Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Cindy Pon, YA author of Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia. Read below for Cindy’s insights on writing, publishing and being creative!
Hi Cindy! Thanks so much for talking with me today. First, I’d like to talk a bit about your debut novel, Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia. What was your inspiration for Silver Phoenix? Are they any truths to the traditions or folklore represented in the book?
thanks for having me! fantasy was always my first genre love, and at the time i started writing Silver Phoenix, i was a new student to chinese brush painting. it helped me become more interested in the cultures and traditions of my ancestry. and i thought, why not combine my two loves? Silver Phoenix was the result! There is actual chinese folklore in the novel, but much of it was made up by me. the novel is *inspired* by ancient china, but xia is not actually china.
Ai Ling is a pretty kick-butt character. Are strong female protagonists something integral to your writing? Authors often pull character traits from themselves or someone they know. Are you kick-butt like Ai Ling?:)
i'm not sure if i'd call myself kick butt. but i have never been in such a situation as ai ling has been in. she is similar to me in that she is stubborn and enjoys painting and eating. ha! and i didn't set out to make her strong-- but there needed to be a certain strength in her to survive the journey.
Can you give us at least a little hint about the sequel? What can we expect more of? Less?
the sequel is two stories, a prequel and a sequel which i've dubbed a "pre-sequel". it'll follow the stories of zhong ye and silver phoenix as well as chen yong and ai ling. it's a much more personal journey than the first, which was fantastic and perhaps a bit more removed.
Silver Phoenix has such a wonderful setting. What inspired it?
i wish i had visited china! but i hadn't, so i had to do all my research online or viewing fantastically gorgeous books featuring chinese scenery as well as watching wu xia films.
Are they any particular themes you write to/readers you want to reach?
not particularly. i hope that any reader who may enjoy a good fantasy read might like my books!
What was your favorite part of writing Silver Phoenix?
the revising! i revised for a year!
the actual rough draft--they are scary and challenging.
Ai Ling likes lots of yummy food. What are some of your favorites?
taiwanese! deep fried fish cake, mapo tofu, hot and sour noodles, dumplings, steamed buns like xiao long bao.
SP has obviously resonated with many teen readers since its publication. What type of teen reader were you? What type of books did you read as a young adult/teen?
i read the YA stuff from back then like sweet valley high, historical romances, agatha christie (only poirot), jean aeul, anne rice, stephen king, piers anthony...
Since there are probably some aspiring authors that will read this, can you tell us a bit about your road to publication? When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?
i've been a writer since about age twelve. as for being published, i didn't even consider it until i finished revising Silver Phoenix. by then, i'd invested two years of my life into it and i really had to at least try to get an agent for this book!
Tell us about your journey to getting an agent.
i began querying end of january 2008 and was taken on as a client by bill contardi in early april. i queried 121 agents and had over 100 rejections.
And how about finding your publisher?
we sent to about nine publishers and greenwillow books (who i'm with) was the first to express interest and make an offer. two others were also interested so the book went to auction. i was on sub for about five weeks.
What is the best part of the publishing process?
having your book read! hearing from fans.
self-doubt and stress!
Writing isn’t your only creative outlet, right? Tell us a bit about your painting and designs.
i also have a picture book contract with greenwillow which will feature my chinese brush art. i'm drawn to colors, cute critters,and flowers, mainly. my cards are for sale on my etsy site! they have been well received and are individually printed, looking much like theoriginal. many people buy the cards and frame them! the blobby catand baby panda are very popular.:)
Thanks Cindy! Looking forward to reading more about Ai Ling's journey and to your picture book and more of your beautiful brush art designs!
thanks so much for having me!