Author Interview: Son of Venice by Dori Jones Yang

Welcome back to Author Dori Jones Yang, author of Daughter of Xanadu and its newly released sequel, Son of Venice, July . 

A former foreign correspondent, I aim to build bridges between cultures, especially between China and America. My new book, Daughter of Xanadu, reveals my greatest passions: to explore exotic locales, celebrate strong women, seek wisdom, and make history come alive.

Daughter of a bookseller, I grew up in Youngstown, Ohio. My childhood was spent reading like crazy and writing stories. In high school, I fell in love with foreign travel, starting with a summer in France.

My father suggested a career in journalism. My first job was a summer internship with my hometown newspaper, where I wrote obituaries! At Princeton, I majored in history but spent most of my waking hours at the college newspaper.

After graduation, I went to Singapore for two years to teach English and study Mandarin Chinese. I traveled all over Asia on a shoestring and returned home through Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran, six months before the Shah fell. My next step was a master’s at Johns Hopkins in international affairs, with a focus on China.

The most exciting move of my journalism career was the day Business Week sent me to Hong Kong to be a foreign correspondent. I loved that job for eight years, covering the Sino-British negotiations over Hong Kong’s future and the Tiananmen Square crisis in Beijing. During these years, I met and married Paul Yang. Our three children are Steve, Serena, and Emily.

Since 1990, I have lived near Seattle. I covered Boeing and other Northwest companies for Business Week and later worked for U.S. News & World Report covering Microsoft, Silicon Valley, and the dot-com boom.

In 1995, I began writing books: business, children’s, young adult, oral history. You can read about these books on this website. Daughter of Xanadu tells a story of cross-cultural romance: something I know about personally!

Learning languages brings me joy: I speak Mandarin Chinese and also studied French, Cantonese, Japanese, and Malay. Playing music also makes me happy: piano, violin, cello, and the Chinese zither, called the guzheng. I have traveled widely, including many parts of China, Mongolia and the Silk Road.

If you could travel in a Time Machine would you go back to the past or into the future?

Past.  I’m curious to know what REALLY happened, behind the scenes – and what the women thought of it. I’d love to travel back and visit Marco Polo in China, but there are many other places I’d like to go, too. I’d like to see Anne Boleyn, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Arthur’s sister Morgaine, China’s Empress Dowager Cixi, Cleopatra, and many other famous women whose lives we know only through the records of men.

Night owl, or early bird?

I used to be a night owl, back in my college days, but now I’m an early bird.  I love the total quiet of early morning hours, before the phone starts ringing and before anyone starts making demands on my time. I think more clearly in that pure early air.

Please tell us in one sentence only, why we should read your book.

Son of Venice will satisfy your curiosity about Marco Polo and the Mongolian princess Emmajin and answer the question: What would it take for such an unlikely love affair to succeed in those days?

What inspired you to want to become a writer?

As a child, I loved books and make-believe, and I wrote my first book at the age of seven, called “Jutht a Meth of Thingth,” about a girl with a lithp who invented brownies. Later, I wrote mystery stories that were obvious imitations of Nancy Drew books.

What is your dream cast for your book?

One blogger suggested Henry Cavill as Marco Polo and Jamie Chung as Emmajin.  I’ve asked many audiences since then, and they all vote for these two to star in the movie version of Daughter of Xanadu and Son of Venice!  I tried to make the story cinematic, so it would make a great movie.

What’s the craziest writing idea you’ve had?

I wanted to write a series of children’s books about selfless people with inspiring lives. My agent said he could never sell such a series to a publisher, and one mom told me her kids would never read such books. I still dream about this idea sometimes.

If someone wrote a book about your life, what would the title be?

Ohio Girl, Asian Dreams

What’s your favorite season/weather?

April in Seattle: cherry blossoms herald the arrival of light!

Favorite sport?

Wii Fit. I’m serious. I like the table tilt, the balance bubble, and the flying chicken.

TV or Movies?

Movies. Especially ones with Meryl Streep (I recently saw “It’s Complicated”) or John Cusack (I love “Grace is Gone.”)

Print or Ebook?

I grew up as the daughter of a bookseller, so I love printed books. But in the past year, I’ve learned to love my Kindle as well.   Why? I am always reading many books at once, and this way I can carry many books on one device. Nobody can tell I’m flitting back and forth between books.

Action or Drama?

For me, the question is: action or romance? And my answer is BOTH!

Cats or Dog?

I love dogs, especially small ones with soft ears, but I admit to being a true cat person. They know what they want.

Favorite quote from a movie?

Two quotes from “To Kill a Mockingbird” –

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”


“Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passing.”

Write a haiku about your book.
A warning: Danger!

Can they find time together?

Fireworks explode.

Son of Venice

Son of Venice continues the story begun in Daughter of Xanadu, set in thirteenth century China. In that book, Emmajin, an excellent archer and fictional granddaughter of Khubilai Khan, poured all her energy into her dream of becoming the first woman soldier in the Mongol army. When she met Marco Polo, a traveling merchant from Venice, he fascinated her with tales of romantic love and caused her to question her ambition. Son of Venice picks up the story as Emmajin begins her journey to the West, assigned by Khubilai Khan to carry a letter to establish peace and cooperation between her homeland and Marco Polo’s. Marco is to travel in the same caravan. But a shaman’s warning of traitors and danger casts a shadow over their journey. Emmajin wants to win respect as an ambassador of the Great Khan and also to enjoy her time with Marco Polo. But her guards—and her cousin, Temur—insist on keeping them apart. Plus, as she travels west with the army, she begins to doubt the Khan’s intentions. Does he really want her to make peace with the West? Told in alternating points of view, this book follows the adventures of Emmajin and Marco Polo as they head west along the Silk Road. They face battles, intrigue, sinister plots, and unexpected challenges to their unconventional love. Can Marco’s famed eloquence and cleverness help when Emmajin faces perils beyond any she imagined?