Just one year ago, Chloe Gong was a young writer about to release her first book, These Violent Delights. A year later, the Chinese-born New Zealander is still young (she’ll turn 23 in December), but now she’s a best-selling author, with the highly anticipated Our Violent Ends — the sequel to her breakout YA hit — arriving next week. But we’ve got even more news to share: Gong will be making her adult fiction debut in 2023 with Immortal Longings, the first in a new epic fantasy trilogy. Gizmodo’s got the scoop, so keep reading!
First up, here’s the official announcement about Immortal Longings, with some additional details about other Gong projects in the works:
“Set in the dense, ruthless twin cities of San-Er, which recall the historic Kowloon Walled City of 1990s Hong Kong, Immortal Longings follows Calla Tuoleimi, a former princess who wants to remove her uncle, the king, from his throne. Certain individuals in San-Er possess the ability to take over others’ bodies, which is on full display at a deadly city-wide competition each year. Calla joins the games to take vengeance on her uncle, who only ever appears to congratulate the winner — and makes precarious alliances with both her cousin, August, and her fiercest competitor, exiled aristocrat Anton Makusa. But Calla is running from a dark past, and only one of them can walk out of the games alive.
Gong is the author of These Violent Delights (McElderry, 2020), which has spent 24 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and the forthcoming Our Violent Ends. ‘I’m massively excited to be joining Saga Press,’ says Gong, ‘and to have a home for a whole trilogy of gritty Shakespearean worldbuilding plucked straight from my heart.’ On staying with a Simon & Schuster imprint in the transition to adult genre fiction, she says, ‘I feel lucky to get to publish these books with so much support every step of the way.’
Amara Hoshijo, an editor at Saga Press, preempted North American rights to the series from Laura Crockett at Triada US. Immortal Longings is scheduled for a Summer 2023 publication. It has also sold in the UK to Hodder & Stoughton and will be published simultaneously as an audiobook in the U.S. by Simon & Schuster Audio.
Also forthcoming is Chloe Gong’s next young adult duology following up her 24-week New York Times bestselling phenomenon These Violent Delights! Coming fall 2022, Foul Lady Fortune is a speculative historical noir surrounding the events of Imperial Japan’s expansion into China in the 1930s. A familiar character is recruited as a national spy, maintaining her false identity by posing as a young married couple with someone who might be the very enemy.”
Gizmodo chatted with Gong over email to get even more details on Immortal Longings, which you can read below.
Cheryl Eddy, Gizmodo: Who are the main characters in Immortal Longings, and what challenges and conflicts do they face in the story?
Chloe Gong: First, we’ve got Calla Tuoleimi, the terrifying princess who killed her own parents and went into hiding before she could be punished for the treasonous crime. At the start of Immortal Longings, she’s got a single-track mind for one task and one task alone: killing her uncle — the king — to finally bring down San-Er’s monarchy. To do this, she needs to win the games that he puts on each year because he won’t make a public appearance except to greet the victor.
Of course, the story starts getting messier when her cousin, August Shenzhi, the current crown prince, offers to meddle behind the scenes and help her win the games. But only if, after Calla kills the king, she puts him on the throne instead. August wants power. Whether he’s a true ally or adversary to Calla very much remains to be seen.
And finally, there’s Anton Makusa, who is Calla’s only real competition. Born as a palace noble and then forced into exile, he’s playing in the games for the monetary reward, because someone he loves needs it desperately. In his desperation to win he proposes an alliance with Calla, but that itself becomes his biggest conflict when the two of them become entangled as lovers. After all, these games are a battle to the death, and one will have to kill the other to win.
Gizmodo: The book is inspired by Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra and the Kowloon Walled City. What made you want to explore this story in that particular setting?
Gong: Immortal Longings is set in a fantasy city very much inspired by the historic Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong, which was torn down in the 1990s! The city was Chinese territory tucked inside British territory while Hong Kong was under British occupation, so Chinese law enforcement couldn’t get in and British law enforcement didn’t care to get in. That was the basis for its emergence as this lawless place unlike anywhere in the world; it was fenced in so there was no way to expand outward, it could only expand inward and build atop itself. At the height of its activity, it had the world’s highest population density, but the civilians really made it work. These conditions were horrid emerging out of structural oppression, but the people were living, breathing beings who still made a life out of these conditions, and I wanted to capture this juxtaposed energy and set a frantic story in this frantic setting.
Gizmodo: Immortal Longings is the first book in a trilogy. Have you already planned out the story through the three books? Where in the writing process are you right now?
Gong: I went into Immortal Longings knowing how the trilogy would end! But I like to take it one book at a time, so while I haven’t planned out the exact chain of events that will be happening in Book 2 and 3, I do know the larger arc to make sure that I’m setting things up early and laying all the groundwork for what is to come. At the moment, I’m finishing up the edits on Immortal Longings, and very soon I’m going to start plotting out its sequel!
Gizmodo: What made you want to shift from YA to adult fantasy? Were there certain challenges that came with the genre shift?
Gong: My shift from YA to adult fantasy came because of me ageing up! I only used to read YA when I was a young adult — and YA was so big while I was its target audience because it was going through its commercial boom in the 2010s. When I started writing at 13 years old, it made sense that I would be creating characters who were my age and also creating for an imaginary audience of other teenagers because that was how I saw the world. When the idea for Immortal Longings came to me around junior year of college, I was experiencing more of the world as an adult, seeing it for its nuances and dark sides that I wouldn’t be interested in as a younger teenager. The characters of Immortal Longings are between 21 to 25, so it is very much me writing what I’m interested in and then finding the same audience who will react best to the way I’m portraying the world! For me, the genre shift meant I needed to do a lot more industry research and read other adult fantasies to see what works since I’m so much more familiar with YA. But I do think the lines between YA and adult blend a little content-wise, and once I had set my mind on the audience I wanted to reach, I spearheaded right toward it.
Gizmodo: What’s it been like for you personally, having found best-selling success at such a young age?
Gong: It’s been absolutely wild! When I set out to be published, I really couldn’t have imagined that These Violent Delights would perform like this — especially because it was my debut, so my expectations were low! I owe so much to the readers, and the champions of those readers like librarians and booksellers and educators, because word-of-mouth has been amazing for my debut. I can only hope that this is only the beginning. I have so many more books sitting in me that I have so much time to be pumping out!
Gizmodo: What impact has TikTok had on your career and will you continue to use it going forward?
Gong: I love TikTok. And I don’t just say this because I’m a Youth, I truly do love TikTok and the way it’s changed the way that word-of-mouth for books moves around. I felt so much support from BookTok at the start of my career when my debut hadn’t released yet, and the support has only grown from users who find me just because the algorithm thinks they might be interested in my content. I’ll definitely be on it for a while because it’s so easy to chat with readers and see what amazing video content they’re creating for my books.
Gizmodo: Will you be sticking in the adult realm or will you be returning to YA at all in the future?
Gong: I’ll be doing both! I don’t think I’ll ever leave YA because it was so instrumental to me as a reader growing up, and I’ll always want to be writing for the teenager that I was and the teenagers today who are searching for the types of books I write. At the same time, I also have a lot of fun in the adult realm (even though I still can’t believe I’m technically an adult now), so I have unending ideas for stories to continue telling.
Chloe Gong’s Our Violent Ends, the sequel to her YA breakout These Violent Delights, will be released November 16 on Margaret K. McElderry Books. Immortal Longings, her adult debut, is coming from Saga Press in 2023.