Friday, May 22, 2009

Author Interview: Cindy Pon, Author of The Silver Phoenix

It's one of the most blogged about books this month: Cindy Pon's The Silver Phoenix.

And it's not hard to see why. It's a fantasy, set in China, with a female lead and a (hot) male counterpart. And the food. Oh, the food. This book makes me want to risk some of Ai Ling's demons just to sample the food!

Now, obviously one reason for The Silver Phoenix's massive amount of pub is because of the brilliant story. Some of it is also because of the beautiful cover (which Cindy blogged about recently--click this link to see some of the photographer's other art, including a BEAUTIFUL set of mermaids). Or perhaps it's the MOST AMAZING TRAILER I'VE EVER SEEN FOR A BOOK EVER. But surely some of the reason why Cindy's been blogged about so often is because she's sincerely such a sweet, wonderful person.

Clearly, you want this book right now. Well, if you've not yet, be sure to check out Cindy's blog, where she's giving away an awesome set of prizes, including a signed copy of her book!

Like I said, there have been a lot of interviews with Cindy recently. One of my favorites is the one with The YA YA YAs (as part of the Summer Blog Blast Tour), where Cindy reveals she's working on a picture book. The next best interview? The one she did for Writing it Out!

YOU
We can all read about your bio from the back of your book or your FAQ online. So, what's a completely random fact about you that most people don't know?
i sleep with the sheets tucked around my neck.
to discourage vampires. =)

As a child, what was your favorite book? Have your tastes changed since growing up?

island of the blue dolphins by scott o'dell and
a little princess by frances h burnett.
they are still favorite books of mine to this day!
i do love historicals and i also love quiet determined
heroines.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
a teacher -- because i liked to write on chalkboards!
a model -- because it sounded glamourous.

YOUR BOOK
How much of you is in your book? Is there a character like you? Is a situation in the book derived from real life?
i think as a first-time author, many of us mine our own experiences
and traits to put in our book. for me, i put two particular personal traits
into my heroine, ai ling--her love of food, and the fact that she is also
a student to brush painting. she is also stubborn like i am, but much more
rash in her actions. i think she is braver than i am as well.

and really, the whole book is me. it's inevitable.
you will learn a lot about me as a person by reading my
novel.

What was your timeline for the book? How long did it take to write, revise, submit, and finally, get published? How did you feel at these stages?
it took probably 5 months to write the rough draft (but not a straight
five months). i stopped after writing forty pages as i was scared of the
dreaded MIDDLE. i finally made myself sit down with nanowrimo and wrote
over 30k in words november 2006. i then took a year to revise the manuscript
at least six times.

i began querying agents in january 2008. after querying 121
(with nearly as many rejections) i was fortunate enough to catch
bill contardi's eye. he offered to rep me in early april. we went on sub
two days later. and about four weeks after that, Silver Phoenix went to
auction.

i would never wish the gut wrenching process of querying agents
on anyone. but understand it's something that ALL published authors
had to suffer. and it's important to always remember your love for your
novel. it's a fine line of maintaining confidence in yourself but also be
willing to revise and improve on your writing.

i was elated when agent bill asked to represent me.
and terrified and thrilled when i sold the book to greenwillow.

If your reader could only take away one emotion, theme, or idea from the book, what would you want that to be?
i hope that they were able to escape and trust me as
a writer. i hope that they find themselves thinking about
the book, the story and characters days after finishing the
novel. to dwell and linger on a story is probably the biggest
compliment to a writer, i feel.

i would hope they close the book with a sense of longing.

YOUR WRITING
What are your goals as an author? Where do you want to see yourself as a writer in 5, 10, 15 years?
to constantly learn and improve and challenge myself as a writer.
in 5 years time, i would have hoped to sold my 3rd novel and written
my fourth. and so on and so forth. i'm not one with a MILLION ideas like
many writers. they come one at a time for me. and i'm not a fast writer
nor am i slow. but i'd love to be an author as a career for life.

What's the most surprising thing you've learned since becoming a writer?
that i can write a novel. and then get it published.
i did it all as a challenge to myself. i'm living the dream
and it's amazing and humbling and thrilling!

Beyond the typical—never give up, believe in yourself—what would be the single best advice you'd like to give to an aspiring author?
i'd like to share my personal motto :

i are allowed to write utter poo.
i are allowed to write utter poo.

everyone's rough draft is...rough.
it's not pretty until you polish it. the point
is to have a novel to polish!

What do you consider to be your strongest talent in writing? Your weakest?
i don't outline and i don't make flash cards...but my intuition of
how a story should take shape seems to work for me.

my weakest point in writing would be the quiet scenes. they
really scare me. ha! i'm much more comfortable amongst
demons and action.

What's a writing pet peeve that you have?

i really despise the middle. as a writer who mainly
wrote poetry and short stories, that darned middle is
pretty intimidating! i really have to force myself through it!


Thank you again, Cindy, for doing an interview with me!

Now, for a chance to win some stuff!
I recently came into possession of an extra bookmark that Cindy has been giving out in conjunction with her book release...and I'd like to give one to you! The bookmark features some of Cindy's beautiful brush artwork, and let me just say this: reading The Silver Phoenix with this bookmark between the pages will help transport you straight to China.

To enter for a chance to win Cindy's bookmark, just leave a comment below. Winners will be drawn May 31st. (and as postage will be much smaller for a bookmark instead of a pile of books, open to anyone, anywhere!)

And don't forget to enter Cindy's (much cooler) contest here!
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