Excerpts from the interview:

‘‘In 2001, I turned 30, 9/11 happened, and I got laid off from my job within a 30-day period, and I may have had a slight existential crisis. Las Vegas suffered very badly in the Post-9/11 economic crash, because it’s all airplanes, so there was no tourist trade. I wound up being put on half-time, then laid off. There were no temp jobs, so I was on unemployment, and it was driving me crazy. I had been working 10 to 12 hours a day at my job, trying to get to the gym, and trying to have a relationship with my then-husband. I wouldn’t say I had abandoned writing, but it was definitely on the shelf. Then suddenly I found myself with all of this free time, and carrying this emotional wound. I grew up in the northeast, and I spent a lot of time in New York, so I was having a hard time dealing with 9/11 emotionally. There’s only so much TV you can watch. So I started writing again.

‘‘At that time, some of my friends (who were somewhat worried about me) sent me links to what was then the Del Rey Online Writing Workshop – which is now just the Online Writing Workshop, and which (in one of those weird ironies) now employs me as an editor! We all just kind of glommed onto each other, and hauled each other up by our bootstraps.

‘‘I have this reputation of being an extremely fast writer, and I’m not. When I think of a fast writer, I think of Catherynne Valente, who can literally sit down and write a novel in two weeks. I can’t do that. I did once, after a four-day cross-country drive where I had nothing to do but think, write a short novel in about a month. Though it wasn’t the cleanest first draft I’ve ever written, all I wound up doing with that was changing one of the characters’ points of view from first-person to third-person. You can plot a short novel in four days, if all you have to do is stare at Nebraska.

‘‘For the next three years, I basically had hypergraphia. There was one year where I wrote almost three-quarters of a million words, writing 10-12 hours a day. (I had lost a job, so that time and energy needed to go somewhere!) In college, I did a stint as a journalist, and you get trained to produce the words, but I think my best day ever was 7,000 words – and that was a 20-hour day! I love it when I can get in the zone and just sit down and type a story, and then go back and read it and say, ‘Wow, this came out of my head?’ Lately that happens less and less often. I seem to be in a place in my professional development where everything is much more work. I’m pleased with the quality, but the process is very much up in my head, all very conscious.”

‘‘I have heard from a number of friends, of Asian and African descent, about how frustrating it is to see how focused Western fantasy is on the history of medieval Europe. With Range of Ghosts, I wanted to write a book for them and their kids, that would in some way honor their heritage. There are obviously issues of cultural appropriation, which is one of the reasons I wanted to make it very plain that this is not real history: it’s not my history to play in. But I also think it’s necessary for us as a genre to be more aware of the world outside of fake-medieval Germany and fake-medieval England.

‘‘One of my best friends is a direct male-line descendent of Genghis Khan. She has the documentation to prove it. I got fascinated by the way Genghis Khan is portrayed, as opposed to the way Alexander the Great is portrayed. They both won! In Mongolia, Genghis Khan is a culture hero, still to this day. The stuff that he accomplished, on a technological level and on a social level, is astounding. The Mongol Empire had bankruptcy laws. The third time you declared bankruptcy, they executed you, but that might not be a bad thing for us – it might solve some of our Wall Street problems.”

‘‘While there are more than two categories of story, obviously, there are two broad, general categories that talk about experience: insider stories and outsider stories. The easiest way for me to talk about this is via a five-year-old movie, Brokeback Mountain. I grew up in a queer family, so this is part of my zeitgeist. There was a lot of resistance to Brokeback Mountain in the queer community, because at the end of the movie one of the two lovers dies, making it a tragic love story. And the gay community is really sick of, ‘You can only be gay if you’re dead.’ The thing is, it’s a story about two gay men that was written by a white heterosexual woman and directed by an Asian heterosexual man. It takes this sort of quintessentially gay experience of being closeted and passionately, desperately in love with somebody you can’t have, because society won’t let you. There’s a reaction from some queer viewers, ‘Why didn’t they just go to fucking San Francisco?’ But that was outside the characters’ experience, so it was not an option.

‘‘What that movie successfully did was create a watershed in how straight people think about gay people, because it universalized the experience of being in love with somebody you can’t have and made it acceptable to heterosexuals. Whereas the Torch Song Trilogy, a brilliant movie in the heroic-drag-queen subgenre, is about a very flamboyant gay man – a drag queen – attempting to find love and happiness in 1980s New York, in the midst of a lot of anti-gay backlash. That’s an insider story.

‘‘In writing Range of Ghosts, I was very aware that I cannot write an insider story about a mythic, precolonial-era Asia. I cannot write a story from the perspective of somebody who was living that. All I can do is try to create an outsider story that’s not too terribly exploitative.’’