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We chatted with Grace D. Li, author of Portrait of a Thief, about her favourite books, writing habits, and more.


Which writer has had the greatest influence on you?
Weike Wang.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Read widely and joyfully, in any genre; find people who will cheer you on; editing makes the story better and more true; and write the stories you want to read.

What were your favourite books as a child?
The Immortals Quartet by Tamora Pierce, Hawksong by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, and The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

What is your favourite book today?
Chemistry by Weike Wang.

What are your favourite movies?
GattacaFast FiveGran TorinoHidden FiguresCrazy Rich AsiansAlways Be My MaybeThe Farewell.

Why did you become a writer?
I've always loved to read -- in elementary school, my parents had a meeting with my school librarian because they were worried I was reading "too much" and not spending enough time making friends! And so it came very naturally that there were stories that I wanted to read that hadn't been written, and so I began to write. This was especially true when it came to stories about people who looked like me; I'd never read a book that felt like it was written by someone like me, for someone like me, until I got to college, and that opened my understanding to what literature could be. In short: I became a writer because I've always been a reader and because I know that words have the ability to change minds and to change lives.

Where do you write?
At my desk when I'm supposed to be studying for medical school, lying in bed with my laptop, on my phone while on a walk and the perfect line strikes me, or pacing around my room with a notebook and a messy handwritten plot.

What is the drink next to your keyboard?
Realistically I'm probably drinking water; on a good day, it's bubble tea (passionfruit green tea with aloe) or on a colder day any kind of tea latte!

What is your guilty pleasure book?
A few years ago, I'd never read romance novels before, and now I'll devour anything Talia Hibbert ever writes.


Grace D. Li grew up in Houston, Texas and is a graduate of Duke University, where she studied biology and creative writing. She currently attends medical school at Stanford University. Portrait of a Thief is her debut novel.

Want to know about Portrait of a Thief? Watch Grace D. Li introduce her novel:

  • Portrait of a Thief - Grace D. Li

    A cinematic, entertaining and fast-paced debut novel that is part-Ocean's Eleven, part-The Social Network and part-Crazy Rich Asians, Portrait of a Thief is an addictive mix of heist and unlikely friendships by way of the politics of colonization.

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