Today is a super special day! Not only is it WANT’s release day (!!!), but also Cindy is here on the blog to talk about WANT and share some awesome writerly advice with all of us!
A little side story of Axie the Fangirl and Cindy the Superstar: I’ve been a fan of Cindy’s ever since I was an undergraduate at UCSD (University of California – San Diego). Our local indie book store, Mysterious Galaxy, was also Cindy’s local indie, and she often came in for signings. I remember sitting in the audience as she talked about SILVER PHOENIX and FURY OF THE PHOENIX, the first books I ever owned with girls on the cover who looked like my friends and me. Cindy has always been an inspiration, in her gorgeous writing, but also in the ways she gives back to the writing community. She’s a true trailblazer, and I can’t wait for WANT to reach the stars! Axie the Freshman Fangirl would be pleased to know that, in the future, her debut novel would receive from Cindy the most beautiful blurb. It’s an honor, and a dream come true. Thank you, Cindy!
1. Having loved your short story “Blue Skies” in the anthology DIVERSE ENERGIES, I’ve been eagerly awaiting a sci-fi thriller from you! Can you tell our readers a little about your upcoming book and what inspired you to write WANT?
Thank you so much, Axie! What mostly inspired me to write WANT was that Serpentine had been on submission for two years and no one was buying. ha! I was being told: Cindy is a fabulous writer and storyteller. But could we get anything OTHER than Asian fantasy from her? =\ I had such a great time writing the short story “Blue Skies” (basically the first chapter of WANT), that I thought I’d try to expand that into a novel instead. A 40th birthday trip to Taipei was exactly what I needed to be truly inspired, and I wrote much of what I saw, felt, heard on that trip into the novel. It’s interesting how things work out. If Serpentine had sold right away, I’m not sure I would have considered trying to expand WANT. I’ve always written fantasy before, and sci-fi is not a genre that comes easily or naturally to me. In fact, I’m quite intimidated by it! So I’m glad that the fact that Serpentine (which did sell and publish with Month9Books) took longer to sell forced me to take stock as a writer and Be Brave. Since I loved Zhou and Daiyu (my hero and heroine) so much, as well as the premise, it was easy for me to want to try. WANT is called a near-future thriller but in actuality, it is contemporary, if not retro. LOL. Much of what happens in the novel I pulled directly from China headlines and also from other relevant and global news. A story about the haves and have nots is nothing new, but that wealth divide has only grown wider to a gaping chasm here in the United States, too. I only nudged the scenario slightly to make it more extreme, but not so extreme that it can’t actually be our realities.
2. I feel like YA sci-fi set in East Asia is a new frontier. How did you go about researching and imagining a future Taipei?
That would be amazing. For so long, western media has used Asia as an “exotic” backdrop, but never putting Asian faces and heroes at the forefront of it. Enough of that crap, I say! And I touched a little on the research. For me, besides the tech I had to read up on as well as get help from my friends in the field (thank goodness for my super smart science friends!), it was the actual Taipei visit that helped me the most. Nothing is more immersive than being there, obviously. And it is those sensory experiences that I love weaving into my story. I wanted to bring Taipei alive for the reader—to make it a character in itself. It was an ode to my birth city.
3. Your cover is so gorgeous! What were your thoughts when you saw it for the first time and realized you would have a #cuteasianboy on the cover?
Oh, I just about died. I feel so lucky for this cover, it’s everything I could have ever wanted. And you and I know both know how rare it is to get an Asian hero as a YA lead, much less getting him front and center on a cover. The fact that we have TWO YA novels, your REBEL SEOUL and my WANT featuring #cuteasianboys this year? I can’t get over it. I think it’s fantastic!! I was joking to my acquiring editor Michael Strother on twitter with a #cuteasianboy hashtag and he responded, maybe we need a #cuteasianboy on the cover of WANT? Michael came through with that in every way. Jason Chan, who is the artist for the cover art is also so amazingly talented. I mean, those are the lights of Taipei reflected on Zhou’s helmet. It couldn’t be more perfect!
4. We saw that you recently traveled to Shanghai! It looked like such an inspiring (and delicious) trip. Any anecdotes you’d like to share with us or how possibly some of your experiences provided inspiration for WANT’s sequel.
Yes, I just got back from a week long trip there! Shanghai has a population of 24 million, not to mention all the tourists. It was definitely sensory overload in a way, but so fantastic. What I love about the city is the juxtapostion of the high tech new against the very old—you describe some of this is REBEL SEOUL! It just makes for such a great dynamic and also metaphor, right? There are obvious pionts of inspiration like the Shanghai Tower, which we went up to the 118th floor to look down on the city at sunset, or the beauty and history from the City God Temple in the heart of the city. But as a writer, I really am drawn to the small and hidden details, what I glimpse when I look down narrow alleys, what I see through shadowed doorways of small storefronts. I want to write those moments into my novel.
5. Lastly, we love how much support you give to the writing community. What’s one piece of advice you would give to writers?
I would say never forget that your journey will be your own, unlike anyone else’s. And it is a matter of how much you want something in your writing career. To seek publication and to stay published means constantly assessing how much you want and what you are willing to do, how hard you are willing to work, how much compromise you’re willing to give, to accomplish it. It is not an easy path, and I will say it is often even harder for marginalized voices. But I’m so very thrilled to see this new rising generation of #ownvoices writers—it fills me with so much joy as well as hope, that we are literally changing the faces of novels and storytelling. That is tremendous! I’ve been rejected over a hundred times, have been told no so many times, been made to feel like a failure for what I had chosen to write. It most certainly takes persistence, and I feel very fortunate for where I am today in my career, nearly a decade later.
Cindy Pon is the author of Silver Phoenix (Greenwillow, 2009), which was named one of the Top Ten Fantasy and Science Fiction Books for Youth by the American Library Association’s Booklist, and one of 2009′s best Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror by VOYA. Her most recent duology Serpentine and Sacrifice were both Junior Library Guild selections and received starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal. WANT, a near-future thriller set in Taipei, will be published by Simon Pulse in June 13th, 2017. She is the co-founder of Diversity in YA with Malinda Lo and on the advisory board of We Need Diverse Books. Cindy is also a Chinese brush painting student of over a decade. Learn more about her books and art at http://cindypon.com.
Enter for your chance to win a SIGNED copy of WANT from Mysterious Galaxy, which includes art cards as long as supplies last! Also, if you’re a San Diego local, make sure to go see Cindy at the WANT launch party Saturday, 6/17!
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