Author Interview: Rita Chang-Eppig (Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea)

* The audio is a bit different sounding in this episode, just FYI, due to mic issues on my end *

Today’s a special author interview, because this is a historical fiction novel about someone already profiled on Vulgar History! In the previous episode, I referred to this person as Zheng Yi Sao, which is a name referring to her as the wife of someone else. This novel is all about her story on its own terms, which is why author Rita Chang-Eppig uses the name Shek Yeung.

Rita’s new novel about Shek Yeung/Zheng Yi Sao is called Deep As The Sky, Red As The Sea, and it’s so good and you should all read it!!

Learn more about Rita and her book here

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Vulgar History Podcast

Author Interview: Rita Chang-Eppig (Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea)

June 9, 2023

Hello and welcome to Vulgar History, a feminist women’s history comedy podcast. My name is Ann Foster and today, I’m bringing you an author interview with Rita Chang-Eppig. Her new book, it’s her debut fiction novel actually, is called Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea and it’s just come out. She’s actually actively on a book tour right now; we talk at the end about how you can follow her and see if she’s going to be in a city near where you live to go and see her talk. 

When I first heard about this book, it’s the story of a legendary Chinese female pirate queen and I thought, “Oh, is that Zheng Yi Sao? The woman who I did a podcast episode about last year?” And then I read and the name of the character in this book is Shek Yeung and I thought, “Oh, it’s about a different person. Is this a fictional person?” No, it’s the same person! So, Zheng Yi Sao is AKA Ching Shih, AKA Madam Ching, AKA Shek Yeung. And the very first question that I asked Rita was how she chose that as the name to use for her in this book and then we just got to talking about it and it was really interesting. 

If you remember that episode from last year then you’ll remember the broad strokes maybe of the story of Shek Yeung, that she was a sex worker in a flower boat and then she was taken off by the pirate king to be his wife and then she became one of the most successful pirates of all time. And then eventually, she retired. And this isn’t a spoiler for her book, I’m just recalling what we talked about in that episode from last year. And then Rita takes that story, or the broad strokes of what we know about Shek Yeung from history, and turns it into this beautiful novel of a woman and her story to survive in wild circumstances against great odds. It’s so interesting, it’s such a good book and I was really so excited when Rita agreed to be on the podcast to talk about it. So, please enjoy this chat between myself and Rita Chang-Eppig.


Ann: Okay so, I’m joined today by Rita Chang-Eppig who is the author of a book – the main character of the book, I have spoken about on the podcast before but under a different name. So, my first– Actually first, welcome Rita.

Rita: Hi, [laughs] thank you for having me. 

Ann: Thank you so much for being here. But first I did want to clarify because if any listeners have listened to– Last year I did an episode about this person, but I used a different name; I called the person Zheng Yi Sao when I was doing my podcast about it. And I remember I had to make a decision of, like, what name am I going to use talking about this person? you made a different decision, obviously. So, in your book, the main character is Shek Yeung. So, can you talk about the name and how you decided that that was the name you were going to use?

Rita: Yeah. So, this particular character, or I should say historical figure, has gone by many names but the two most commonly used ones are Zheng Yi Sao, as you mentioned, and Ching Shih is the other one. I decided to not go with those names because those are not really names, they are epithets, they both translate to “Zheng’s wife.” So, there’s a way in which her identity and her individuality were already kind of getting erased a little by her association to her husband; she doesn’t have a name, she is so-and-so’s wife. And, you know, the written historical records on her are not the best but there are some records that indicate that she was born as Shek Yeung and so that’s the name that I ultimately decided to go with.

Ann: Yeah, I mean, which makes total sense. Makes absolute sense because you’re telling this story about her as a person; she was not born the wife of so-and-so. And also, I mean we get into that but first, I’m just curious to know, when did you first hear about Shek Yeung’s story? Do you remember when you first came across it?

Rita: Yeah, so I grew up in Taiwan and so stories about this particular historical figure have been floating around since I was a child. And usually, she is relegated to, kind of, a secondary supporting role, right, like, “There was this pirate king, and she was his wife, and she was also very fierce,” et cetera, et cetera. So, I was aware that she existed, but I really didn’t consider writing a whole novel about her until around the time of the 2016 election in the US where, obviously, there was a lot of discourse going on about women in leadership positions and I became particularly interested in complicated women leaders. So, these are not ones that you can easily point your daughter to and say, “When you grow up you want to be just like her.” So, that’s where my interest lies as a writer, the complicated messy characters. That’s when she really bubbled, frothed to the surface of my mind and I started working on this.

Ann: And so, when you started working on the novel, what sources did you turn to, to try… Because I mean, I’m just thinking, I think this is the first time I’ve interviewed someone for the podcast who has researched the same person I’ve already researched. I found it challenging because so much of the stuff about her is really vague because she was a woman, because she was not a royal woman, there are no records of, “She was born here, and here’s what her life…” It was just, kind of like, “Well, here’s the legend. People say this about her.” What did you turn to just to get the picture, just to get the skeleton of what her life story was?

Rita: Mediumship, seances… No, I’m kidding. [Ann laughs] So, you’re right and I think maybe because we don’t have very detailed records about her, that is, in a way, what made her appealing as a character for me to write. Primarily I’m a fiction writer, I do a lot of research, I would like to think I did my due diligence in terms of the history but at the same time, I need to have room to invent things. Whereas academic historians don’t have that luxury, they actually need to try to make their words as accurate as possible. 

But for me, I think I actually… Because so much of the stories about her are orally transmitted, they’re not official in the sense, like, it’s not part of some Qing dynasty document somewhere, although there are some official documents I’d love to talk about later. But mostly, I was reading a lot about the society at the time because there are records about what it was like to be a pirate; there are entire books written on the pirating culture of the South China area in the 1800s, and there are entire books written about all of the rebellions that were going on all over the country during this particular Chinese emperor’s reign. 

And so, in a way, I was kind of zooming in or narrowing down, I’m not sure which analogy I want here, based on the larger historical records. So, if all the records are saying, “Hey, this was a really bad period for peasants because there were all of these famines happening, and one month’s worth of rice cost many months’ worth of wages,” then you kind of think, “Okay, well how might this have interfaced with pirate fleets?” And why people “chose” to become pirates because, for many of them, it wasn’t a choice. Yeah, for me, it was a lot of academic sources about the larger environment and then weaving that in with the oral storytelling of around this particular historical figure.

Ann: And I think you just alluded to this but what specific sources did you find for the oral storytelling? Just written records somewhere? 

Rita: I think a lot of it is just, like, in the Chinese language there are some kind of, like, “Here are some oral tales that have been passed down by people about this particular historical figure.” And I speak – my parents would complain that I don’t speak it well enough – but I do speak and read some in Chinese. And on top of that, I mentioned this earlier, I found this really fascinating document that was written by, I believe it was an English merchant who was petitioning the English government to take a more active stance in terms of eradicating the pirates of the South China Sea because at the time the pirates were basically so successful that they were cutting into the profit margins of all the European traders who were coming in. 

I found this really fascinating document written by this guy who had lived in the region around the time, had talked to a bunch of the pirates and he talked about how in one of the fleets with the red banner, there was this pirate queen and her husband. He was like, “Actually, they treat the European prisoners okay and they were far meaner to their fellow Chinese prisoners.” This document also talked a lot about things like how they did ransom exchanges. So, if they kidnapped somebody and the other party was able to pay, he laid out in detail all these things about how they would send out a boat with the money on it and blah-blah… So, a lot of that information is really stuff that I probably could have made up but the fact that I was able to find this in the records, I think, I hope, made the novel’s world feel more lived in, if that makes any sense.

Ann: No, absolutely. And having read your novel, which I really, really enjoyed, it’s, I don’t know, there are so many novels written about Regency England or Victorian London where I think authors writing about those have a sort of shorthand and expectation that the audience, the readers would know that. But you were setting up a scene of a world that most of the readers   I think are going to be like, “Where is this time and place?” 

I like that very early in the book, I love this, you have a very dismissive comment about Napoleon Bonaparte, just [laughs] which also just really set the scene for me like, “Okay, this is the time period. Napoleon is off here, doing this and then all this is happening in the South China Seas.” The Portuguese are there, the Dutch are there. So yeah, what was it like to have to write… You did all this research, you’re setting the time and place, and you didn’t want your book to be 1,000 pages long explaining exactly what was going on. But I think you do a great job of explaining what’s going on in a way where it’s still always Shek Yeung’s story, so it’s all from her point of view. Was there a lot of research that you had to… I’m sure you read a lot more than what you put in the book so how did you decide which parts to include? 

Rita: Yeah, thank you so much for pointing out that little section at the beginning because that was absolutely the intent. I was trying to stay in Shek Yeung’s… From the perspective of somebody like her, she might be aware that someone named Napoleon is doing some stuff over there in Europe, but this is not a part of her day-to-day life, right, the same way folks who are living in the US might not really think about the day-to-day lives of people who are all the way across the world. But it was meant to situate a reader who might not be as familiar with Chinese history, like, “Oh okay, we’re talking the early-1800s period.” So, thank you so much for picking up on that. 

So, I think the first thing is that I did have to leave a lot of research out. And I’m not going to pretend like all of that was an easy decision, a lot of it was, you know, decided in conjunction with my editor who, we went back and forth a few times to say, “Is this absolutely essential information for people to know? Does this actually ground the reader in an important way or are you just geeking out about the different types of weapons that they used?” [both laugh] So, we had to make some calls. Ultimately, I think some people will think that I made the right calls, and some people will think that I made the incorrect calls and that’s fine, that’s usually how fiction works.

But the thing that I really tried to keep in mind the whole time that I was going through this editing process was: Trust your reader. That was the thing that I kept thinking, “Trust your reader.” I choose to believe that the people who would pick up my book and read my book are intelligent readers who can infer from context, who can figure things out as they go along, and who are willing to figure things out. There are some people who really prefer to have everything explained to them, and that’s okay, but I think I am targeting a very specific group of readers; people who are willing to immerse themselves in a world and figure things out as they go along. So, I think that, for me, was a useful guiding principle.

Ann: And you also, in this book, incorporate some… There’s a goddess who is mentioned through the, kind of, a supporting character in the story. Can you talk about your research about, I don’t know what that would be, the religious beliefs or the folktales? Where did you get that information from or the idea to include that in the story? 

Rita: So, the goddess that we’re talking about for listeners is the goddess Mazu who is a sea goddess worshipped in many parts of East Asia, well not just East Asia, I think she’s also worshipped in Southeast Asia and some other places. 

But the idea is that when I was doing research for the novel, I came across this little bit of information, which I loved, which is that pirates actually were… We don’t typically think of pirates as spiritual people or people of faith but because so many of them were fisherfolk before they moved over to piracy – usually it was desperation and starvation that drove them over to piracy – they brought with them the spiritual beliefs that they had as fisherfolk. And one of those spiritual beliefs is a belief in the sea goddess Mazu which makes, I think, perfect sense. If you spend all your time at sea, you’re like, “Please no freak storms that are going to kill me and everybody else I love.” 

So, when I found out that piece of information that the pirates were actually quite religious/superstitious depending on how you think about it and they actually used to sail around with temple boats, so imagine a temple on land and then plop it on top of a junk ship and they would sail around with that thing in their fleet so that they could worship while they were farther from land. Again, I think this is information that makes the world feel more lived in and I decided to add that in. 

The other part that I haven’t said yet is that Mazu is actually still a very beloved goddess in Taiwan, where I grew up. So, if you go to Taiwan there are temples to her everywhere, stores sell items with her image, I mean, you know – we don’t know what she looks like [laughs] because she’s a mythical figure – but with her imagined image on store packaging and things like that. So, I grew up around a lot of that culture of Mazu worship and in many ways, writing about her in the book was a little bit like my love letter to the place where I grew up, right, where this thing is such… I mean, I don’t think people who are unfamiliar with it can fathom how many festivals and celebrations every year in Taiwan around this one. 

Ann: And also, I like the fact that it’s a female deity, it’s a goddess of the sea and then you’re telling the story of a woman who becomes a leader, and how Shek Yeung might have turned to her as, I don’t know, in that sort of woman-to-woman sort of way. I found that interesting as well. 

Rita: Yeah, I was thinking a lot about the role and the function of myths as I was writing this novel. Like, why do humans even have myths? Sometimes it’s to be a guide for our lives, “This is what people do in myths, so this is what you should do. Or this is what people do in myths and therefore this is what you shouldn’t do.” So, sometimes it’s as a behavioural guide. Sometimes it’s as a way of explaining the world or giving the world a sense of order that maybe isn’t actually in the world. “This happens because of this. This is the cosmology of the universe, and this is how everything is set up.” 

So, I was thinking a lot about the ways in which human beings used myths and then I was thinking about Shek Yeung’s early years on the flower boats and to survive something like that, what did she need to, kind of, get her through one day and each day and the next? And I realized, “Okay, what if she told herself stories?” What if she used these myths that she grew up with as a guide for what she thinks she should do, what she thinks she should look forward to, et cetera? And then also, as her behaviour gets worse and worse, as she falls deeper into the pirating world, how is she using myths about Mazu to justify her own misbehaviour? So yeah, I think I was thinking a lot about the ways in which human beings use myths, for both good and ill. It’s really far less about the myths themselves than about how Shek Yeung herself interprets the myths through her particular point of view, if that makes any sense.

Ann: It does, absolutely. And I think for her, just thinking, she’s living a life path that she doesn’t know anyone who has done that before. There’s not a person, she doesn’t have her own ancestor to be like, “Well, how did she handle it when this happened to her?” So, she has to turn to somebody to be like, “Well, how do you make this decision? How do you get through this?” And yeah, that becomes sort of her, not role model, but just like, that’s her guiding principle, “What did Mazu do? How did she…?” Yeah…

Rita: Exactly.

Ann: And you did mention the flower boats and I really want to talk about that aspect of it because just in my research when I was doing the episode, I focused mostly on what we know about the pirating career. But you really sit there in what does it mean to be a young person in sexual slavery? And then what does it mean to then be taken by a man to then become his wife? Which is really another transactional form of sexual slavery, it’s not like, “Yay, she’s been rescued,” it’s like, “No, no. She’s just here in this different way.” Yeah, how did you decide to approach that? You don’t shy away from the fact of, what was this life? Yeah, just talk about that aspect of the story. Are there records about what the flower boats were like so you could imagine what it was like to be living there?

Rita: Yeah, so the flower boat scenes were actually the hardest for me to write because I was trying to walk a tightrope. I’m not a believer in making things traumatic for trauma’s sake. Do you know what I mean? I think there are many of us with trauma histories and to glorify it, to kind of, like, get into every gory detail… I know there are people who have done it, but I don’t personally see the point in that. But at the same time, in some of the records that I found, these are Chinese records, she herself was abducted by pirates and sold into sexual slavery so I felt like it would be, in a way, dishonouring her history if we pretended that that part of her life never happened, even though it’s an incredibly unpleasant part of her life. 

So, I decided to write this thing with the intent of not focusing on the trauma of it, although there definitely is trauma there, but focusing on the social-cultural role that these flower boats played in the “underworld” at the time, and the role that these women who worked or were forced to work on these boats played in the “underworld” at the time. Because these boats were de facto information hubs; people say all sorts of things, people share all sorts of things when they’re at these establishments. 

And one of the things that the history is pretty clear about Shek Yeung is she was an excellent power broker or information broker, I should say. She was really good at kind of listening to everybody’s stories and then figuring out how to connect the dots and make the necessary inferences and conclusions and that this was the main reason, maybe there were other reasons, but this was one of the main reasons why the pirate commander, Cheng Yat, we’ll say decided to marry her (it was really more of a decision on his part than on her part). But you know, I know that sometimes people have tried to recast this as a love story, like, “Oh, he fell in love with her because she was so beautiful.” And I was like, “No, let’s stick to what we actually know.” Which is that she was incredibly shrewd and was an incredible information broker and he decided that this would be incredibly beneficial to his fleet to have somebody like her.

Ann: And can you just describe, you don’t say exactly what’s in the book but you’re talking about flower boats, it’s neither a boat nor flowers are not involved. So, you explain them in a much better way than I had when I was researching this. I had pictured, I don’t know, some sort of, you know, like a riverboat in New Orleans or something, kind of like a big ship that floats along doing stuff. But you really explained, “No, it’s a bunch of shitty boats that don’t actually go to sea.” It’s just floating beds on little things.

Rita: Yeah, back then there were these entire… Again, usually, these were people who were poor, who didn’t have money. Instead of living in homes, there were these entire villages that would spring up along the coast of crappy little boats; these are not majestic ships, these are crappy little boats that are tied together and then moored to the dock and people lived their entire lives in these spaces. So, some of these boats were used for flower boat purposes, which is to say, they were used as establishments for sex, alcohol, gambling, and all of those types of things. Sorry, does that answer your question?

Ann: It does, it does absolutely. So, you had in your research you came across descriptions of how these sorts of floating cities would kind of work, I guess. Yeah.

Rita: Yeah, exactly.

Ann: And then you also talked very early on about how you’re drawn to complicated, messy characters. So, I think that’s such an interesting… that’s what I’m drawn to as well as a reader, to read about people who, it’s not a straightforward narrative. How did you balance that, writing a character who is messy, who is complicated, to be a successful pirate you have scenes of her chopping people’s heads off… To lean into that but also making her be sympathetic, how did you balance that out as a writer? 

Rita: That is a great question. I’m sure if you talked to some readers they’d say, “She wasn’t sympathetic at all.” And that’s fine. We’re all able to sympathize with some things and not with others. I think for me, I just kept trying to remind myself, “Okay, what would a person who is neither a psychopath nor a saint, how would a person like that adapt to a situation like this?” Do you know what I mean? So, we’re not talking about somebody with no moral compass whatsoever, no sense of empathy or sympathy whatsoever, we’re not talking about that. But we’re also not talking about somebody who would willingly sacrifice their own life for the good of others. 

And just, kind of, trying to think of, okay, if she’s just an ordinary person who was thrust into these very, very difficult circumstances, and her primary drive is to stay alive, that’s what she wants, she just, I think like most people, doesn’t want to die. What are the things that she would be willing to do and what are the aspects of herself that she would be willing to give up? What are the aspects of humanity that somebody would be willing to give up if they felt– Again, I’m not saying that she actually didn’t have a choice, I think there are some decision points in the book where she thinks she doesn’t have a choice but it’s like, “No, actually girl, you do.” But it’s, for somebody who thinks they don’t have a choice, what are the aspects of humanity that they would be able to give up if they felt like their lives came down to it? And so, I guess what I’m trying to say is, I think that she is sympathetic in the sense that she is human, that she wants what so many human beings do, which is to live. 

Ann: Mm-hm and I mean what’s more relatable than that, really? Being in a situation and wanting to survive it.

Rita: Right.

Ann: And actually, I just wanted to talk about… So, she’s captured, married to this pirate king – and this is all very early on in the book, so I don’t think this counts as spoilers – so he dies on, like, page one basically, or he’s stabbed. And so then, she’s kind of left in this decision point because the people who are left to maybe take over the fleet are her and then also this young man who had also been captured by the same pirate, and their relationship. It’s just so interesting to read your book having read the history before because the history, I read, English translations of things which were kind of, like, “Well, she was on a flower boat and then she left with him, and then he died and then she married this other guy and off they go.” But you just like, sat to be like, “What does that mean?” And I was like, “Oh my gosh, what does that mean to just be there.” 

And I like the way that you portray her relationship with the other young man, Cheung Po, right, is his name? And how they both had been captured, how they both had been used by the pirate king, and then they’re left behind and it’s just the two of them. That’s such an interesting– the trauma that they share but then having to move on together without him. How did you approach his character? Thinking about what it was like for a young boy to have been in a sort of parallel situation to hers?

Rita: Yeah, thank you for asking that question. People tend to ask about her and not about him and obviously, he’s one of the main characters so thank you for bringing him up. Yeah, so again, the historical records actually indicate that he too was abducted by Cheng Yat. So, this isn’t a, “He willingly joined the fleet” situation. This is a “One day he was living at home and the next day he wasn’t,” kind of deal. And so, from early on… I think there’s a line in a movie from the ‘90s, I’m trying to remember exactly what but it’s like, “Two porcupines trying to get to know each other.” They’re both people who have been through a lot of hurt and who have, who didn’t– Unlike Cheng Yat who was born into this – and again this is a fact – he was born into this very wealthy pirating family that’s been pirating for centuries; everybody knew that they were pirates, nobody did anything about it. Whereas Cheung Po and Shek Yeung, they both come from normal, humble origins and were press-ganged into this kind of lifestyle, essentially. 

So, I saw him as, kind of, a distorted mirror of Shek Yeung. So, they’re not exactly the same but they share this fundamental… they share, in a way, the same origins. So, I was, in talking about their relationship with each other, I was trying to play with how two people like this can or can’t learn to trust each other and to kind of see themselves in each other because I do think the, sort of, discomfort between them or the tension between them is a huge part of this. Even after they decide… Maybe this is a spoiler, I don’t know, I’ll just say it. Even after they decide, “We’re going to run the fleet together,” it’s not just a done deal, there are continued tensions between them simply because they won’t, I don’t know if they would ever be able to trust each other completely because of the past. That was a little bit unclear, sorry. Rambly.

Ann: No, it was an excellent answer to a rambly question. It just made me think because, again, it was so interesting to read your book having researched this last year myself and I was like, “Oh yeah, I know what’s going to happen. I know he’s going to die, I know they’re going to get married,” blah-blah-blah. But it’s like, “Oh no, but what does that mean?” It’s just like, to really think, what does that mean for these people? You hear about stories, I think it was, like, in Cleveland where the guy kidnapped five women or something and they all had his children. It’s like, what if that man died and those women had to work together, and they were on a pirate ship? [both laugh] It’s just… I don’t want to be simplistic about it but the man who kidnapped them, Shek Yeung and Cheung Po, who was their abuser in many ways, he died and then they were left behind but it’s not just like, “Okay, let’s sit with our trauma.” It’s like, “No, we have to take over a pirate fleet now.”

Rita: [chuckles] Right, exactly. Yeah.

Ann: But also, I don’t know, I just thought it was so interesting to think about what the trauma was like for them to have to live on, I don’t know… It’s just like when you read the stories like, “This happened, this happened, this happened.” I’m like, “Okay, those are historical facts.” But in your book, I’m just like, “No, but what was it like for a person to go through that?”

Rita: Again, thank you so much for saying that. I think that’s the beauty of historical fiction. History, this is something I’ve said before, but I think history gives us the bones, the skeleton, do you know what I mean? It tells us, “This battle happened here. This person died this year, et cetera.” Ultimately, the beauty of fiction is it can, literally, it can flesh out the rest of the body, it can provide the organs, it can provide the blood, it can provide the heart. All of these things that the historical facts are kind of a scaffolding for, fiction provides the rest of what makes a human body a human body. So yeah, we had the facts – or a lot of the facts – but I think the primary thing that I was grappling with in this book was, how do I tell this story and, not from an academic historian’s angle, but from a human angle? Specifically, Shek Yeung’s angle. 

Ann: And this is the final question. You mentioned this I think in your very first answer to my very first question. So, you started thinking about her and this project around the wake of the 2016 election I think you said. Now, the book is coming out and it’s 2023, so how do you see this book interacting with our current state of affairs?

Rita: Honestly, [laughs] I don’t know. I think the people who doubt the ability of women to lead are still there. This isn’t going to… Unfortunately, that’s a problem that’s not going to go away any time soon. I actually think that from some of the early feedback I’ve received, a lot of what people resonated with were the issues around class and wealth disparity. So, you know, when I started writing this, I was thinking a lot about women in leadership positions, but I was also starting to think a lot about wealth disparity, and I think some of the feedback I’ve gotten is that they feel like there are a lot of parallels to our current time. After COVID started, there were all these problems in our society that may not have been very clear before that all of a sudden became very glaring. People, all of a sudden, became food insecure, they became housing insecure, people lost their jobs and couldn’t find new jobs to replace their income. And so, I do think, I mean, you know, I’m not the first to say this but history tends to repeat itself. And so, I think there is a way in which, even though this is a very different world that I’m writing about, there are some aspects of it that are still very true today.

Ann: Yeah, absolutely. And so, you’re actively on… We’re talking a bit before this podcast actually gets published, but I was checking the dates and you’re still going to be on a book tour when this episode comes out. So, where can people find out what you’re up to, and where they can see you doing one of these talks? You have a website, right?

Rita: Yeah, people can find me on And my tour dates are listed there as are additional bits of information about the book.

Ann: Well, thank you so much for taking the time out of your book tour era to talk to me about this book. I just want to tell you, when I first came across the description of the book several months ago, I was like, “Oh, Chinese female pirate. I wonder if that’s that person who I read about.” Then I was like, “Oh no, it’s a different name.” Then like, “Oh no, that’s the same person!” [laughs] So, it was really exciting and cool for me to read this book with some knowledge of what the story was and then to see how you developed that and everything was really interesting for me. And I think it will be equally good for people who don’t know this story at all. 

Rita: Thank you. That’s my hope that even if you’ve heard this story before, you know the larger facts of the story, I hope people will be able to derive some interest and enjoyment from how everything is tied together. 

Ann: Well, thank you so much for joining me today.

Rita: Thank you for having me.


So again, the novel is called Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea by Rita Chang-Eppig and her website is I’ll put a link to that in the show notes as well so you can learn more about her and about the book and also to see where she’s going to be on her book tour which is actively happening the day that this episode is published. It’s such a good book! I think you will all really enjoy it not just because of the Napoleon Bonaparte slander early on, although that might lure some people in, but also, everything she talked about. I think if you heard this interview, you’re going to want to read the book and it’s so good. 

So, if you want to keep up with this podcast, including finding transcripts to these episodes, you can go to I’m also on Instagram @VulgarHistoryPod, I’m on TikTok @VulgarHistory and I have a Patreon at where you can get early ad-free access to all of the episodes of this podcast. I do want to mention the transcriptions are provided by Aveline Malek of The Wordary. 

We’re going to be back in a few days with the next episode of Vulgar History. I’m going to keep going, there’s way more, more books and more authors that I’m excited to talk to you about as well as our regular weekly episodes. So, there’s lots of content coming and while you’re waiting for the next episode of Vulgar History, why not read Rita’s book because it’s amazing. Anyway, until next time, my friends, keep your pants on and your tits out! 

Vulgar History is hosted, written, and researched by Ann Foster and edited by Cristina Lumague.

Transcribed by Aveline Malek at


Learn more about Rita and her book here

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