writer’s block on the line-level writing, and will struggle with things like sentence rhythm/syntax and word choice/diction. I just have to feel my writing in order to believe in the emotions I’m trying to evoke, so that it slows me down considerably and keeps me from drafting things that are super messy.

Overcoming this block usually just means getting my butt in a chair and putting words on the page—sometimes as little as 300 words in an hour. I’m slow! But I’m pretty good about forcing my way through blocks, unless the block is really bad and I suspect it’s bigger than my default-semi-blocked state. Then I’ll take some time off from writing all together and focus on refilling the creative well.

Rain: Let’s imagine that the world is ending and you are on your way to transfer to another planet for survival. If you can only bring three books with you, what books will you pick and why?

Joan: To be honest, I’d probably be pragmatic here and take 3 textbooks with me, on topics that would be most conducive to my survival :’)

Rain: Descendant of the Crane is now on its way to steal all the bookdragon hearts. I’m sure a lot of fire-breathers will be asking you for the survivor’s badge now. What message would you like to give to bookdragons who love and support you and your book?

Joan: I love you guys too!! If you read my answer above then you’ll know that the whole reason I got into writing was to connect with like-minded souls. The fangirl inside me is still well and alive 😊




Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, dreaming of an unremarkable life. But when her beloved father is found dead, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of a surprisingly unstable kingdom. What’s more, Hesina believes that her father was murdered—and that the killer is someone close to her.

Hesina’s court is packed full of dissemblers and deceivers eager to use the king’s death for political gain, each as plausibly guilty as the next. Her advisers would like her to blame the neighboring kingdom of Kendi’a, whose ruler has been mustering for war. Determined to find her father’s actual killer, Hesina does something desperate: she enlists the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by
death, since magic was outlawed centuries ago.

Using the information provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of Yan at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?



17243035 (1)-833617594..jpg

Joan was born and raised in Philadelphia but still will, on occasion, lose her way. At a young age, she received classical instruction in oil painting before discovering that stories were her favorite kind of art. She studied psychology and Chinese history at the University of Pennsylvania and currently writes from a desk overlooking the city waterfront. Descendant of the Crane is her young adult debut.

For updates, please sign up for her newsletter. For business related inquiries, please contact her literary agent, John Cusick of Folio Lit.


Well, are you excited to read Descendant of the Crane? What book will you bring with you when the world is about to end? For writers out there, how do you overcome writer’s block?


  1. Ahhh! I’m loving this series! Joan seems like a super sweet lady and I am wanting to read DotC more and more now, lol.

    As for the bookish question … unlike Joan, I’d be super unpragmatic and bring along a favorite book of mine. Either my Narnia omnibus (haha, me thinking ahead! 😈) or else All the Bright Places because I just reread that and it is complete fabulousness. Or my chem textbook. I really like chemistry. 😉


  2. I loved reading this and finding out about her writing process. And to find out she has wrote 4 manuscripts is amazing!! It really gives me motivation to get writing!! I loved finding out about what made her write too– books are a great way to connect to people and share in this love!!
    I loved Joan’s answer to what books she would take to another planet– that’s really smart. I would take Six of Crows and then have no idea how to survive but at least I would have good books 😂
    And I love that Joan pushes through writers block– I probably listen to music and try to picture a scene vividly or make aesthetic boards because they I get really excited and just write!!
    Great interview 💕 and I can’t wait to read this book. It arrived yesterday and it’s so beautiful!!


    1. YES TO BRINGING SIX OF CROWS. I’m sure it will help you somewhere along the way. Kaz’s scheming skills can be quite handy.

      I’m glad your copy of DOTC is there now! Mine is still on its way. SO GLAD THIS INTERVIEW MOTIVATED YOU TO KEEP WRITING. All the best wishes 😊💕

      Liked by 1 person

      1. So true— I would love to become a great schemer like Kaz (for legal stuff of course 😉 )
        Aw… I hope yours comes soon!! Yay!! Thank you and you!! ❤


  3. i loved reading this interview! joan is such a lovely person. i’ve been hearing a lot about dotc and i’m thinking of buying my own copy soon and read it as soon as my exams are done! if the world were to end i’d probably do like joan and bring some textbooks!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s