Gloria Chao Discusses Rent a Boyfriend
Welcome back again to The Children’s Book Review, Gloria! Your latest book, RENT A BOYFRIEND, is so fun and special to read. We can’t wait to hear what else you’ve been working on, how you’ve grown as a writer, and what the future holds for you.
Let’s start by talking about RENT A BOYFRIEND. It was a blast to read and a joy to review. Can you tell us a little about it?
RENT A BOYFRIEND is a dual point-of-view story that follows a nineteen-year-old college sophomore who hires a fake boyfriend from a company, Rent for Your ’Rents, to appease her traditional Taiwanese parents. But when she falls for the guy behind the role who her parents would not approve of, her carefully curated life begins to unravel.
Where did you get the idea of renting a boyfriend to impress your parents? Is this a real thing? Have you ever?
RENT A BOYFRIEND is inspired by a real practice that happens in several Asian countries. Some women feel so much pressure to find a spouse worthy of family approval that they hire fake boyfriends from companies or classified ads. When I learned about this, my first thought was: I get it. I understood that kind of pressure and wanted to explore it through fiction. I haven’t done it myself, but for this book, I spent time researching the real-life practice so I could create a diaspora version for the novel.
Chloe is hilarious, witty, and smart. Her character leaps off the page every time we’re in her head. How did you create such an engaging protagonist? What led you to her?
Thank you so much! I knew from the beginning that I needed a protagonist who was not accepted by her family or the tightknit Chinese community she grew up in. As a result, she has two versions of herself. She’s strong and a feminist, but only when she’s not with her family and friends. She loves her parents, but not the life they’ve laid out for her. And I wanted to balance these more serious issues with humor, like how Chloe lies awake in bed with anxiety but also thinks about funny embarrassing instances like when she farted in second grade during a schoolwide moment of silence. (I may or not may lie in bed at night stressing. I also may or may not have had an embarrassing fart incident in second grade.)
Are there any central themes or ideas that span all three of your books?
I strive to write honestly about identity, love, and complicated family relationships. My struggle with identity as a child of immigrants spans all of my works, and I try to explore a different aspect in each book. For example, in RENT A BOYFRIEND, I drew upon my experiences in a competitive, cutthroat Chinese community to create Chloe’s church environment. And I channeled my difficulties from switching careers from dentist to writer into Drew dropping out of college to pursue art, which his family doesn’t approve of.
I also always work hard to flesh out every character so readers can understand even the ones they may not relate to.
What is your favorite part of RENT A BOYFRIEND?
My favorite part of writing RENT A BOYFRIEND was creating the details around Rent for Your ’Rents, i.e., how the company came about, what kind of training the “operatives” undergo, and how clients are matched with their fake boyfriends. My favorite part of the book overall is the shenanigans that ensue when Chloe and Drew struggle to balance their relationship with all the lies they’ve created.
You sure have a way with dialog and humor. This is a book that begs to be made into a movie or television show. Any plans for the big or small screen?
Thank you so much! There is unfortunately no news that I can share at the moment, but that would be a dream come true!
If Chloe were to be interviewed for this article, what would she want us to know about her story?
That everyone deserves love in all its forms: romantic love, parental love, self-love, and more. Chloe would probably want everyone to know that she’s a little embarrassed about some of her mistakes, but she’s grateful they got her to where she is now. And she hopes readers can learn from her struggles so they don’t have to go through them personally.
How has your writing process changed throughout these three books?
With each additional book, I’ve been able to visualize the finished product sooner. I’m able to flesh out the B and C storylines earlier in the process so that I can weave them into the narrative as I write the first draft, which is more seamless than revising them into a completed draft. One new challenge is that I now edit more as I draft, and it’s been difficult to find the right balance. If the section I’m working on isn’t quite there yet, it’s harder for me to move on.
Favorite book you read last year?
I adored WE ARE THE PERFECT GIRL by Ariel Kaplan. Ariel’s books make me laugh out loud, and this one had so many iconic scenes. I can’t think about the Zombie video game scene without giggling, even now! This story is a retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac centered around self-acceptance and friendship.
What are you working on next?
I am part of the upcoming 2021 anthology, FOOLS IN LOVE, which will offer new takes on classic romance tropes. I am thrilled to be in the company of amazing authors including Rebecca Barrow, Sara Farizan, Claire Kann, Hannah Moskowitz, Natasha Ngan, Lilliam Rivera, Laura Silverman, Amy Spalding, Rebecca Kim Wells, Julian Winters, and more! Ashley Herring Blake and Rebecca Podos are editing.
I am also working on several other projects (including book #4!), and I hope to be able to share more details soon!
Thank you so much for joining us today, Gloria! We look forward to seeing RENT A BOYFRIEND on shelves everywhere!
Written by Gloria Chao
Publisher’s Synopsis: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before meets The Farewell in this incisive romantic comedy about a college student who hires a fake boyfriend to appease her traditional Taiwanese parents, to disastrous results, from the acclaimed author of American Panda.
Chloe Wang is nervous to introduce her parents to her boyfriend, because the truth is, she hasn’t met him yet either. She hired him from Rent for Your ’Rents, a company specializing in providing fake boyfriends trained to impress even the most traditional Asian parents.
Drew Chan’s passion is art, but after his parents cut him off for dropping out of college to pursue his dreams, he became a Rent for Your ’Rents employee to keep a roof over his head. Luckily, learning protocols like “Type C parents prefer quiet, kind, zero-PDA gestures” comes naturally to him.
When Chloe rents Drew, the mission is simple: convince her parents fake Drew is worthy of their approval so they’ll stop pressuring her to accept a proposal from Hongbo, the wealthiest (and slimiest) young bachelor in their tight-knit Asian American community.
But when Chloe starts to fall for the real Drew—who, unlike his fake persona, is definitely not ’rent-worthy—her carefully curated life begins to unravel. Can she figure out what she wants before she loses everything?
“With hilarious scenes and heartfelt young adult musings, RENT A BOYFRIEND is Chao’s most entertaining book yet. Highly recommended!” — The Children’s Book Review
Ages 12+ | Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers | ISBN: 978-1534462458
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About the Author
Gloria Chao is the critically acclaimed author of American Panda, Our Wayward Fate, and Rent a Boyfriend. When she’s not writing, you can find her with her husband on the curling ice or hiking the Indiana Dunes. She does not regret putting aside her MIT and dental degrees to write, and she is grateful to spend her days in fictional characters’ heads instead of real people’s mouths. Visit her tea-and-book-filled world at GloriaChao.Wordpress.com and find her on Twitter and Instagram @GloriaCChao.
This interview—Gloria Chao Discusses Rent a Boyfriend—was conducted between Gloria Chao and Denise Mealy. For similar books and articles, follow along with our content tagged with Australian Authors, Diversity, Inclusion, Picture Book, Sophie Blackall, and Travel.
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