July 02, 2024

K.X. Song takes a stance against color-coding bookshelves

The author of The Night Ends With Fire, a new fantasy romance inspired by the legend of Mulan, shares her bookstore habits and favorite library memories.
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What are your bookstore rituals? For example, where do you go first in a store?
I go first to the new in paperback section. I love the feel and heft of a paperback as well as its affordability and convenience. I also love reading staff recommendations, even for books that I’ve read before. It’s always fun to see where opinions align or diverge. 

Tell us about your favorite library from when you were a child. 
My favorite library as a kid was the Shanghai Library. It’s on the same subway line as my family apartment, so it was always convenient to access. You had to arrive early to secure a study desk, but once you’d secured it, it was yours for the rest of the day. And the canteen on the ground floor had plenty of cheap but delicious and healthy meals. 

While researching your books, has there ever been a librarian or bookseller who was especially helpful, or a surprising discovery among the stacks? 
When I was 13, I discovered a new favorite novel by chance—when a librarian accidentally shelved the wrong book to be placed on hold for me. The book was most likely adult, so some of the more mature content was a bit of a surprise for me, but at the same time, it opened my eyes to all adult themes of the world beyond my bubble. I learned about betrayal and suffering and hurt beyond forgiveness. I remember reading this book in one breathless sitting, then rereading the book again the very next day. Experiences like this made me want to become a writer, to touch someone’s life in such a tangible way. 

“My special talent is balancing a coffee, sunglasses and several books all in one hand.”

Do you have a favorite bookstore or library from literature? 
One of my favorite books that I read as a child was The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. In the novel there is a hidden library in Barcelona, Spain, called the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, which of course inspired all sorts of daydreams of mine of stumbling upon secret magical libraries hidden within the cities I grew up in. 

Do you have a bucket list of bookstores and libraries you’d love to visit but haven’t yet? What’s on it? 
Yes! I’ve always wanted to visit the Mill Valley Library in Northern California, which is a sunlit library within the woods, as well as the Beitou Branch Library in Taipei, Taiwan, which is Taiwan’s first green library and is absolutely gorgeous. 

What’s the last thing you checked out from your library or bought at your local bookstore?
Half a Lifelong Romance by Eileen Chang. She’s been recommended to me over a dozen times, but I’m only now getting into her work! 

How is your own personal library organized?
I once tried to organize my books by spine color before realizing I could never find anything I was looking for and it drove me bananas. Now they’re organized by genre and theme, with my favorite covers facing out. 

Bookstore cats or bookstore dogs? 
Bookstore cats! I’m more of a dog person when it comes to the outdoors, but for bookstores, cats perfectly fit the vibe. 

What is your ideal bookstore-browsing snack? 
I love a good iced Americano while browsing. My special talent is balancing a coffee, sunglasses and several books all in one hand.

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