Meet Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea Author Rita Chang-Eppig

On Wednesday July 26, 2023 at 6:00 PM, opens a new window, San Mateo County Libraries, opens a new window welcomes Rita Chang-Eppig for a discussion of her debut novel, Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea, opens a new window. Rita will be in conversation with Sasha Vasilyuk, author of the debut novel, Your Presence Is Mandatory (2024). Bring your questions, as there will also be time for an audience Q&A!

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Based on the True Story of a Ruthless Chinese Pirate Queen

Shek Yeung is a woman who knows how to survive.

As Co-Commander of the Red Banner Fleet, she rules the South China Sea, fiercely outmaneuvering the forces of empire and politics that seek to squash her. When her fearsome pirate husband (and former abductor) dies, she simply marries the second-most powerful man on her ship, retaining her authority with the promise of an heir.

Then, she forges her way through both a harrowing pregnancy and hostile seas. No matter that the Chinese Emperor it determined to eradicate pirates, or that aggressive European factions are plotting to seize power—Shek Yeung is not afraid.

Since her life in the 1800s, Shek Yeung’s unshakeable nerve and unrelenting violence has become the stuff of myth. Was she a brutal criminal? A loyal defender of her crew and uplifter of women?

Deep as the Sea, Red as the Sky sweeps you up in drama and adventure. But alongside a hero or a villain? That’s for readers to decide.

Get to Know Rita Chang-Eppig

“One of the things I really wanted to explore is how we mythologize historical icons, in particular iconic women... We also mythologize ourselves. We all tell stories about ourselves to maintain a certain self-concept, to cope with feelings of guilt, to create a sense of narrative continuity in our lives.” ― Rita Chang-Eppig, One Story Interview, opens a new window

Rita Chang-Eppig received her MFA from NYU. Her novel about the infamous pirate queen of China, Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea, was published by Bloomsbury in June. Her stories have appeared in The Best American Short Stories 2021, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Conjunctions, Clarkesworld, The Rumpus, Virginia Quarterly Review and elsewhere. She has received support from the Rona Jaffe Foundation, the Vermont Studio Center, the Writers Grotto, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies at San Jose State University. Learn more at, opens a new window.

Praise for Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea

“A rollicking 19th-century adventure on the South China Sea . . . The prose is lyrical and the plot is clever and serpentine, exploring questions of power, violence, gender, and fate. This is not to be missed.” ―Publishers Weekly, opens a new window, starred review

“A refreshingly vivid adventure tale, perfect for long days by the ocean's edge.” ―, opens a new window, The 41 Best New Books to Read in Summer 2023

“A powerful, tense and vivid portrayal of one of history’s most fascinating women.” —Samantha Shannon, opens a new window, New York Timesbestselling author of The Priory of the Orange Tree and A Day of Fallen Night

“A riveting, heart-pounding exploration of ambition, grit, and … the fiery, magnetic Shek Yeung.” —Kirstin Chen, opens a new window, New York Times bestselling author of Counterfeit

“Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea is a stunning novel filled with adventure, intrigue, and stirring contemplations of what it means to endure in a world of scarcity and violence. Chang-Eppig combines the scope and lyricism of Gabriel García Márquez, opens a new window with the propulsive storytelling of Susanna Clarke, opens a new window. This is an epic novel with the intimacy of a portrait, a literary adventure not to be missed.” ―Seth Fried, author of The Municipalists, opens a new window