Writer Wednesday: Author Interview with Elizabeth Lim on Spin the Dawn

Y’all, this has been one of my most anticipated releases of 2019, and WOW IT’S ALMOST HERE.

I honestly can’t believe that I forgot that I preordered this and had all the swag and beautiful book on the way, but I remembered as I wrote this post & gave myself a little pat on the back.

You did well, Vicky. Good job.

But seriously, I’ve started my eARC and Elizabeth Lim’s Spin the Dawn is one of the most lush and fierce and beautiful releases from this year, and I’m so excited to share this interview with you!

Elizabeth and I talk magic gowns, Mulan, and the main character Maia! It was a lot of fun to write this interview, and I’m really glad I had the opportunity to do this! Onwards!

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Lim

Hi Elizabeth! Thank you so much for joining me on my blog today to talk about your debut, Spin the Dawn! Before we really get into it, can you tell us a little bit about Spin the Dawn–but by only using dialogue lines from the novel?!

Ahh, I love this! Okay, here goes: 

“All legends have a spark of truth.”

“One woven with the laughter of the sun. Another embroidered with the tears of the moon, and lastly, one painted with the blood of the stars.”

There are so many things that attracted me to Spin the Dawn, but one of the most intriguing for me was the competition aspect, actually! In YA, we’ve had a decent number of court/royalty competition novels, and Spin the Dawn’s–with Maia dressed as a boy–has super high stakes if she’s found out! (I love this trope!) How would you characterize the ways the tailors compete, and what do you think this element adds to the story? (Aunties fighting over a check, The Bachelor, or something else hmm?)

Spin the Dawn’s competition has been most often compared to Project Runway because of the sewing, but I absolutely love the Aunties fighting over a check characterization! I’d even go as far as to compare the competition aspect to a bunch of Aunties comparing their kids’ accomplishments (it gets that petty). 

MAGIC. GOWNS. This is something I’m really excited for (and not just so I can make some fanart!). I can’t even begin to imagine how it’ll read in the novel, and I’m excited to dive in! Was there anything particularly formative to how you wrote the gowns in the novel–especially with the magical elements of laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars? 

My grandmother was a seamstress and my mom does a lot of embroidery, so the sewing in the book was definitely inspired by the time I’d spend with them at work when I was a kid. Gowns-wise, I’d have to say much of the court dress was inspired by a bunch of C-Dramas and the 2015 Met Exhibit China Through the Looking Glass! I took a picture of the gown below (designer: Guo Pei) during a visit to the exhibit and to this day, I picture it as Maia’s Dress of the Sun.

This is your sophomore novel, but your debut was part of Disney’s Twisted Tales fairytale retelling series–specifically the Mulan retelling! Both Spin the Dawn and Reflection share themes from Mulan and the trope of a girl dressing as a boy. How did your understanding of Disney’s Mulan, the Ballad of Mulan, and other pieces of Chinese culture and history affect Spin the Dawn’s story?

I actually wrote most of Spin the Dawn before I got the gig to write Reflection, something most people probably don’t know, haha. But I’ve always loved Disney’s Mulan as well as the Ballad of Mulan for bringing much-needed stories about strong and respected Asian women into the mainstream canon, and writing a fierce, ambitious girl struggling to break the glass ceiling was one of my main goals for Spin the Dawn. While my book is set in a fantasy world, it was also important for me to incorporate my Chinese culture — much of Maia’s beliefs, superstitions, and relationship with her family draw from my upbringing as a Chinese-American girl with traditionally minded parents, like the importance of obedience and respecting one’s elders, and paying respects to one’s ancestors! I often worried that it wasn’t Chinese enough or that I wasn’t researching or staying true enough to history. But as I relaxed a bit and reminded myself that it’s a fantasy and not a textbook, it became fun to create a world so personal to me, and one imbued with hints of some of my favorite fairytales!    

Lastly, something fun! If Maia was transported to our modern world to hang out with you for 24 hours, what would both of you do for the day, given that money, travel, etc. wasn’t a problem? Is there anything you think she’d love to see in our world?

Oh, fun question! She’d definitely love seeing a modern day sewing machine, lol, so a trip to JoAnn Fabrics would be in order, and maybe the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Then we’d hit up some bakeries, sing some karaoke, and go snorkeling in Hawaii or the Great Barrier Reef since she loves the sea to swim off all those cakes and cookies we ate earlier. 


East Asian Aunties are not to be messed with, and I’m really so excited to see the more of the competition as I read further! I mean–LOOK THAT GOWN.

And I absolutely love what Elizabeth said about it being “a fantasy and not a textbook” and this summarizes things really well and I’m excited to see how she goes outside of the box.

Keep on reading for more information about Spin the Dawn and some of the cool things you can get with it by preordering etc.! (ENAMEL PIN AHHH)

And make sure to let Elizabeth know if you enjoyed reading this interview! You can find her social channels below!

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Lim

More About the Book


Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim
Hardcover, 416 pages
July 9th 2019 by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers

Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping YA fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Book Depository | Books of Wonder

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Lim

Preorder Incentive!

Elizabeth has such a cool preorder incentive for Spin the Dawn running until Monday night next week! There’s so many cool things you can win and honestly I’m so excited for my own set of goodies to come! (You can see some of them above!)

All preorders will receive:

  • an official bookmark
  • a complete set of character cards, art by Kat Adara
  • a “Seize the Wind” sticker, art by Isabel Ibañez
  • an exclusive print, art by Beverly Love
  • a signed bookplate (not pictured, hardcover orders only)

*Orders from Books of Wonder will receive an additional:

  • Spin the Dawn enamel pin, art by Beverly Love

*Library order requests will receive:

*3 large prize winners (drawn by lottery) will receive:**

  • A Mejuri necklace (sun, moon, or stars to be selected at random)
  • A Glossier moon lidstar
  • An exclusively handcrafted silk flowers comb

Find the full details on the preorder campaign here!

More About the Author

Elizabeth Lim is the author of Spin the Dawn (out 7.9.19 with Knopf BFYR) and Reflection: A Twisted Tale (Disney Press). Raised on a hearty diet of fairy tales, myths, and songs, Elizabeth was a professional film and video game composer before becoming an author. She grew up mostly in the San Francisco Bay Area, and now lives in New York City with her husband and their daughter.

Website | Spin the Dawn Links | Twitter | Instagram

Are you excited for Spin the Dawn? Have you read it yet?

5 thoughts on “Writer Wednesday: Author Interview with Elizabeth Lim on Spin the Dawn

  1. I really liked your review questions! And Lim’s right! I had no idea that wrote most of Spin the Dawn before she got the gig for Reflection! I think it would have been so cool if Spin the Dawn came out first, but I’m glad I have both novels (well, will have both once Spin the Dawn comes out). Thanks for this amazing post ❤


  2. I remember seeing that dress photo she shared on IG and THAT IS THE DRESS OF THE SUN! This is another amazing interview Vicky! Learning more about the author and the story inspiration really makes the book even more special 🙂 you also reminded me to get my pre-order incentive done lol


  3. I did not think I could get more excited about this book, than Elizabeth said this: ‘I’d even go as far as to compare the competition aspect to a bunch of Aunties comparing their kids’ accomplishments (it gets that petty).’ and I found out I was wrong.


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