Q&A With Peng Shephard

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Q&A With Peng Shepherd 

I am so excited about doing this Q&A with Peng Shepherd! Peng is the author of The Cartographers, The Book Of M, & coming out on July 9th is All This And More. The Cartographers was a USA Today, LA Times & national Independent Bookstores Bookseller & a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize. The Washington Post named The Cartographers Best Book of 2022 & it has been optioned for film. Amazon, Elle, Refinery29, & The Verge all agree that The Book of M was the best book of the year in 2018. The Today Show & NPR On Point called The Book of M the best book of the summer! 


Q: Peng, would you please give a brief description of each of your books starting with your upcoming release All This And More

A: I’d love to!

All This and More is a speculative thriller that weaves together mystery, romance, and a little bit of darkness. 

Marsh has spent her whole life playing it safe, but when her careful, risk-free world implodes anyway, she realizes she’s done it all wrong and missed her chance at everything—until a mysterious new game show makes a miracle possible. “All This and More” has figured out how to send contestants back to specific moments in their past, so they can make different choices and change their present lives. And when Marsh is chosen out of millions to be the next contestant, she can’t believe her luck. 

But everything we do has consequences. Especially if the prize is happiness. As Marsh seizes one dream after the next, she begins to worry that the show’s promises might be too good to be true. Because while her life keeps getting better and better, something seems a bit off…

The Cartographers is a novel about mapmaking and family secrets. It follows a young cartography scholar named Nell, whose career was destroyed by none other than her own father after a fight over a strange map he claimed was worthless. But when he dies, and Nell finds that very same map hidden in his things, she discovers that it contains a deadly mystery that involves her family—and so she sets out to uncover what both he and the map have been hiding for decades.

The Book of M is set in the near future, and it’s about a mysterious phenomenon that’s causing people’s shadows to disappear all over the world, with terrifying effects—those who lose their shadows gain magical abilities, but at the cost of a memory every time they use that magic, which plunges the world into chaos.

The story follows a husband and wife, Ory and Max, who have survived unscathed for two years by hiding… until Max’s shadow suddenly disappears too, and they must decide whether to keep hiding or to confront the strange, unrecognizable world outside in the hope of saving her.


Q: What made you passionate about writing & where do the ideas for your books come from?

A: Writing has been a lifelong obsession. Ever since I learned to read as a child, I have been fascinated with stories, and always knew that I wanted to create them. But I wish I knew where my ideas came from, because it would make the writing process a lot less terrifying! In truth, my books can take years to develop. First, some tiny moment will strike a bit of inspiration, but alone it’s not enough. I must hold the idea close and wait for more of those tiny moments to come, until eventually, there are enough of them that they turn into something book shaped. Sometimes, it feels like making a castle on the beach, one grain of sand at a time. 


Q: Theres a saying that Nonfiction tells the truth with information: Fiction tells the truth with imagination. What lessons do you hope readers learn after reading your stories?

A: I want to explore what it means to be happy in this world of nearly infinite choices we all live in. Choice is wonderful up to a certain point—but none of us were prepared to be connected to the internet 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, looking at a never-ending stream of advertisements and photos of other people’s amazing lives, all demanding our attention and desire.  

Even if we can’t enter the Bubble with Marsh and tweak every single thing in our lives until it’s absolutely perfect, we all still face the same timeless questions that our heroine does. When there’s more than one path ahead, how do you decide which one is the right one? And when there’s always another option, how do you stop seeking something better, and learn to live instead? 


Q: How does it feel knowing The Book of M was the best book of the year in 2018 & The Today Show & NPR On Point called the book, the best book of the summer? How does it feel knowing The Cartographers was a USA Today, LA Times & national Independent Bookstores Bookseller & a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize & The Washington Post naming it Best Book of 2022? 

A: I still can’t believe it most of the time. Writing is such a solitary pursuit—you spend months or years toiling away at the ghost of an idea in your head, desperately trying to craft it into real, solid words that somehow manage to be both beautiful and true at the same time—and then it’s entirely out of your hands. All you can do is hope that readers will connect with it, and experience some of the same emotions and questions that you did while writing it. I’m just so honored that my books have resonated with readers and made them feel something. It’s the greatest gift.


Q: If it’s not too early to reveal any details, what is the plot of the next book you are writing?

A: I’m partway through the first draft right now! I can’t reveal too much yet, but I’ll say that it’s a mystery about body doubles secretly hired to impersonate a famous, powerful person, and how—as they become more entwined with each other—everything starts to unravel. It’s very dark and twisted, and I’m having a lot of fun with it.


Q: Do you know if The Cartographers movie is still happening? Did they get the rights to The Book Of M & All This And More? The entertainment could use more great book ideas for new content as most of us are sick of remakes, reboots, sequels, prequels and spin offs. 

A: It really seems like a golden moment for book adaptations right now. There have been so many great ones released lately! How Hollywood works is mysterious to me because it’s very different to publishing, and so much happens that can’t be announced, but things are still happening with my first two novels. It’s a long road to the screen though, and a lot could change, so I’m just grateful for each day.

But soon I should have some very good news to share on this front about All This and More… stay tuned!


Q: You’ve lived in Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, London, Mexico City & New York! I can’t wait to travel someday! Which places were your favorites to see? Where do you plan to travel next? 

A: Actually, I just got back from a trip to Turkey, Georgia, and Azerbaijan about a month ago, which was incredible. Turkey is one of my favorite countries, and I took my mother with me, so it was really fun to show her around and share such an amazing place with her. Georgia was incredibly picturesque (and the food is great!), and Azerbaijan was so striking and different from its neighbors. I loved them all, each for their own reasons. If you’re looking for trip suggestions, I highly recommend them!

Next year is Taiwan and Uzbekistan, which I’m really excited about. I can’t wait!