From what you’ve told me, you did a lot of research into ancient China before writing SILVER PHOENIX. Why did you ultimately choose to cast SILVER PHOENIX as a fantasy rather than an historical novel?
i did do a lot of research to set the tone and setting of SILVER PHOENIX while writing it. i bought beautiful books on the emperors of china, the palaces, the court rituals, the architecture of china in centuries past, the dress, etc.
but when i began writing, i found that i was really "stuck" on historical details. what period was it? i'd have to set it before the qing dynasty, maybe even before the tang, where foot binding began at the tail end... what i wanted my heroine to do, to go through, was nearly impossible to believe if set in actual history. AND i wanted the fantastic elements. i realized then i wasn't lisa see, i wasn't writing a historical, i was writing a fantasy. i wanted to be able to use chinese folklore and myth, but also be able to use my own imagination--as many fantasy books do.
What is something interesting you learned during the research phase of writing? Did this fact make it into the novel under some guise?
i researched on eunuchs and how they had their "precious parts" removed. and yes, this made it into the novel.
Young adult fiction is quite popular in today’s market. Did you set out to write a novel for teens? To what do you attribute the appeal of young adult fiction to adult readers?
no. i didn't set out writing SILVER PHOENIX for the YA market. i thought i was just writing a straight adult fantasy novel. it wasn't until i began querying for agents that some writer friends as well as agents asked me, isn't this YA? it's a really fine line, especially in fantasy, where many of the protags can be teens. but in the end, i realized that there were elements of finding yourself, searching for your own identity, rebelling a little or a lot against society, against your parents, and of course, first love. these elements are in my debut and often themes in YA fiction.
i think the crossover line is getting murkier by the day. especially in the fantasy genre--if you look at TWILIGHT and HARRY POTTER as examples.
Who is your favorite character in SILVER PHOENIX and why? Were there any characters you wish you could have spent more time with?
tough one. i have a crush on my own hero, chen yong. but he remains a bit of a enigma to me. he intimidates me a little as a writer, his creator. or maybe more than a little. =) i really love li rong (and almost all readers tell me they love li rong), who is chen yong's younger brother. he really added humor to the novel and i found him incredibly easy to write.
What do you want your readers to come away with from their reading of SILVER PHOENIX?
i hope that they were able to escape, that they trusted me as a writer, and believed what they were reading. i hope my characters and story linger with them for a little while after they've finished reading.
What was something you learned about yourself while writing the novel?
that i was a writer. a serious writer. i never considered myself as one until i finished revising the novel and went on to query agents. i found out that i'm pretty determined as a person, as well as optimistic. it's a cautious optimism, but it's there. =)
You are quite active in the virtual writing community. What role did various writers’ forums, blogs, or critique groups play in your quest for publication? How important do you think being “plugged in” to such things is for a writer today?
oh my. the online blog and writing forum community are mentioned in my acknowledgement page. and rightly so. before i found my writing friends, i only had the online community to look to for help and guidance and encouragement. this is such a roller coaster heart wrenching business. our writing means so much to us, and truly, no one but another writer would understand
the despair of rejection after rejection or the utter elated joy of getting a full request or an agent who says YES or the elusive editor that does. i find the writing community to be incredibly supportive, and i hope that i can give back as much as i can.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
keep writing, keep dreaming. not everyone sells their first book or even their third. it takes a lot of will power and a thick skin, but if you feel passion for it, if you love the world you create, your characters enough, keep going. it's well worth the difficulties to keep reaching for the stars.
for what are we without our dreams?
If you were to write an historical novel, when and where would it be set?
oh wow. i LOVE reading about elizabethan and tudor times. i am fascinated by anne boleyn and elizabeth I. i love strong women who led in the past, the double whammy they had to deal with being in power and being a woman. the rules are turned on their heads, and so many smart, clever women were able to navigate through this, despite it all.
that world is much more familiar to me, even now, after writing silver phoenix. but i'd love to write a historical based in china. i'm intrigued by my maternal grandmother and grandfather's stories, in pre world war II china. SILVER PHOENIX is dedicated to them.
What can we look forward to reading from Cindy Pon in the future?
i hope many more books, well written and then even more well written, with stories that will draw you into the world. i've got a sequel for SILVER PHOENIX that i'm working on as well as a children's picture book using my own chinese brush art.
thanks so much for having me, julianne. i always enjoy reading the wealth of info on your blog and it's a pleasure and honor to be interviewed!!
Thank you, Cindy, and best wishes for a long and successful career!
Cindy, as she mentions, is an accomplished Chinese brush artist. You can see examples of her art at her website, cindypon.com. To celebrate her launch, Cindy has graciously offered to send a bookmark with a lotus painting on it to the first five commenters below. Post a comment, and if you're one of the first five, send your snail mail address to Cindy at pon.cindy @ gmail.com [without the spaces]. She'll be sure to send you one. Although you probably won't need it for SILVER PHOENIX--it promises to be a book you won't be able to put down! I'll post a review as soon as I get my hands on a copy.
Cindy will be stopping by, so feel free to ask any questions you might have for her. Once again, congratulations to Cindy on her special day!