An Interview with Charles Yu, Winner of the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction Ep 114

1 February 2021


A note from Talking Taiwan host Felicia Lin:

Charles Yu is a Taiwanese American writer, author of the novel Interior Chinatown, and winner of the 2020 National Book Award for fiction. He spoke candidly with me about how he and his family are dealing with the pandemic, his writing process, what it was like appearing on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and how he transitioned from a career as a lawyer to television writing.



Here’s a little preview of what we talked about in this podcast episode:

  • How Charles and his family are doing during the pandemic
  • The piece that Charles wrote for The Atlantic about life during the pandemic
  • How Charles first started writing poetry as a child
  • How Charles’ Taiwanese parents’ reactions to his interest in writing have changed over time
  • How Charles recently found some of the poetry that he wrote when at Berkeley
  • Charles’ connection to Taiwan
  • How Charles started writing Interior Chinatown in 2013 and the concept changed over time
  • How/why Interior Chinatown is written in a screenplay-type format
  • Charles’ approach to writing
  • His appearance on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah
  • Charles’ writing for TV
  • How Charles was previously a lawyer and quit to work in TV in 2014
  • The difference between writing books and for TV
  • Charles’ interest in writing his own TV series
  • How Charles feels about being compared to Franz Kafka, Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams
  • Why/What motivates Charles to write
  • What themes inspire Charles to write
  • Advice Charles has for some struggling to write their first book
  • Why it took Charles seven years to write Interior Chinatown


Related Links:

Order a copy of Interior Chinatown here:

TAF (Taiwanese American Foundation):

TACL (Taiwanese American Citizens League):

Charles’ interview on

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe | Charles Yu | Talks at Google:



Charles’ appearance on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah:

Charles on Twitter:

Charles Yu’s Atlantic article “ The Pre-pandemic Universe Was the Fiction”:


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