**In your own words, tell us a little bit about your book?**
THE WALLED CITY is the story of three teenagers who are each, in their own way, trapped in a lawless, labyrinthine neighborhood known as the Hak Nam Walled City. Jin Ling, is a fourteen-year-old street girl who is forced to steal and disguise herself as a boy to survive. She’s in the Walled City looking for her older sister, Mei Yee, who was taken from their farm and is now trapped in one of the neighborhood’s many brothels. In order to get a look inside the brothels, Jin Ling must go on drug runs for the Walled City’s most fearsome druglords. These drug runs are set up by Dai, a boy with a mysterious past, who has his own life or death mission to get out of the city.
**Can you tell us about the characters in your book? Who is your favorite?**
Jin Ling is a tough survivor. She lives on the streets, under a tarp with a bossy gray cat named Chma. She has to disguise herself as a boy, since most homeless, parentless girls end up in one of the many brothels that line the Walled City’s sunless streets. She sometimes uses what little money she earns from drug runs for food, but survives mostly by stealing. Her biggest desire is to find her sister Mei Yee.
Mei Yee has spent the past two years trapped in a brothel run by the Brotherhood of the Red Dragon, yearning for freedom and watching any girl who tries to escape fail with terrifying consequences. She often dreams of being back on the farm with her younger sister, Jin Ling.
Dai has spent the past seven-hundred-and-thirty days trapped in the Walled City, haunted by nightmares from his past. He has eighteen days to find a way out. He always thinks the worst of himself. He always wears a black hoodie and has a long snaking scar on his arm he never talks about.
Each of these characters found a place in my heart, but I have to say that in the end, my favorite character is Dai, mostly because of where his character arc ends up taking him.
**Your book is described as a Science Fiction / Dystopian novel, is that a fitting classification and what sets it a part from others in the genre?**
I find it interesting that so many people have been labeling THE WALLED CITY Science Fiction/Dystopian, because it’s not. There is no science fiction whatsoever in this book. The story _does_ have a dystopian feel, but I don’t think it fits into the genre as a whole, since it’s based on a place that actually existed in our world. The Walled City itself is quite small—only 6.5 acres—and is set in the middle of a more modern, completely functional city.
I actually wrote and edited the book so that it could work on two different levels. On one hand, the story could actually read as historical fiction. With a few name changes and a handful of altered facts, this story could have feasibly taken place in 1980s Hong Kong. The reason I chose to change the names and steer the narrative is a slightly more gentrified direction was to highlight how incredibly surreal it was that a place like this actually existed in our world. I talk about this at length in THE WALLED CITY’s author note.
All this being said, I did have a hard time pinning a genre on this book while I was querying it. It’s a strange novel, in that it fits into a little bit of everything. But If I had to place THE WALLED CITY into a single category it would be a YA thriller.
**The setting is based off of the Kowloon Walled City what drew you to this idea and how did you research it?**
I first learned about this place in 2011 from a woman name Jackie Pullinger, who worked in the Kowloon Walled City for over twenty years. As she started describing this neighborhood in Hong Kong—which housed over 33,000 people in its 6.5 acres—I knew I had to learn more about it. I started by watching some old documentaries on the city, which were truly incredible. I gathered so many details from watching the European cameramen roaming the sunless, tunnels of streets, interviewing people. I dug through every article I could find online, and managed to read some biographies of people who lived in the city before it was torn down in the early 90s.
**Have you traveled there? Or plan to?**
The Kowloon Walled City was torn down in 1993 and replaced with a very pretty park. I was fortunate enough to visit Hong Kong last January and took a whole day to visit the site of the Kowloon Walled City Park. There’s a museum in the middle of the park, which was very informative. There are also a few relics from the city: cannons, pieces of the Old South Gate, wells. One of the neatest things to go see is a small-scale model of the city, which sits by the park’s entrance.
**Did you find yourself restricted by basing your idea off of a real place?**
Not at all. If anything there were facts from the real place that fed the story! I remember watching one of the documentaries about the Kowloon Walled City where the narrator talked about how all of the apartment verandas were covered in bars to keep thieves out. This small detail spun off into a whole storyline about Dai feeling trapped in his own apartment. As strange as it sounds, basing the setting off of a real place made it feel as though I was exploring a landscape. I never knew what I would find around the corner.
**Reviewers and Bloggers are falling in love with your book, describing it as “captivating” and “compelling” how do you feel about the high praise?**
I’m really relieved. I’ve been calling THE WALLED CITY the “book of my heart” for a while. Ever since I started this project I knew there was something special about it. Something different from all of the things I’d worked on before. I eventually came to the conclusion that this was because, in writing this book, I was asking a lot of raw, honest questions. To have people respond so positively to this is encouraging!
**How would you describe your writing style?**
I like to settle in to scenes. Discover those small details that evoke mood. I use a lot of descriptive, lyrical language.
**What are some of your favorite authors?**
I adore Laini Taylor’s books. I’m also a Maggie Stiefvater fangirl. And of course there are the staples: J.K. Rowling, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, T.S. Eliot. (Wow, I just noticed they all have initials for their first names. Maybe I should try that. R.M. Graudin.)
++++++++++ And care for some quickies? ++++++++++
First class or back of the bus?
I’ve always been a roughing it sort of traveler. (If you ever see an authoress arriving to a conference with a bright blue hiking backpack for a suitcase, that’s me.) But the husband and I got upgraded to first class for our flight to Beijing and I have to say, it was very, very nice. Very nice.
Beach or Mountains?
Beach. I love the vastness of the waters and the sand between my toes.
Paperback, Hard Cover or eBook?
Hardcovers. Even though they conspire to break my back every time I move houses.
Dr. Who or Buffy?
I’m a Whovian through and through.
Coffee or Tea?
Black coffee in the mornings. Herbal tea at night.
The Walled City by Ryan GraudinPublished by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on September 30, 2014
Genres: Action & Adventure, Young Adult
730. That's how many days I've been trapped.18. That's how many days I have left to find a way out.DAI, trying to escape a haunting past, traffics drugs for the most ruthless kingpin in the Walled City. But in order to find the key to his freedom, he needs help from someone with the power to be invisible....JIN hides under the radar, afraid the wild street gangs will discover her biggest secret: Jin passes as a boy to stay safe. Still, every chance she gets, she searches for her lost sister....MEI YEE has been trapped in a brothel for the past two years, dreaming of getting out while watching the girls who try fail one by one. She's about to give up, when one day she sees an unexpected face at her window.....In this innovative and adrenaline-fueled novel, they all come together in a desperate attempt to escape a lawless labyrinth before the clock runs out.
There are three rules in the Walled City: Run fast. Trust no one. Always carry your knife. Right now, my life depends completely on the first. Run, run, run.
Jin, Mei Yee, and Dai all live in the Walled City, a lawless labyrinth run by crime lords and overrun by street gangs. Teens there run drugs or work in brothels—or, like Jin, hide under the radar. But when Dai offers Jin a chance to find her lost sister, Mei Yee, she begins a breathtaking race against the clock to escape the Walled City itself.
(1) Grand prize pack: It includes: A finished copy of THE WALLED CITY, rice candy, a miniature lucky cat, a traditional Chinese paper cutout of a dragon, and a pamphlet from the real Walled City Park! US ONLY
(9) winners will receive: A finished copy of THE WALLED CITY. US ONLY.