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Author Celeste Ng draws inspiration from her high-school years for ‘Little Fires Everywhere’

Celeste Ng’s second novel is “Little Fires Everywhere,” a layered tale of mothers and daughters. She’ll read from it Monday, Oct. 2, at Elliott Bay Book Co.

Lit Life

Celeste Ng was quite certain nobody would read her debut novel, 2014’s “Everything I Never Told You.” The book, which she began writing while working on her MFA from the University of Michigan, is the elegantly hypnotic tale of a devastated Chinese-American family in 1970s small-town Ohio. On the book’s first page we meet the Lees and learn of their tragedy: Beloved daughter Lydia has drowned in the nearby lake. No one knows why.

“Debut novels are difficult because nobody knows you … they just don’t find a huge audience because that’s how the market works,” said Ng, on the phone from her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, last week. “The only way I could get myself to finish writing it was to tell myself, ‘No one will ever read this, it will never get published, so you may as well write it down.’ ”

And then the reviews and accolades came pouring in. The book became a New York Times best-seller, was named Amazon’s 2014 Book of the Year, received numerous literary honors, and was sold in more than 20 languages. (And yes, a movie is in development.)

Author appearance

Celeste Ng

The author of “Everything I Never Told You” and “Little Fires Everywhere” will appear at 7 p.m. Oct. 2 at Elliott Bay Book Co.

“If you had asked me, in your wildest dreams, what do you think your book could do, that would have been it,” said Ng. “It did well critically, did well commercially, connected with readers, and now it’s starting to be taught in colleges and in high schools. I remember being in high school and being in college — those were books that shaped me. It’s very humbling to think that I might be having any kind of influence.”

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