Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Silver Phoenix's Cindy Pon Has a Heart of Gold

As is probably the case for most teen librarians, attendance at my In BeT(w)een Book Club waxes and wanes throughout the year. In order to spice things up and attrack more members I often invite authors of the books we're reading to join us. It's usually via Skype, so imagine how thrilled I was  when San Diego author Cindy Pon agreed to come chat with us live in person!

Her books Silver Phoenix and Fury of the Phoenix are epic adventures set in ancient China so attendees were treated to scrumptious Chinese food.

The turnout was one of the best I've had all year, and the discussion was non-stop. We even went over our allotted hour because the teens didn't want to leave. That's a successful book club!

Discussion topics included the process of designing a cover and the implications of having an ethnic model as the star; the type of research needed to complete a tale set in an ancient, foreign land filled with adventure, fantasy, heartbreak, and loss; and a new vocab term "unrequited love". Here is just a snippet of what Cindy had to say.

JA: What does your writing process look like? Do you carve out a routine (same place/same time every day) or do you just start writing when an inspiration strikes you? Do you outline your books and already know how they will end from the beginning, or does it develop organically as you write?
CP: I can take months off after finishing a novel. In fact, I've had a good four month break since finishing my third Xia fantasy featuring a serpent demon as a heroine. I hope to start the sequel in November. I am very organized in real life. I love lists, I love planning ahead. Imagine my surprise that this is NOT the way I approach novel writing. I am very intuitive when I write. I don't do outlines. I don't plan. I do have a document that is a "catch all" for any ideas, dialogues, scenes, etc that come to mind that I think can be in the new novel. Also notes to myself on possible inconsistencies and things I need to fix during revisions. I do visuaIize scenes in my head before I write them. Perhaps not the entire scene, but some of it. I seem to write the novel in two parts. I will set aside time in the mornings (now that my children are at school) to write one thousand words a day. If it is more than that, great! Sometimes it takes forty minutes to get those one thousand words. Some days it takes four hours. I will often write the first half of a novel (thirty to forty thousand words), take a few months off (not on purpose, but due to schedule) then finish the second half later.

JA: Where did the initial idea for these books come from?
CP: Silver Phoenix was the first novel I wrote. It came about because I was staying home with the kids full time and needed something to call my own again. Fantasy had always been a favorite genre and at the time, I was beginning to learn more about Chinese history and culture. I decided to blend the two loves for my first novel. I didn't know anything about Silver Phoenix going in other than that it would be inspired by ancient China, it would be a heroine's journey, and that it would be about unrequited love.

JA: Why do you use the term eating sticks instead of chop sticks?
CP: Ha! I know it might seem totally random but chopsticks is such an "American" term to me. It is like fortune cookie and chop suey. Not a Chinese term. Unfortunately, the Chinese words for "chopsticks" doesn't translate into anything easily understood, so I made up "eating sticks' instead. =)

JA: Ai Ling has the most amazing super power of being able to enter another being and hear their thoughts and even control them from within. If you had a super power, what would it be?

CP: Oh, that is easy. Telekinesis. The ability to move objects with your mind. Best superpower ever. Never get up to get the remote control again!!

JA: What are your top 10 YA books of all time?
CP: Oh, these questions are so hard. Because I do think the list often changes as one reads more and more great books within young adult. I shall focus on great reads that are inclusive of diverse characters:

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork
Huntress by Malinda Lo
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills T
he Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima
The House You Pass on the Way by Jacqueline Woodson
I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
White Cat by Holly Black
Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey
Slice of Cherry by Dia Reeves
Cindy is incredibly busy writing, being a full time mom, and traveling to participate in conventions, conferences, and other important author business. However, if you tweet at her @cindypon and ask really, really nicely she will probably make time to connect with your book club as well. It's completely worth it!

Thank you, Cindy, for making our book club so much better!


Lalitha said...

This was an amazing program--kudos to Joanna for organizing it so well, and to Cindy for being such an engaging guest. The teens lived it, and so did I!

cindy said...

i had such a fun time, the highlight of september! thanks so much for having me, joanna, lali and teens!!