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30 March 2011 @ 07:00 am
Interview with Cindy Pon - Fury of the Phoenix  

I'm so pleased to share this interview with our very own Cindy Pon for the release of her eagerly awaited sequel to Silver Phoenix - Fury of the Phoenix. I've always known Cindy is a wonderful story teller and writer, but in Fury, Cindy has blown me away. It is an intense, emotional, deep, rich and utterly satisfying read. I couldn't stop thinking about Fury for days after reading it. And I'm sure that it will find another legion of fans for Cindy.

Ello - Cindy, congratulations on the release of your sequel, Fury of the Phoenix! I absolutely loved it, but I know it was not an easy experience for you. Can you share with us what writing Fury was like?

Cindy - Thank you so much ello! I'm so happy you loved Fury of the Phoenix! And yes, I call the contracted sequel the Devil's Spawn. haha! Writing Fury truly was the hardest thing I've ever done, I think. Mainly because the experience was so different than writing Silver Phoenix (which was a huge learning curve as it was my first novel). Instead of taking all the time I needed and wanted, I sent my editor a very very rough draft (which was mortifying) and we worked closely together on three major revisions to take Fury to a place we were both happy with. I'm definitely very proud of my sequel!

Ello - You did something really difficult. You took an evil character and nuanced him so that we come to care for him. Was this idea in your head when you wrote SP or was this a new development? How hard was this to do?

Cindy - I think I knew fairly early on when writing the sequel that I wanted it to be dual story lines, and the other being from Zhong Ye's point of view. It didn't feel right to juxtapose Ai Ling's story with Silver
Phoenix's, it felt too close in a way. Also, Fury was all about choice and consequences for me, and Zhong Ye's life becomes inextricably tied to Ai Ling's and vice versa in Fury. I really love gray characters, and this is why I especially love Zhong Ye, and writing him. I was really worried that his point of view would be edited out because it really was an unconventional way to tell the story, from the antagonist in the first novel, and a eunuch to boot. But it completely made sense to me. It wasn't difficult to make Zhong Ye more sympathetic as I understood him so easily. He wants a better life, he's ambitious, he also falls in love. I'm so grateful my editor agreed with my ultimate vision for this novel.

Ello - Ai Ling is stronger and more confident in herself in Fury. In SP she was trapped by the culture she was raised in. A culture of male dominance. But in Fury, we see her throw off those societal shackles
and fully embrace her powers, and I love it! I love that she is truly the confident hero of her story. How did Ai Ling change for you from SP to Fury?

Cindy - As I said, Fury is a story about choice and consequence. Ai Ling did things in Silver Phoenix (by choice and out of obligation) that come to haunt her in Fury. Because you can't kill someone, even if
sanctioned by the gods, and not suffer the consequences of it. You don't keep secrets from those you love, and not suffer the consequences of it. I don't think it's a grand thing to be "the chosen one" in a fantasy story. I think, almost always, it's a burden. There is a price to pay for being extraordinary. And Ai Ling pays that price in Fury, when the gods abandon her, and she's left with nothing but the after effects of what happened in Silver Phoenix. She's in a dark place, feels isolated, alone, different and her confidence is out of not just courage and the desire to help, but also from desperation at times, and stubbornness. She wasn't the perfect heroine in Silver Phoenix, and neither is she in Fury.

Ello - The dual narrative is hard to do effectively, but you nailed it in Fury. But what made you decide on a dual narrative?

Cindy - It just made perfect sense to me. Given how Ai Ling vanquished Zhong Ye at the end of Silver Phoenix. And I loved juxtaposing Zhong Ye (the villain) to Ai Ling (the heroine) and showing how similar they could be and were in some of the choices they made.

Ello - I was so happy that we get to see Silver Phoenix’s love story in Fury. It definitely satisfied me immensely. And I admit that I found her story very romantic. Silver Phoenix is very different from Ai Ling just as Chen Yong is from Zhong Ye. As the creator, do you admit to any partiality among your characters?

Cindy - I do. Zhong Ye was the easiest character for me to write. He shares my views on how short I think life is. The feeling that there isn't enough time for everything we want to accomplish. And he definitely is very romantic, he truly loved Silver Phoenix. And she loved him back. I also enjoyed writing and learning more about Silver Phoenix. I love how brave and smart she is. But all the characters are definitely their own people.

Ello – I love the emperor’s court setting in Fury. It is so rich and detailed. What kind of research did you have to do for both of your books?

Cindy - Much of the research was left over from writing Silver Phoenix, in which I bought gorgeous giant coffee table books about the Emperor's palaces, his clothes, his rooms, his art, etc. I also read up on
palace life within the concubine's quarters and eunuchs. With Silver Phoenix, I read up on Chinese women and cultural expectations of them centuries past as well as Chinese architecture and clothing and even scenery books of famous landscapes--just to immerse myself in the world. In both novels, i used creatures and gods from A Chinese Bestiary: Strange Creatures from the Guideways Through Mountains and Seas. A very ancient book that the modern Chinese would never had heard of. You can't help but be inspired reading from it!

Ello – Absolutely! I love research like that! Ok, so my last question isn’t about Fury but about your next book. I’m really excited about your picture book. Can you share with us a little bit about what to expect and when?

Cindy - I feel much more comfortable as a young adult writer, and I feel I'm new doing that! I don't know enough about making picture books but I'm certainly eager to learn. And I'm so happy I'm doing this with my fantabulous editor, Virginia, and Greenwillow Books. My publisher makes such wonderful picture books! I only know that I hope to fill the picture book with cute animals, flowers, and bursts of happy
color--what I'm drawn to when I paint. =)

Ello – I’m already itching to buy it! Thanks Cindy for a wonderful interview and best of luck with Fury of the Phoenix!



Jackiefabulousfrock on March 30th, 2011 03:15 am (UTC)
Ooh, Zhong Ye sounds like a very interesting POV! Now, can you tell me what the coffee table book on the Emperor's palace etc. is? That sounds really interesting...
keelyinkster on March 30th, 2011 05:14 pm (UTC)
Really interesting interview Ellen, Cindy I love the sound of your research and can't wait to get my hands on Fury!

ebooraem on March 30th, 2011 09:14 pm (UTC)
Wow, Cindy, how gutsy was that, giving us the villain's point of view! I'm so glad your editor went with it.

I've always been fascinated with the concept of "good guys" who kill someone. During the Harry Potter roll-out, my online friends and I argued constantly about whether it was possible for a good person to deliver a killing curse. Your handling of that issue sounds fascinating. Can't wait to read it!
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(Anonymous) on March 31st, 2011 04:21 pm (UTC)
Oh yes, fantasy heroes and heroines kill in self-defense all the time, and what else can they do? (At least in adult and YA...can't remember whether I've run into it in MG.)


In the Snape/Dumbledore instance, though, before the last book came out that seemed like a cold-blooded murder and made for an interesting argument about Snape's true nature.
ebooraem on March 31st, 2011 04:22 pm (UTC)
That was me up above, obviously.
kikihamiltonkikihamilton on March 31st, 2011 04:59 am (UTC)
Great interview Cindy and Ello! I can't wait to get my hands on FURY! Everything I read says it's wonderful!!! I loved the exotic setting of SP and the burgeoning love story. Looking forward to seeing what happens next!
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ellen_ohellen_oh on April 1st, 2011 01:36 am (UTC)
Me too!
natalieag on March 31st, 2011 05:24 pm (UTC)
Great interview. I can't wait to read Fury. And I'm super curious on how you made Zhong Ye more sympathetic.
shveta_thakrar on March 31st, 2011 09:09 pm (UTC)
Yay! I got my copy last night and treated myself to the first chapter this morning. :)