Celebrating the release of her brand new book Number One Chinese Restaurant tomorrow (February 15), we asked author Lillian Li to open up about herself so that readers can get to know her a little better! Here's what she had to reveal...

1. I used to write fan fiction. Specifically Harry Potter fan fiction. I started when I was 10, and I would write with my childhood best friend. We would meet up at a playground near both our houses and brainstorm story ideas all afternoon.

2. For a while, I thought I’d read all of Oliver Twist when I was only nine. I had been staying with my grandparents for the summer in Beijing, and they had a very limited supply of English-language books in their library. One was a slim edition of the Dickens classic, with a yellow-and-black striped cover. I read it in an hour and thought I was a genius. Years later, I saw a copy of Oliver Twist, except it was about 10 times heftier than the one I’d read. Turns out, I’d read a Cliff Notes (study guide) of Oliver Twist all those summers ago.

3. Speaking of Beijing, I spent a summer during college interning for a Beijing expatriate magazine called The Beijinger. I essentially got myself lost all over the city, trying to find the bars, restaurants, and once even a spa, that I’d been assigned to review. Definitely the best internship ever.

4. As part of research for my book, I interviewed a fire investigator and asked her question after question about how to commit arson and get away with it. Luckily, she did not put me on a watch list after.

5. Once, on Thanksgiving, I saw Arnold Schwarzenegger taking a walk in a suburban Maryland neighborhood while I was driving. He was wearing a bathrobe, and, in my memory, wasn’t wearing shoes. I nearly crashed my car ogling him, and he gave me a hearty wave. I later found out his wife’s aunt lived in the neighborhood.

6. I’ve always had trouble sleeping, and one thing that used to help me fall asleep was listening to stand-up comedy albums. I don’t know why, but it was soothing to hear people laughing me to sleep.

7. I wanted to be a TV writer when I was in high school, and I was also crazy about the show Grey’s Anatomy. I found out that the Grey’s Anatomy website had a writer’s blog, where the head writer of each episode would blog about their writing process—the themes of the episode, and how they tied the plot threads together. I would sneak into my school’s computer lab the day after each episode aired and frantically refresh the website until the blog post appeared.

8. I have a huge curiosity about horror movies—especially how they end—but can’t stand to watch them. I get around this by having friends summarise the movies for me, reading spoilers online, and even reading the entire screenplay if I have to. I highly recommend the screenplay to Silence of the Lambs.

9. Now I cry at every movie (even a movie trailer about a whale that’s trapped under ice), but when I was younger, the only movie I ever cried at was Adam Sandler’s Eight Crazy Nights. Yes, the animated feature about Hanukkah. Didn’t cry at Bambi or The Lion King. But a story about an alcoholic jerk and his friendship with a tiny 70-year-old man with irregular-sized feet made me sob so hard the kid sitting next to me decided to move one seat over.

10. I don’t really drink too much because I’m allergic to alcohol, but I’ve always liked mixing cocktails for other people. Once, I made a punch so lethal that nearly half of the party blacked out that night. The recipe: equal parts whiskey, amaretto, melon liqueur, and peach schnapps, with a splash of sours mix. I call it Alligator Tears, and it’s delicious.

Number One Chinese Restaurant is officially released on Friday, February 15, 2019.


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