Author Interview with Crystal Z. Lee

As an author with a love of travel, it’s exciting to welcome the author of Kai the Dancing Butterfly to discuss the Taiwanese influences in her writing

Photo by Erik Karits on

Q: What was your inspiration for Kai the Dancing Butterfly? Why butterflies?

A: Taiwan has over 400 species of butterflies, 50 of which are endemic to the island! Taiwan is also home to the beautiful purple crow butterfly population, which makes up one of the planet’s largest butterfly migration overwintering congregation. My children and I adore butterflies, so I was inspired to write a children’s book about this unique butterfly species from Taiwan, where I grew up as a child.

Q: What was your inspiration for the emphasis on Taiwanese Indigenous tribal clothing in the illustrations? 

A: I collaborated with illustrator Allie Su, who, like me, also grew up in Taiwan. We researched special Taiwanese Indigenous attire and incorporated them into the story. It’s our hope that this story can shed light on the plight of Indigenous tribes in Taiwan.

Q: Novels by Taiwanese authors or books based in Taiwan that you recommend?

A: Fiona and Jane by Jean Chen Ho, Bestiary by K-Ming Chang, Green Island by Shawna Yang Ryan.

Q: You grew up between Taiwan and California. What was it like balancing the two cultures at such a young age?

A: I attended kindergarten and first grade in California, then second to the eighth grade in Taiwan, then high school and college in the US.  It was a bit of a struggle when I was younger, moving between continents with such frequency. But it also laid the foundation for a bicultural, bilingual upbringing, and for that I’m very grateful.

Q: You’re based in the US now. What’s a favorite memory you have from your time living in Taiwan?

A: When we were younger, my parents often took my sister and I hiking on Yangming Mountain and then we would dine at ACC, a sort of country club near the iconic Yuanshan Grand Hotel. 

Another favorite memory is hanging out with my classmates at the Eslite bookstore; one of the branches would be open 24 hours a day. 

One of my kids was born in Taiwan and I loved taking her to all the kid-friendly government-sponsored playrooms. 

Q: Can you reveal what sort of writing projects you’re working on now?

A: I’m working on a novel based in Taiwan, and another children’s book. 

For more information about Crystal Z. Lee and a chance to win her latest picture book, Kai the Dancing Butterfly, visit Book Review + Giveaway: Kai the Dancing Butterfly.

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