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Meet Helen Hoang, the HAPA Author Redefining Traditional Romance Literature

The Kiss Quotient

Helen Hoang’s debut novel,The Kiss Quotient, has received critical acclaim and appreciation among the literary community.

Since the novel’s release, The Kiss Quotient has garnered over 7,000 positive reviews on Goodreads, a 4.7-star rating on Amazon, and has already been printed four times.

Despite its major literary success, The Kiss Quotient is a story that is deeply personal to Hoang — a reflection of her own experience coming to terms with her Autism.

Growing up, Hoang experienced intense social anxiety that hindered her ability to make friends. Escaping from the trials and tribulations of relationship building, Hoang found refuge in romance novels — entranced by the deep emotions she felt reading them. “It was like I found a pure, undiluted drug,” she said to the New York Times.

It was only until she was in her 30s – as a wife and a mother of two kids – when she realized that her inability to build relationships during her youth was a result of autism;  a neurodevelopmental condition that makes socializing and understanding emotional cues difficult.

Hoang modeled Stella, the heroine of the novel, after herself as a way to confront her diagnosis and to help her understand how autism has affected her life. Her idiosyncrasies are channeled into Stella.  

“I would tap my fingers when I was little, but I do have a pattern that I used to tap in, then I started tapping with my teeth because you can’t see it, and that’s something that Stella does throughout the book”, Hoang explained to NBC news. “I gave her my mannerisms, my tendency to be logical and literal, and my social anxiety.”

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Hoang further explains how writing Stella as a resemblance of herself helped her reconcile with the insecurities she had.

“Those are the things that have always plagued me as unhappy things I have to live with and hide or try to cover up” she states. “Writing them intentionally felt healthy”.

Hoang also believes that Stella is an important character because there is a lack of autistic representation across the spectrum in the media.

Further explained to NBC news, Hoang states that “Two stereotypes I’ve seen is that autistic people are geniuses. Some autistic people have average intelligence and I don’t think that’s right to say they all are because those who aren’t might feel disappointed. Another is that autistic people lack empathy or heartless”.

While The Kiss Quotient showcases a personal, nuanced perspective of what it means to experience romance as an autistic woman, Hoang’s heart-warming story is one that any fan of romance novels can enjoy.  

“I wanted to share the perspective of an autistic woman because I don’t think that’s a perspective you see very much,” she tells the NY Times. “Why can’t you make an impact with romance? It seems like the perfect place to do it.”

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