Ice Queen Interviews Emily Hoang
Ice Queen: First of all, thank you. Thank you for being part of Ice Queen. It's always nice when people take a chance on something that hasn't really come out yet.
Emily: Thank you for inviting me to do a feature. Honestly, like I said, I really haven't been writing, but I've been wanting to write a story about dirty dogs [laughs] so this definitely gave me the chance to write that.
Ice Queen: I love that! Let me actually pull that one up in particular. So, let's start there then. Tell me about, "Ode to the Dirty Dog."
Emily: Yeah, so I have been kind of playing around with a Science Fiction piece that's set in San Francisco, and I've always had these two characters in my head. They're just two girls. They love to have fun and go out, so Dirty Dogs is kind of just my ode to all of my friendships and all of the girls that I've gone out with and also to dirty dogs. That's how we would end the night, you know. And it would just be such a fun and good delicious way to end the night.
Ice Queen: [Laughs] Yeah, I was interested like, cause I was like, I'm not really sure I know what a dirty dog is even. So, for people who might not be aware, what is a dirty dog?
Emily: Ohh! Yeah. So, they are these hotdogs that are sold at the side of the street on these carts. Usually they'll be outside near the clubs, and they're like these hot dogs that are wrapped in bacon and you'll get them with like onions and other things too.
Ice Queen: Okay. So, in the South, we call that street meat.
Emily: I love that.
Ice Queen: Yeah! So street meat was definitely something you only got when you maybe had a little too much. Especially, you know, down here [she means her town and not the entire South], there aren't as many street vendors, but it would only be downtown on the weekends. And it's like, okay, I'm going to trust it. I'm going to keep it moving. It's a hot dog. It's never done me wrong!
Emily: Yeah! At that point, you're just hungry or you want something to snack on.
It doesn't matter what it is. But people have gotten really creative–like I think here, people have started selling kimchi fried rice on the street, which is kind of cool.
Ice Queen: That is really cool but it's also one of those things where it makes me have one of those very old people moments of like, why didn't this exist when I was to going to the club?! [Both Laugh]
Ice Queen: We'll edit that part out. People don't need to know I'm old.
[Sidenote: We didn't edit it out, Ice.]
Ice Queen: "Ode to the Dirty Dog," when I was reading it, I just kept saying, okay. Yes. Yes, all of this. This exactly.
Ice Queen: I feel like I'm going to say that to every piece that I get because of course all of it's going to be exactly what I want Ice Queen to be!
Ice Queen: It's still not really about food. It's relationships and friendships, but the food is still such a strong through-line in that. And I loved that it could sort of stand-in, you know, as metaphor, as a memory. That it could stand for memory of those friendships. And I'm so happy that you were able to write it!
Emily: Part of me right now just needed the deadline to really, like, push this piece through. 'Cause I had all the ideas in my head. I just needed to really sit myself down and write it.
Ice Queen: Yeah. That's the downfall of graduating from the MFA.
Emily: Mhmm, yep! Exactly.
Ice Queen: When you've spent all this time in an academic setting where you have a particular deadline, and then you don't have it anymore. It's: well, I guess it doesn't matter. I'll just do it, whenever, but then whenever it becomes sort of never.
Emily: Life gets in the way and just too many things pile up.
Ice Queen: So tell me about "Death of Past Selves."
Emily: Yeah, so that one is a little more sad. Kind of similar to the other piece, it started from this character I had in my head that appears in a couple of my short stories in my book that I'm working on right now. And I actually wrote this one during a conference last year. I had a draft of it already done and like, kind of put it away after the conference was over. And then after you had reached out, I was like, oh, I actually have this piece about dumplings– another food that I love–and started reworking that to make it fit for your journal too.
Ice Queen: I'm such a sucker for both funny and sad pieces. And the fact that you gave me both, I was like [does strange nothing motion, very old tbh] just vibes. It felt... I always use this word– it's never correct, but I will continue to use it– melancholy. But that never touches the right... like, it's always close to the word, but never right, that feeling reading this. What was the feeling while writing it?
Emily: It definitely did make me a little nostalgic. I'm a sucker for any stories about mother/child relationships, and with this one, you know, it did start with some memories with my mom. So all the soups that are listed out, like I've had those soups and they just bring this like very visceral memory every time I think about them.
And I was a little sad because, in some cases, right, like I am kind of similar to the character where, I'm not separated from my mom, but there's this distance between us, you know, as I've grown older and I'm kind of looking at that in the piece.
Ice Queen: Yeah, definitely. I mean, it's one of those you can't really go home again type feelings. But I love that you gave the recipe for bitter melon soup and it ties into this piece as well!
Ice Queen: [Confession Voice] I actually never had a dumpling — other than chicken and dumplings, my dad makes drop dumplings and it's just like all flour—until I was in college and I would
just immediately stuff it in my mouth and like [mimics hot food]. So I could have used this back then.
Ice Queen: I want to switch gears to my written questions, but before I do that, I'm so intrigued. You keep mentioning these characters. Would you be open to telling us a little bit about your work in progress or these characters that you're mentioning?
Emily: Yeah! I think you got me at a good time because I finally got a breakthrough with my book. It's just been sitting next to my desk and I started outlining and then I realized what my book was finally about. I think at the center of it, it's about family and family expectations and obligations and the weight of that on my characters.
I'm trying to manifest these expectations through a horror/speculative lens, and kind of re-imagining it within an Asian-American context.
Ice Queen: Awesome! Can you tell us a little bit about your main character, or are there multiple main characters?
Emily: Yeah, there's going to be multiple main characters. It has a couple of story cycles. So I guess with the characters in the flash piece that I'm trying to work on, one of them is about a girl who is born in San Francisco and grows up in a pretty privileged family. And for some reason, like just kind of follows along with her family obligations and expectations and ends up repressing her sexuality. So I kind of look at her as she's growing up.
And then in "Death of Past Selves," that character is someone who originally followed family expectations of trying to go to med school, but figured out that that wasn't her and ends up kind of separating her from family and trying to figure out how to live after.
Ice Queen: That sounds amazing. Are you going to start querying that out soon?
Emily: I'm hoping to get it queried out by the end of the year. I haven't really been writing too much on it. I'm outlining, starting to get kind of more excited about the stories, because I think I know where they're going, and trying to make them weirder.
I have a residency coming up in September where I'm hoping to just hash everything out and get it done.
Ice Queen: Congratulations!
Emily: Thank you! Yeah. That's my first writing residency. I'm super stoked. And it's in Alaska. Middle of nowhere. Very excited.
Ice Queen: Yeah [Laughs] perfect place to write a horror manuscript!
Emily: Exactly. My own cabin, too!
Ice Queen: Okay. Yes. That's going to be brilliant. I can't wait to— I'll be the first pre-order! Well, probably your family will be first and then it'll be me.
Let's see. Oh! Tell me your favorite family recipe.