Interview with Author Yuxiao Chen

Yuxiao Chen

I am thrilled to have interviewed author Yuxiao Chen, who shared with us details of her writing life, her book ‘Legend of Elberkhan‘, which was released on 7th January 2024, and answered a few fun questions. This post contains affiliate links.

Yuxiao Chen

Born and raised in Beijing and currently living in Sydney, having completed a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Sydney and a Bachelor of Architecture from Tsinghua University, Yuxiao is an engineer in architectural acoustics during the day designing world-class concert halls. At night, Yuxiao is an artist, musician, adventurer, and writer.

Her debut YA fantasy novel, Legend of Elberkhan, was originally published in Chinese by Lijiang Publishing House when she was 17.

interview picture 2023


1) Where did the inspiration for your book come from?

I was in a highly competitive Chinese high school. The workload and pressure forced me to seek shelter in imaginary worlds, fantasy in particular. It started with books and movies created by others. But after some time, when I was lying in bed at nights, my annoyingly hyperactive mind started creating its own worlds and adventures. That was when the story first “appeared” by itself, as if a stranger came knocking on the door and asked if they could tell me a story.

While not all the details were clear at that stage, I was genuinely shocked by the story, and believed that it must have really happened somewhere in the infinite space-time and somehow “leaked” to me through a stray electromagnetic wave or a mini worm hole. I thought it was a story worth telling, and knew that if I didn’t tell it, it would gradually wither and die. So, I decided to write it down.

2) How did you plan out the plot?

Mostly in my head. I don’t like unfinished things, so I didn’t start writing until I could see the storyline completely and clearly in my mind (and that was all done lying in bed at nights staring at the darkened ceiling). I did use a few hand sketches to figure out things like the bone structure of batwing dragons, and the age of each character at different points of the timeline.

3) When did you choose the title for your book?

The title was chosen when I finished the first version in Chinese, when I was in high school. At first I wanted to call it “Stories from beneath the mountains”, but my mom thought that it didn’t represent my story enough. Feeling that she was right, I chose a name that reflected the where the whole story took place.

4) How did you come up with the names for your characters?

The name of Aary and Elior came with the story itself. I couldn’t explain it but that was how it was. For the other characters, it was a bit more difficult. I could usually “see” the characters pretty clearly, but still didn’t know their names. Generally, I would pause for a few days when I had to introduce a new character, to let my subconscious mind do all the hard work. It never failed me, and always came up with a name that I thought was suitable for the character.

5) How did you go about researching the content for your book?

When I wasn’t sure of what word to use somewhere or how to describe something, I usually look at what my favorite fantasy books did. Hand sketches also helped me get a clearer image of things when I was having trouble conceptualizing something.

6) What made you choose this genre?

It is a fantasy story, no doubt – a book can hardly be any other genre when there are dragons in it. As for YA (young adult), it was partly because I wrote it when I was a young adult myself, and partly because unlike most adult fantasy books, the content is “clean”. With that being said, I have had readers from all different ages (10 to 70) who enjoyed the book, so the category is only a guide.

7) How long did it take you to complete your book?

I wrote the original version in Chinese over the weekends of 4 months in high school. I was in a boarding school and couldn’t use a computer during the week, then every weekend when I went home, I tried to write as much as I could. I just wanted to finish it quickly before I start Year 12, when I knew I would lose pretty much all my free time. Later, after I got to university, I started translating it into English, and refining the details as I went.

My friend Bethe Schoenfeld, an English educator with a PhD degree in English literature, kindly offered to edit it for me. We went through several iterations of edits for each chapter, going back and forth between us to hone the details of both the story and the language. Because not everything could be told by words, I also created some illustrations and music pieces as part of the story in the effort of telling the story as best as I could. From the start of the translation to the final publication of the English version, it took more than 5 years.

8) Can you describe your book in three words?

Adventure, fairytale, secrets.

9) What’s the hardest part of being a writer?

Getting people to pick up the book when they haven’t heard of you before. With so many books available on the market, it’s safest to always pick books that have already been recommended by millions people, and I completely understand that. Luckily, I found some generous, enthusiastic book lovers who are willing to give an unknown book a chance. I believe that a good story will always be heard, even if it’s slowly by word of mouth.

10) Why should our readers pick your book up?

To explore a hidden world of lush nature, ancient history, and fearful magic; to listen to a story of adventure and friendship, secrets and surprises, love and hate; to meet the characters, each trying their best but not without their own weaknesses, each telling a story of their own.

Elberkhan cover

Legend of Elberkhan

Author – Yuxiao Chen
Pages – 419
Release Date – 7th January 2024
ISBN 13 – 978-0648642909
Format – ebook, paperback


Thousands of years after dark magic was subdued, unknown danger threatens the seemingly peaceful Hilldown Plain…

Aary, a youth of seventeen, is a captive and servant to the King of Elberkhan, a cruel, merciless monarch with a mysterious past. Living under constant mental and physical abuse, Aary’s only consolations are his secret haven, a treehouse deep in the forest, and his friends, Rudi and Lyna. He would risk everything for them, but no one he cares about can truly be safe, when the king’s biggest enjoyment is Aary’s suffering…

A number of short music leitmotifs, illustrations, and nested sub-stories completes the transmedia storyline. A live performance of the theme music Kingdom of Elberkhan composed and conducted by the author, performed by the Sydney University Wind Orchestra, can be watched online:

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Fun Questions

Talking Owl Interview Pic 2023

1) Do you have a writing buddy?

My furry siblings, Landy (meaning “blue little brother” in Chinese), Shuimiao (meaning “water meow” in Chinese), and Bingo (fine, that’s not Chinese, but “go/gou” is “dog” in Chinese) were there with me most of the journey, before I left home and moved to Australia for study.

Two of them (quite obvious which two) would come to walk or sit on the keyboard from time to time, and write a few lines themselves. I may have adopted some of their edits in the book.


2) Do you have any writing quirks?

I need to listen to music in the correct mood for the scene I’m writing at the time. It feels a bit like watching a movie – if the music doesn’t match a scene, it would be very disengaging.

3) Where do you write?

When writing the first Chinese version, I remember taking my laptop down to the basement during Spring Festival when my parents’ place was packed with the whole extended family. So I guess there was a bit of moving around.

4) Your book has been made into a movie, you’ve been offered a cameo role, what will you be doing?

Maire probably would be the best fit, and I didn’t say this just because she would be playing most of the scenes with a handsome young man!

5) A talking owl has just finished reading your book, what’s the first thing he says to you?

“When I grow up, I want to be a batwing dragon!”

Author links


A big thank you to Yuxiao Chen for sharing her writing life with us and for a wonderful interview.

The above links are affiliate links. I receive a very small percentage from each item you purchase via these link, which is at no extra cost to you. If you are thinking about purchasing the book, please think about using one of the links above. Thank you.

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