December 18th, 2017
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December brings fabulous reads!


Barnes & Noble

Writing a Woman's Life
How Women's Fiction Charts Our Course

Meet Wendy Lee, author of THE ART OF CONFIDENCE

Liu Qingwu doesn’t set out to commit a crime. He only wants to sell a painting—something more substantial than the Impressionist knockoffs he flogs to tourists in front of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. But the lucrative commission he receives from a Chelsea art dealer is more complicated than he initially realizes. Liu has been hired to create not an homage to Andrew Cantrell’s modernist masterpiece, Elegy, but a forgery that will sell for millions.

The painting will change the lives of everyone associated with it—Liu, a Chinese immigrant still reeling from his wife’s recent departure; Caroline, a gallery owner intent on saving her aunt’s legacy; Molly, her perceptive assistant; and Harold, a Taiwanese businessman with an ethical dilemma on his hands. Weaving together their stories with that of Cantrell and the inspiration for his masterpiece, Wendy Lee’s intricate, multilayered novel explores the unique fascination of great art and the lengths to which some are driven to create it—and to possess it. Lee e-chats with Writing a Woman’s Life columnist Yona Zeldis McDonough and reveals the ways in which her writing expresses the things she holds dearest.

About Wendy Lee

Wendy Lee

Wendy Lee is the author of the novels Across a Green Ocean and Happy Family, which was named one of the top ten debuts of 2008 by Booklist and received an honorable mention from the Association of Asian American Studies. A graduate of New York University’s Creative Writing Program, she has worked as a book editor and an English teacher in China. She lives in Queens, New York.

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YZM: What drew you to this story?

WL: In 2012 I read an article about an art forgery case in which paintings attributed to modern masters such as Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock were discovered to be fakes…and the forger turned out to be a Chinese immigrant who worked out of his garage in Queens! It seemed like a colossal joke on the art world. I read more, and most of the stories were about the gallery that sold the forgeries, the woman who ran it, and her art dealer. Less was written about the forger, and I was curious to know why someone like him would commit this crime, as well what motivated everyone involved in it. This definitely was truth being stranger than fiction.

YZM: Did you find many parallels between the lives of artists and those of writers?

WL: I think all creative people have to deal with similar struggles, from the difficulty of translating what’s in your head to the outside world, to the practicality of making a living. Then there are those artists and writers who are larger than life, to the point where their personalities overtake their work, when you’re wondering whether that work has any intrinsic value.

YZM: How was it working from multiple points of view?

WL: While the point of view of the forger, the Chinese immigrant, was the one that interested me the most, I wanted to explore the story from many different angles. My intention was for the five characters—the forger, the galley owner, her assistant, the buyer, and the original artist—to share traits with each other. For example, the assistant is an aspiring artist who might have been the forger starting out as a young painter. The forger and the buyer, who is from Taiwan, both have issues with their national identity. While not all of these characters interact, I wanted them to have more that connected than separated them.

YZM: How do you come up with your ideas?

WL: Almost everything I write about has something to do with the idea of family or belonging. My first novel, Happy Family, was inspired by the transnational adoption of girls from China, as viewed from the perspective of a recent Chinese immigrant who becomes the nanny to one. My second, Across a Green Ocean, which is more autobiographical, involves the story of my great-uncle, who was sent to western China during the intellectual purges of the 1950s. I’m really interested in what is lost due to immigration and the gap between generations.

YZM: Can you talk about your journey as a writer?

WL: My mother is a writer in Chinese, so I grew up with her encouraging me to tell stories. I always wanted to be a “writer,” but while I took writing classes in college, I felt I didn’t have anything interesting to write about. After I graduated, I taught English in China for a couple of years before getting an MFA. Even after three novels, I don’t think of myself as a “writer” so much as someone who enjoys futzing with words, who sometimes gets paid for it and more often does not, and probably spends more time not writing or thinking about writing than actually writing.

YZM: What’s next on your horizon?

WL: I have a toddler and am still figuring out the whole parenting-while-writing thing. Supposedly you start writing again when they go to kindergarten?

THE ART OF CONFIDENCE by Wendy Lee

The Art
of Confidence

“I suppose I did it because I wanted something to show for the thirty years—longer than I had lived in my homeland—that I had been here in America. Something that was properly appreciated, even if someone else got all the credit.”

Liu Qingwu doesn’t set out to commit a crime. He only wants to sell a painting—something more substantial than the Impressionist knockoffs he flogs to tourists outside New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. But the lucrative commission he receives from a Chelsea art dealer is more complicated than he initially realizes. Liu has been hired to create not an homage to Andrew Cantrell’s modernist masterpiece, Elegy, but a forgery that will sell for millions.

The painting will change the lives of everyone associated with it—Liu, a Chinese immigrant still reeling from his wife’s recent departure; Caroline, a gallery owner intent on saving her aunt’s legacy; Molly, her perceptive assistant; and Harold, a Taiwanese businessman with an ethical dilemma on his hands. Weaving together their stories with that of Cantrell and the inspiration for his masterpiece, Wendy Lee’s intricate, multilayered novel explores the unique fascination of great art and the lengths to which some are driven to create it—and to possess it.

Women's Fiction [Kensington, On Sale: November 29, 2016, Trade Size / e-Book, ISBN: 9781617734892 / eISBN: 9781617734908]

About Yona Zeldis McDonough

Yona Zeldis
McDonoughYona Zeldis McDonough is the author of six novels; her seventh, THE HOUSE ON PRIMROSE POND, will be out from New American Library in February, 2016. In addition, she is the editor of the essay collections The Barbie Chronicles: A Living Doll Turns Forty and All the Available Light: A Marilyn Monroe Reader. Her short fiction, articles and essays have been published in anthologies as well as in numerous national magazines and newspapers. She is also the award-winning author of twenty-six books for children, including the highly acclaimed chapter books, The Doll Shop Downstairs and The Cats in the Doll Shop. Yona lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband, two children and two noisy Pomeranians.

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