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October 10, 2022 53 min

NYT best-selling author Emily X.R. Pan had a problem: she wanted to write about her grandmother’s complex and fascinating life in 1920s Taiwan, but the task seemed too overwhelming. A deeply personal experience of grief gave her new insight into not only the novel-in-progress, but her family’s experience of loss as it was passed down through her family line. The novel became The Astonishing Color of After, a glorious, complex story of love, family, magic, and loss. 


Emily joins us to talk about writing grief into your stories, and how writing itself is a way to claim (or reclaim) our human right to feel all of our feelings, even the ones our histories taught us to suppress. 


In this episode we cover: 

  • How a relative’s death changed early drafts of Emily’s book 
  • The ways our parents and grandparents' views of death and grief impact our own ability to feel a whole range of emotions
  • Making books into safe spaces to explore the complexities of being human
  • Emily’s tips for writing “believable” grieving characters 


If you’re a writer of any kind and you’d like to include grief in your work, listen carefully to this conversation. 

Announcement: want to become a grief-informed therapist? Registration is open now for Megan Devine’s 6 month grief care professional program. Details at this link.

Notable quotes: 


"I'm very annoyed by positive vibes." - Emily X.R. Pan


About our guest:


Emily X.R. Pan is the New York Times and National Indie bestselling author of THE ASTONISHING COLOR OF AFTER, named by TIME Magazine as one of the 100 Best YA Books of All Time. Her recent novel, AN ARROW TO THE MOON, is available now, wherever you get your books. Visit Emily online at, and find her on Twitter and Instagram: @exrpan

Additional resources


Those of us living inside grief know: there is nothing to be fixed. Here’s the thing - telling the truth about your grief is one of the kindest things you can do for yourself. Being allowed to tell the whole truth makes things better, even when they can’t be made right. The Writing Your Grief e-course and online community is a safe, supportive space to write about your grief. The next 30-day session starts soon. Learn all about it here.

Get in touch:


Thanks for listening to this week’s episode of Here After with Megan Devine. Tune in, subscribe, leave a review, send in your questions, and share the show with everyone you know. Together, we can make things better, even when they can’t be made right. 


Have a question, comment, or a topic you’d like us to cover? call us at (323) 643-3768 or visit


For more information, including clinical training and consulting, visit us at


For grief support & education, follow us at @refugeingrief on IG, FB, TW, and @hereafterpod on TT


Check out Megan’s best-selling books - It’s Okay That You're Not Okay and How to Carry What Can’t Be Fixed


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