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. The sequel to “Silver Phoenix”, titled “Fury of the Phoenix”, was released in April 2011. Her first published short story is featured in “Diverse Energies”, a multicultural YA dystopian anthology from Tu Books (October 2012). Cindy is also a Chinese brush painting student of over a decade.
For what age audience do you write?
I write upper young adult fantasy (for fourteen years plus) based on ancient China. And I’m trying my hand at a YA sci-fi for the first time this summer.
Henry: Wow, that is quite a time jump from ancient China to sci-fi.
Tell us about your latest book.
It is an expansion of my short story in Diverse Energies anthology, a cyberpunk set in Taipei.
Henry: Looks like someone is going to be writing off a vacation to Taiwan.
What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?
Never more than that they enjoyed the journey. If they fall in love, it is the biggest compliment to me as an author.
What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?
Rough drafting is the most challenging for me. I am not an outliner so the unknown can be scary. But also, exhilarating and fun.
Henry: I am an outliner, and rough drafting is also the most challenging for me too.
What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?
Probably to trust your own process. There is a lot of noise out there telling you how to do it right. As a beginner, you take in the advice, but the truth of the matter is, each writer’s process is unique to her or him. And often, might be unique to the book you are working on.
Henry: That is the first time I’ve heard that, and the wisdom of it really resonates.
What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?
Toasting Neil Gaiman before he accepted his Newbery Medal for The Graveyard Book at a private HarperCollins party in 2009 at ALA. It was a very memorable and inspiring night.
Henry: Wow, how cool is that? I recently got to meet Newbery winner Richard Peck. You can hear the craftsmanship even when he speaks.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
To read widely, and beyond your favorite genres. Also to keep writing. It is the only way to learn and improve–to find your own voice.
Henry: Yes, what is that saying? Like a lion is the product of all the zebras she’s eaten, so the writer is the product of all the books she’s read.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
Henry: Yes, you can’t go wrong with The Force. I remember thinking as a kid how nice it would be to be able to change TV channels without getting up. The TV remote is telekinesis!
If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?
Iris Murdoch, Ursula K. Le Guin and Noel Streatfield. Because they are my favorite authors and are amazing writers and storytellers.
Henry: I loved Le Guin’s Earthsea fantasy trilogy as a kid. Wikipedia helpfully adds:
“Dame Iris Murdoch was an Irish-born British author and philosopher, best known for her novels about good and evil, sexual relationships, morality, and the power of the unconscious. Her first published novel, “Under the Net”, was selected in 1998 as one of Modern Library’s 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.
Mary Noel Streatfeild was an English author, best known for children’s books including the “Shoes” series inaugurated by Ballet Shoes (1936). She won the third annual Carnegie Medal for “The Circus is Coming”, also published as “Circus Shoes”.”
I was tickled to read that her father later became a Bishop!
What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?
I’ve always been fascinated by mermaids–even though I’m a little frightened of the ocean. I’m a poor swimmer and the sea is mercurial in temperament. Also, Medusa. She is a truly tragic figure in mythology in my mind.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I’ve been a student of Chinese brush painting for twelve years and enjoy it very much. Also, reading and watching movies in the theater.
Where can readers find your work?
Henry: Yes, the folks at Mysterious Galaxy are very nice. We’ve launched our first two books there.
This interview is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.