Authors on the Verge: Meet Cindy Pon, young adult novelist

Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia by Cindy Pon
Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia by Cindy Pon

This week, we have Cindy Pon. Cindy was born in Taipei, Taiwan and immigrated to California in 1980 at age six, settling in a suburb of Los Angeles. She began writing stories before she was officially declared English proficient.  Cindy is a student of Chinese brush painting, and her love for the art is reflected in her storytelling. An award winning artist, her paintings have been shown in various venues throughout San Diego.  To write and paint in China one day is a personal dream.

Here’s a little bit about SILVER PHOENIX : Beyond the Kingdom of Xia, Greenwillow/ HarperCollins (out now!).

My debut, SILVER PHOENIX : Beyond the Kingdom of Xia, will be published by Greenwillow Books, Harpercollins in Summer ’09.  It’s a tale of a heroine’s journey and a labor of love, with monsters from Chinese myth and my own imagination. i define it as an Asian YA fantasy. major themes in the book include : the outsider, societal expectations, duty and obligation, FOOD! and unrequited love.  I also have a sequel to SILVER PHOENIX coming out along with a children’s picture book using my own Chinese brush art.

Cindy Pon
Cindy Pon

Now let’s start the interview. When you received your offer, what happened?

We’re thrilled and terrified.

So now that you have a contract, what’s it like to be on the other side-on the verge of publication? What does it feel like to be official?

Only mothers can relate to this, alas. It’s like your first pregnancy, when the idea of a baby (or published book) is amorphous and dreamy. But when the day arrives, you have a  very real baby in your hands! I’m in that daydreamy ambiguous stage of pre-publication.

Tell us a little bit about your path to publication.

I began taking some creative writing classes after I had my two bubs back to back. I was a stay at home mom and wanted something to call my own–and turned to my first love, writing. I wrote 40 pages of the novel between January and May 2006, then stopped for six months, utterly intimidated by THE MIDDLE. I had no idea what I was doing! (and I admit, sometimes it still feels like that!) but I used nanorimo to write 35k in words that November, conquering my fear of THE MIDDLE. I revised for over a year and began querying for agents in late January 2008. I landed my fantastic agent, bill contardi, in early April. The book went to auction about five weeks later.

And here’s our favorite question. How many rejections did you receive in general (not just for this book) before you landed your first major publishing contract?

51-100

Tell us about one of your most heart-breaking rejections and about one of your best.

My best and worst rejection were one and the same. the agent gave a personal rejection calling me a talented writer, but still passed. I was crushed. The close ones hurt the most. I queried 121 agents, and was considering going directly to publishers via the slush pile if necessary. There isn’t anything on the current YA market like SILVER PHOENIX, and some agents were put off by it. It was discouraging, but I love and believe in this story. and I picked myself up and dusted the rejection grime off each day to chase the dream!

How long did it take to sell your books, from putting the first words on the page to receiving an offer?

2 years – 3 years

Prior to selling your books, you were …

A stay-at-home mom or dad

Now that you’ve sold some books, you plan to …

Other

What are some of the new things you worry about now that you have a contract?

Oh gosh. I’m a worry wart. What isn’t there to worry about? actually, I don’t worry at all about my publisher’s end of things– I have every confidence in them.  I worry about promotion and publicity on a personal level. I worry about readings and signings. I worry about how well the book will sell. I worry about how well it’ll be received by readers.  Then there’s the sequel to be written and the picture book to illustrate!!

If you’ve already begun or have finished the editorial process with your publisher, let you us know what that’s been like.

Revising with my editor, Virginia, has been such an eye opening experience. I’ve learned so much. I’ve done three rounds thus far. the first round was mainly line edits and addressing some issues in the story / plot. I was naive enough to think that was the bulk of it. Then i got the second editorial letter. haha! there’s always the initial can i do this?! Panic! But i was able to tackle most of the questions virginia posed, making the story and characters deepen. The novel is so much stronger for it. This last revision was just tweaking of some dangling issues. I’ve really enjoyed revising with Virginia and am so grateful for her editing skills and insight.

Describe a typical day in your writing life.

Nothing typical yet. I like to revise in large chunks–usually 2 – 5 hours at a time. When i wrote the rough draft, I wrote 4 to 5 days a week, in 40 – 60 minute intervals, usually with an output of 1200 – 1600 words.  I can’t write every day. I need a break once in a while.

Any advice for aspiring authors?

Never give up! as long as you love your writing and your book and your world, keep going! read loads. Write! attend creative writing classes. Join a good critique group. Attend conferences. Read beyond your usual genres. Don’t let your fear of failure or rejection stop you from chasing your dream! Allow yourself to do bad writing, that’s what revising is for.

Aside from WRITING FOR CHILDREN AND TEENS<—shameless plug, are there any other books on craft you recommend?

On writing by stephen king steering the craft by ursula le guin

Finally, Snoop wants to know: What is a motto you live by?

Expect nothing, be pleasantly surprised.

This concludes our interview with our latest author Cindy Pon. We wish her much success with her debut novel SILVER PHOENIX : Beyond the Kingdom of Xia.

To see what Cindy is up to these days, visit her blog at http://cindypon.blogspot.com or her website at http://www.cindypon.com.

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