Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia, is a lush YA fantasy set in ancient China. Silver Phoenix explores the journey of heroine Ai Ling to escape an arranged marriage and find her missing father in the Palace of Fragrant Dreams. Along the way, Ai Ling encounters some very mysterious creatures, taps into magical abilities she didn’t know she possessed, and meets handsome stranger Chen Yong and his cheeky brother, Li Rong.
The much anticipated sequel to Silver Phoenix is due out in Fall, 2010! Below, author Cindy Pon was kind enough to answer a few questions about her books and writing in general.
1. Your debut novel, Silver Phoenix, has been out since April of this year. Were you surprised at how much critical acclaim it received, including your ALA starred review?
honestly, i was surprised. my personal motto is always expect nothing, be pleasantly surprised. i put out the best novel that i could with the help of my publisher–but you never know how it will be received. so it’s always a blessing to know that some critics enjoyed my debut. it’s even cooler when actual readers let you know how much they loved it as well. reading is such a *personal* experience.
2. Silver Phoenix is what many would call a traditional fantasy, following a hero’s (or in your case, heroine’s) journey. Is this the type of story you enjoy reading? What drew you to write this?
i love fantasy as a genre. and yes, traditional fantasy by authors such as tad williams and terry brooks were always a favorite. honestly, the idea of a straight heroine’s journey came to me as it was for ai ling. it seemed like something i *could* write for the first novel–as it was so familiar to me.
3. I know you’ve been working like crazy to finish up your sequel these past few weeks. Can you give us a sneak peek of what to expect? How is it different from Silver Phoenix?
it will be two storylines following ai ling and chen yong and the relationship between silver phoenix and zhong ye three centuries earlier within the palace of fragrant dreams. it’s definitely a more complicated set up than the straight heroine’s journey. in my mind, the sequel is the aftermath of what ai ling did and had to do in the debut. things don’t happen without consequences. and you get to find out about zhong ye and silver phoenix, it’s the prequel really, to my debut.
it’s different in that i think the story has turned much more *personal* in this second book.
4. I already know the denouement—the curse of many an author—is one of your favorite parts to write. Can you tell me which part of a novel is the hardest for you to write? Was there a specific scene in SP that stumped you for awhile?
oh. The Dreaded Middle for sure. 50k of words is pretty darned daunting. and i don’t do chapter outlines or even chapter when i rough draft. i just go. there weren’t specific scenes that stumped me, but i stopped writing for six months after ai ling goes to visit master tan with
chen yong and what happens to her subsequently. i was forty pages in the novel and then truly scared myself into immobility because i had no idea how to move forward. the idea of writing two hundred more pages
5. What would be your main words of advice to aspiring YA writers?
writers write. you may not sell your first novel, but know that you will improve with each novel that you do write. always challenge yourself with each new project. read widely–beyond the genre you are writing
and beyond your favorites.
6. What can’t you live without when you’re writing?
my laptop. classical music. a drink and good snacks / food! =)
7. Just for fun—because of your luscious descriptions of food, everyone says Silver Phoenix makes them hungry. How much of the food that you wrote about have you actually tasted?
some of the dishes are made up! but i’d say i’ve eaten at least 75% of what i listed. a personal favorite is beef tongue! i don’t eat pig ears, tho!
8. Finally, what’s in store for you next, writing-wise?
i do have a children’s picture book i need to work on with my editor featuring my chinese brush art. but i also have the inkling of a third novel–set also in xia, but not related to ai ling. it’s tickling the back of my mind, and i never acknowledge these puffs of story ideas. but from past experience, they do manifest into full novels in the end. =D
thanks so much for having me! i had a lot of fun with this