When Chloe Gong was brainstorming where to set her Romeo and Juliet-inspired YA book “These Violent Delights,” the answer seemed pretty clear: 1920s Shanghai. “My parents were always talking about it as a glamorous time in Shanghai, based on the stories they’d been told,” says Gong, now 22. “I knew I wanted to write a blood feud story. The more I did my own research and looked into what the time period was really like in Shanghai — it was lawless, with gangsters running the city — the more it seemed like a perfect setting for teens to be running around doing their own thing.”
Readers evidently agreed. The book landed at No. 3 on the New York TImes’ YA bestseller list and stayed there for 18 weeks, no small feat for any author, let alone one who was a college senior when her debut novel was published during the middle of a pandemic.
This fall, the sequel, “Our Violent Ends” picks up in 1927 Shanghai, with the city on the brink of a revolution.
Gong became a huge hit on BookTok, the community of users on TikTok that posts videos reviewing and recommending books. (@TheChloeGong boasts 106.3K Followers, 3.8 MM Likes).
“I think being organic is the most important thing to me when it comes to approaching social media, especially TikTok. Twitter is the publishing water cooler. Insta is the place where everything is aesthetic and pretty. TikTok is the land of Gen Z. And as soon as you’re trying to sell them something, they’re like, I’m not watching that,” says Gong.
“By the time I hopped on [TikTok], I was already using it as a place where I could connect with readers about stuff that they were interested in, rather than seeing them as money bags. It’s a side effect of me finding a nice space that I enjoyed, rather than thinking of it as a place to make sales. Because I think that always falls flat.”
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