Author Interview 005: Patchree Jones - Unveiling "Skylight": Debut Novel

Author Interview 005: Patchree Jones - Unveiling "Skylight": Debut Novel

Today, we delve into the creative journey of Patchree Jones, a Thai-American author whose forthcoming middle-grade novel, "Skylight," promises to captivate readers with its magical tale. Jones, a resident of Southern California, brings her rich cultural heritage and personal experiences into her writing, offering a unique perspective that resonates deeply with readers of all ages.

Author Interview with Patchree Jones: From Dreaming Teen Playwright to Debut Novelist

In this exclusive interview, Patchree Jones takes us on a journey from her childhood dreams of becoming a playwright to the fruition of her debut work of fiction, "Skylight." She shares insights into her writing process, the inspiration behind "Skylight," and the themes that shape her storytelling. From cultural identity to the challenges of navigating a hyphenated life, Jones invites readers into a world where magic and reality intertwine. 

Featured Excerpts

"I wish I could say that I always knew I’d become a writer, but unfortunately, I didn’t..."

"The simplest answer to the question about inspiration is my kids..."

"Most definitely! I believe our cultures permeate through everything we do..."

"Without giving away too much, I know readers can expect a fun-filled adventure with relatable characters..."

"The greatest challenge I had while writing SKYLIGHT was balancing how heavily I would lean into Thai culture..."

"My advice is to just sit down and write..."

Related post: Calling All Writers: Free Author Interviews! (2024)

Full Questions and Answers

1. Can you share a bit about your journey as a writer, from dreaming of being a playwright as a teen to now having your debut middle-grade novel, "Skylight" published?

I wish I could say that I always knew I’d become a writer, but unfortunately, I didn’t. Growing up, I never wrote fan fiction or scribbled story ideas in a tiny notebook. I enjoyed writing as a kid and vaguely remember writing a fun short story about a sentient ping-pong ball in second grade. In middle school, I transitioned to stories and poems about fitting in and unrequited love, mostly for class assignments. It wasn’t until high school that I leaned into my creative side and fell in love with the theater. Casted in six productions, I definitely imagined myself writing scripts and longed to see them performed on stage. However, my life sent me in a different direction and I tucked away any thoughts of becoming a playwright quite early in college.

I didn’t actually start writing until after I had kids. I read to my kids often when they were younger and loved making up silly bedtime stories. In fact, SKYLIGHT started as a family project where my daughter and I traded off writing paragraphs. She stopped on page two and I kept on going. I knew nothing about novel structures, character arcs, plot development, or word counts! I just kept writing down the story as I saw it unfold in my mind’s eye. It took me almost four years to complete the first draft of SKYLIGHT and probably an additional two years to revise it for publication. When it gets released this June, this project will have taken roughly seven years from the first word to the published copy! I’m so glad I stuck with the process and am beyond thrilled to share this story with young readers.

2. What inspired you to write "Skylight" and can you give us a glimpse into the story and its themes?

The simplest answer to the question about inspiration is my kids. I started off wanting to write a book to teach them Thai since we don’t really speak it at home. I hoped it would help them remember the language better if I wove it into a story where the characters used Thai throughout. While I never explicitly use the word Thai in Skylight, I intentionally incorporated Thai names, traditions, and simple phrases into the book as a means of introducing my culture to the reader.

SKYLIGHT follows the journey of twelve-year-old Sofia Luana and her best friend Cara Felicity as they find themselves in Tropos, a magical Mehk kingdom in the sky, after their first flight ever from Colorado Springs to Los Angeles. The girls encounter a crazy shapeshifting bunny octopus who wants to kidnap them, a trio of winged warriors who save them, and an evil sorceress out to destroy the Royal family of Tropos, which apparently includes Sofia! It’s a twist on the chosen one trope with Sofia as our reluctant hero. We follow her journey of coming to terms with who she is and who she wants to be in the face of danger, betrayal, and war. The book deals with themes of identity, self-discovery, friendship, family, and ultimately, how we define good and evil.

3. As a Thai-American author, do you feel your cultural background influences your writing? If so, in what ways?

Most definitely! I believe our cultures permeate through everything we do, even when we are not intentionally trying to. Being Thai-American definitely influences my writing because it is an undeniable part of who I am and how I see the world, even if my interpretation of what it means to be Thai or American might not match others. Not only do I weave Thai elements throughout my writing,

I also tend to critique both cultures as I’ve never fully felt like I am a part of either. Growing up Thai in the US means I’m not seen as fully “American” at home and I’m not fully “Thai” in Thailand. My writing deals with these issues of identity because I’ve lived a hyphenated life and I want readers who share in this struggle to feel seen in this book.

While I use Thai culture as the main lens for SKYLIGHT, I truly believe that the identity struggle Sofia faces is universal. We all have a hard time finding our place in the world and our cultures play a huge part in defining those roles. Being Thai-American shapes my worldview and it shapes my writing because that is my authentic voice and identity. Now as an adult, I recognize that I often ran from this identity while simultaneously embracing it when I was younger. It was a confusing time to straddle both worlds wholeheartedly, which is primarily why I write about these issues for young readers.

4. "Skylight" is the first book of the Mehk Light Series. Could you tell us more about what readers can expect from this series and what themes you plan to explore in future installments?

Author Interview 005: Patchree Jones - Unveiling "Skylight": Debut Novel

Without giving away too much, I know readers can expect a fun-filled adventure with relatable characters, middle-grade antics, grand personalities, and lots of mouth-watering Thai food! The first book really focuses on how we define ourselves as individuals. Sofia struggles with accepting who she is and who she should trust in her life. Her journey is quite tumultuous and it is meant to reflect on how difficult it is for children to strictly follow the rules adults set for them. As she learns to listen to herself more and fairly judge the people around her, Sofia comes to terms with who she wants to be. SKYLIGHT lets readers know that it’s okay to struggle with your identity. Nothing in life is a true dichotomy, so the world is not purely black and white or good and evil. Everything lingers in the gray.

As for future installments, the series continues questioning issues of ethics and morality, how our cultures determine “right and wrong,” how we define family, the struggles of modernism versus traditionalism, and the difficulties of navigating a hyphenated life. Of course, I touch on these issues from a middle grade perspective since children are deeply affected by these topics regardless of how much adults might try to shelter them from it.

5. What challenges did you face while writing "Skylight" and how did you overcome them?

The greatest challenge I had while writing SKYLIGHT was balancing how heavily I would lean into Thai culture while ensuring that I respected “traditional” rules. I was born and raised in the US, so my knowledge of Thai culture is based on first-hand experiences with the Thai community around me.

However, I am fully aware that my experiences are limited and tinted by a Western lens which is a recurring theme within the series. In engaging with the writing community and hearing from other Asian American creatives, I realized that I was not the only one struggling with the feeling of never being “enough” for either culture. To overcome these challenges, I decided to embrace those uncomfortable feelings and weave them into Sofia’s character. This internal struggle plays out throughout the book and I convinced myself that it was important to have slow, quiet scenes as well as fast-paced action scenes.

As an aside, conventional writing rules and industry standards were also challenging since I was completely oblivious to these rules. This was a different type of challenge that was overcome with lots and lots of revisions, i.e. taking a rough draft with 103,000 words and paring it down to the publication-ready version that hovers at about 65,000. I am a self-proclaimed overwriter, so those extra words and scenes have not gone to waste because I knew this would be a trilogy!

6. What advice would you give to aspiring writers, especially those who, like you, may have taken a different path before pursuing their passion for storytelling?

My advice is to just sit down and write. Even if you never think anyone will ever read it, the practice of putting your own thoughts and ideas down on paper is an extremely therapeutic experience. When I set out to write this book, I honestly didn’t think anyone would ever read it besides my family. But the process of actually finishing the first draft of the book was an amazing accomplishment that I often minimize.

This leads to my second piece of advice which is to cherish the small victories. Writing (and publishing) can be a slow, pain-staking process, but when we celebrate the small victories like finishing a page or a scene or a chapter, it makes the journey more fulfilling. You will encounter many roadblocks and rejections, so be prepared to take those hits. But, keep finding joy in the small wins and you’ll see that it’s worth it in the end.

My last piece of advice is to just go for it! There are plenty of reasons why you don’t want to continue working on your craft, but people are storytelling beings who love to consume stories! The writing community is a very understanding and open community, so lean in and find a writing group or critique partners. I have two critique partners and we’ve been meeting monthly for almost two years now. They keep me motivated and we’ve all grown so much together. When you have a support group that understands what you’re going through, it makes the process much more rewarding.

7. You mentioned growing up watching Thai dramas with your mom. Are there any Thai literature books that have influenced or inspired you as a writer, and if so, are there any titles you would recommend everyone to read?

To be honest, I didn’t venture into Thai literature until I started working on this book. Even though I speak Thai fluently, I can’t read Thai, so I am limited to English translations of Thai authors. I researched quite a bit of classic Thai folklore and mythology and I would highly recommend PHRA APHAI MANI. This is an epic poem written by Sunthorn Phu and is reminiscent of The Odyssey and The Ramayana. I try to read more Thai-American authors like Christina Soontornvat, Dan Santat, Dow Phumiruk, Piper Drake, and Sunisa Manning. Plus I’ve connected with some amazing Thai-American debut authors like Sierra Frost, Salinee Goldenberg, and Rachel Kitch. I highly recommend checking out all of these amazing creatives who inspire me with their wonderful worlds and heart-wrenching work!


We extend our gratitude to Patchree Jones for sharing her insights and experiences with us. "Skylight" promises to be a remarkable debut, blending magic, culture, and the universal journey of self-discovery. We eagerly anticipate its release and invite readers to embark on this enchanting adventure.

About Patchree Jones

Author Interview 005: Patchree Jones - Unveiling "Skylight": Debut Novel

Patchree Jones is a Thai-American author residing in Southern California with her husband, two children, and one lazy dog. Her debut middle-grade novel, "Skylight," is set for publication on June 25, 2024, with Sorra Books. Inspired by her cultural heritage and personal experiences, Jones brings a unique perspective to her storytelling, inviting readers into imaginative worlds where magic and reality collide. 

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