In today’s new episode, we have Maggie Shen King, author of An Excess Male. In her novel, she explores the marriage plot in a dystopian future and follows in the footsteps of Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”. It’s the story of one excess male, the less-than-perfect family he seeks to join, and the fight for their version of home, for the freedom to be their true selves, and for the country they have lost to a totalitarian regime that aims to control sex and define the boundaries of marriage in the name of the public good.
I’ve been really looking forward to this conversation with Maggie as her story is inspired by actual statistics. China’s One Child Policy was originally implemented to control overpopulation and according to stats, by the year 2030, China will have unintentionally created a society which more than 25% of men in their late thirties will never have married.
In our discussion, Maggie shares more insight into China’s One Child Policy, one of the most radical social experiments in history. She walks us through the research process for writing “An Excess Male” and the importance of targeted research to prevent the loss of writing time.
Maggie belongs to two different writing groups and we dive into the benefits of joining one, and how they’ve helped her tremendously in her writing career. We also discuss the importance of having an editor to help move your story forward. For craft-focused writers, we cover how to improve your world building as a linear writer, and what a style sheet is, and how it can help you create dynamic characters.
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“It’s adding a piece of the puzzle at a time and once you create it, then there’s a place to add more.”
-Maggie Shen King
“Learning to listen to the criticism and encouragement and suggestions is a really good thing to develop.”
-Maggie Shen King
“Once you have something on the page, you can work on it.”
-Maggie Shen King
What You’ll Learn From This Episode:
- A detailed look at China’s One Child Policy, one of the most radical social experiments in history
- Maggie walks us through the research process for writing “An Excess Male”
- The importance of targeted research to prevent the loss of writing time
- Why it’s crucial to join writing groups
- How editors help to move your story forward
- How to improve your world building as a linear writer
- Learn what a style sheet is and how it can help you create dynamic characters.
About “An Excess Male”
China’s One Child Policy and its cultural preference for male heirs have created a society overrun by 40 million unmarriageable men. Set in the near future, An Excess Male is one such man’s quest for love and family under a State that seeks to glorify its past mistakes and impose order through authoritarian measures, reinvigorated Communist ideals, and social engineering.
Lee Wei-guo holds fast to the belief that as long as he continues to improve himself, his small business, and in turn, his country, his chance at love will come. At age 42, he finally saves up the dowry required to enter matchmaking talks at the lowest rung as a third husband—the maximum allowed by law. Only one family, one harboring an illegal spouse, shows interest, yet with May-ling and her two husbands, Wei-guo feels seen, heard, and connected to like never before. But the walls, not to mention the streetlights, trees, and garbage cans, all have ears and eyes, and men, excess or not, are dispensable to the State. Wei-guo must reach a new understanding of patriotism and test the limits of his love and his resolve in order to save himself and this family he has come to hold dear.
An Excess Male explores the marriage plot in a dystopian future and follows in the footsteps of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. It is the story of one excess male, the less-than-perfect family he seeks to join, and the fight for their version of home, for the freedom to be their true selves, and for the country they have lost to a totalitarian regime that aims to control sex and define the boundaries of marriage in the name of the public good.
The premise of this story is based on actual statistics. Initially conceived to control overpopulation, China’s One Child Policy will by the year 2030 unintentionally create a society in which more than 25% of men in their late thirties will never have married.
Learn More About Maggie Shen King
Maggie Shen King is the author of An Excess Male, published by Harper Voyager. Her short stories have appeared in Ecotone, ZYZZYVA, Asimov’s Science Fiction, and Fourteen Hills. Her manuscript Fortune’s Fools, won Second Prize in Amazon’s 2012 Breakthrough Novel Award. She is Goodread’s September 2017 Debut Author of the Month.
Maggie took one creative writing class when she was a freshmen at Harvard, but did not begin writing in earnest until 2004 when her youngest child started middle school. She has studied with Nancy Packer, Eric Puchner, Thomas McNeely, and Otis Haschemeyer at Stanford University’s Continuing Studies Program. She shows her work regularly to two writing groups, one of which was formed at the conclusion of her first course at Stanford.
Maggie grew up in Taiwan and attended both Chinese and American schools before moving to Seattle at age sixteen. When she is not writing, she can usually be found hacking her way around a golf course. She adores roses and is always on the lookout for shade-tolerant varieties that can thrive in the odd corners of her garden. She lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Books & Resources Mentioned in Maggie’s Episode:
The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra
The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
We the Animals by Justin Torres
The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang
The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson
Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell
St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell