Q&A with Maxine Mei-Fung Chung, Author of the The Eighth Girl

by Heather Caliendo
Maxine Mei-Fung Chun author interview - book club chat
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Maxine Mei-Fung Chun is a psychoanalytic psychotherapist and clinical supervisor. The Eighth Girl is her first novel.

Trained in the arts, she worked as a Creative Director for ten years at Condé Nast, The Sunday Times and The Times. She lives in London with her son.

Maxine lectures on trauma, gender and sexuality, clinical dissociation, and attachment theory at The John Bowlby School of Psychotherapy. The Eighth Girl is based on her professional experience working with patients who have mental disorders.

Here’s a preview of The Eighth Girl –  it sounds like a great read for book clubs:

Beautiful. Damaged. Destructive. Meet Alexa Wú, a brilliant yet darkly self-aware young woman whose chaotic life is manipulated and controlled by a series of alternate personalities. Only three people know about their existence: her shrink Daniel; her stepmother Anna; and her enigmatic best friend Ella. The perfect trio of trust.

When Ella gets a job at a high-end gentleman’s club, she catches the attention of its shark-like owner and is gradually drawn into his inner circle. As Alexa’s world becomes intimately entangled with Ella’s, she soon finds herself the unwitting keeper of a nightmarish secret. With no one to turn to and lives at stake, she follows Ella into London’s cruel underbelly on a daring rescue mission. Threatened and vulnerable, Alexa will discover whether her multiple personalities are her greatest asset, or her most dangerous obstacle.

Get to know Maxine with the below Q&A where she talks favorite novels, writing The Eighth Girl and much more!  

What are some of your favorite novels?

There are almost too many to mention but here goes: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings; Their Eyes Were Watching God; The Street; To The Lighthouse;  The Yellow Wallpaper; The Great Gatsby; Rebecca; The Secret History; God of Small Things; Another Country; Two Girls, Fat and Thin; The Summer Without Men; The Big Nowhere; The Talented Mr Ripley and Eileen.

When did you know you wanted to become an author?

Probably since I could read and string a sentence together. When I was a little girl I was forever creating worlds, writing short stories and poems. Occasionally, I would leave poems in random places such as garden hedges, telephone boxes and in the isles of supermarkets hoping people would find them. I guess even then I was trying to communicate with the world in some way.

When did you first get the idea for The Eighth Girl?

Probably after numerous conversations with people who are living with Dissociative Identity Disorder (previously known as Multiple Personality Disorder), and who were feeling misrepresented and stigmatized.

Can you talk about how your professional experience working with patients who have mental disorders inspired your writing?

When I started writing The Eighth Girl I was aware of how, in patriarchal terms, language and representation is restricted to writing about women and not for them. I wanted to lean into this void and so set out to create a protagonist who was not only living with DID but who was also a heroine, and not the usual tired, lunatic trope that entertainment culture has produced to date. I also wanted to create a character who, whilst living with a mental illness was still able to function on a day-to-day basis holding down full time work, experiencing relationships whilst having rich and varied interests. There has been a massive shift in conversation surrounding mental health, but I believe we still have a way to go in terms of the stigmatization around living with mental illness.

What do you think are the key elements that are required in a well-crafted story?

Mm. I guess I’m more of a let your character lead the way kinda writer. I don’t necessarily plot heavily but once the characters are developed and their worlds created a story seems to evolve and come alive.

What are you working on next?

I’m currently working on my next novel that follows the life of an actress and asks questions about mother-daughter relationships and how early intimacies shape our physical and sexual self. It also has a good dose of lingering shock as well as psychology and suspense!

What are you currently reading and what’s on your TBR (to be read) list?

Again, almost too many to mention but currently: Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick; My Dark Vanessa; Lakewood; Saint X; On Earth were Briefly Gorgeous; The Majesties; Don’t Look for Me and Darling Rose Gold.

Thank you to Maxine for participating in the Q&A! Click here to order The Eighth Girl on Amazon.

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