To life!

Meet Cindy Pon, author of Silver Phoenix (GreenWillow Books/HarperCollins)

Posted on: June 6, 2010

Today, I’m pleased to interview YA novelist, CINDY PON, whose debut novel, SILVER PHOENIX,  is Booklist Editor’s Choice for YA readers, and made the New York Public Library’s list of ‘Stuff for the Teen Age’. We also share an agent, the wonderful Bill Contardi of Brandt and Hochman Literary Agents. 


BISI: Welcome, Cindy, and thank you for being here.

CINDY: Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Bisi!

BISI: I’ve lots of questions. Many writers start off wanting to write a particular book and end up writing another. What was it like writing Silver Phoenix? Was that the story you always wanted to tell?

CINDY:  I simply knew I wanted a heroine’s journey inspired by ancient China as a setting and folklore for fantasy.

BISI: Could you describe the writing process? Were there times when you wanted to give up?

CINDY: Silver Phoenix was the first novel I had ever written, and this, after a more than decade long hiatus from creative writing. As a teen and very infrequently in college, I solely wrote poetry and short stories.

I gave up on Silver Phoenix after I hit about forty pages and [SPOILER] the attempted rape scene. I had no idea how to write a novel. And all I could think was, I have more than two hundred pages to write! It was *very* daunting. I left the manuscript for six months! And it wasn’t until I took a novel writing class and participated in nano writing month 2006 that I broke through The Dreaded Middle barrier. I wrote 35k in a month (not all good words, but words, nonetheless) and realized yes, I could write an entire novel. I kept going because I wanted Ai Ling’s story to be told!

BISI: I’m sure the querying process was tense. How long did it take you to find agent Bill?

CINDY: I queried 121 agents in four months and probably received over 100 rejections.

BISI: 121 agents! I don’t know how you managed not to quit. Back to the story itself. What I love about your work is its seductive nature. I’m not a fan of fantasy, and yet from the prologue, I was hooked. Part of the reason I don’t like fantasy is because a wonderful writer can draw you into a world of magic, intrigue and heart-stopping adventure. I find myself dreaming of the characters. That’s what you did to me. Were there times when you inhabited the worlds you created, and how were you able to keep yourself grounded?

CINDY: What a fantastic question. I’m NOT the type of writer that writes all the time. In fact, I can have a good six months or more between novels. A lot of my writing time is actually spent researching and daydreaming scenes, conversations, interactions from my novel. I think about it long enough then try and convey the little film in my head with words onto the page.

I suppose I am grounded by my five and six-year-olds. They need to be fed and washed on a fairly regular basis. =) But when I’m writing and researching, I’m daydreaming and spaced-out A LOT. It’s the best part of being immersed in your own story.

BISI: In Ghana, the spirit world is very much a part of our belief-system, so much of the transcendental experience was familiar to me. How much of the supernatural is folklore?

CINDY: That is so fascinating. I’d love to hear more about that, Bisi. Will you do a post? =)

BISI: (laughing) I will!

CINDY: The idea of the soul and reincarnation, of karma is definitely part of Chinese beliefs. As for the monsters, demons and folklore, it is an amalgam of the true (like the snake demon) and the made-up by me (the corpse monster).

BISI: I was fascinated by idea of implicit sex as life force, a source of power. Is it cultural? How did you come by the three-breasted women? 

CINDY:  I’m not sure if it’s a source of power or a source of burden. From the beginning, Ai Ling knew her place in life was to breed, basically, and produce heirs for her parents and her future husband’s family. I made it so the climax was about her accepting her role and using it to defeat her enemy.

The three-breasted woman was just something I made up in keeping with the idea of the snake demon–the Chinese version of the succubi.

BISI: How interesting! To what extent do you identify with your protagonist?

CINDY: I identify with Ai Ling very easily. She has some of my own traits like loving food, and she is also a brush painter. Unlike me, she is rash and also, I think, much braver than I could ever be.

BISI: Have you finished the sequel? The way Silver Phoenix ended lends itself to a fabulous sequel full of fresh adventures and I for one can’t wait.

CINDY: I’m currently revising the sequel with my editor. I’m really proud of it and excited for the world to read Fury of the Phoenix. It is different than Silver Phoenix. The demons and conflicts are much more internal now, the stories more personal and character driven. Fury will be released in April 2011!

BISI: That’s wonderful. I can’t wait to read it. I hope I get the ending I’m yearning for! Thank you so much for visiting today. One last question: Is there a movie option for Silver Phoenix?

CINDY:  Agent Bill has pitched Silver Phoenix to several film producers. Unfortunately, it hasn’t stuck yet. I’m hoping one day–an author can dream. I know I’m biased, but I do think that Silver Phoenix lends itself very well to cinema.

BISI: I most certainly agree. I love Mulan, but Silver Phoenix makes Mulan look very tame. Well, it’s been most entertaining and informative chatting with you, thanks!

CINDY: A pleasure!


For more of Cindy Pon, visit her website at


18 Responses to "Meet Cindy Pon, author of Silver Phoenix (GreenWillow Books/HarperCollins)"

Sounds like a great read. I’ll check it out. Thanks for doing this! I’m trying to write a YA too.

Do check it out. Good luck with your writing!

Hey Cindy, we share the same name! Great interview, Bisi. I’ve read Silver Phoenix. Heart-stopping adventure. I agree, someone should make a movie out of it. Ask her what are her favorite books!

I’ll ask! Thanks for visiting, Cindy.

thanks so much for having me, bisi!
i really enjoyed this interview!

Me too, I learned a lot! And by the way, Cindy Smith wanted to know about your favorite books :).

Thanks for the visit. I look forward to featuring Fury of the Phoenix when it comes out.

shola, if you read it, i hope you enjoy it!

hi cindy! thanks for reading Silver Phoenix!
i’m so happy you liked it.

favorite books are so hard to choose from.
i really love ursula le guin’s earthsea series
as well as megan whalen turner’s queen’s
thief series.

recently in YA, i’ve been really impressed
by The Demon’s Covenant which is a sequel
to The Demon’s Lexicon. i loved Bleeding Violet
which was scary and loopy in all the right ways.
a fantastic debut. Flash Burnout was also a great
debut (and not fantasy, like the others i listed) which
won the Morris for best young adult debut. also
recommend Eyes Like Stars, Brightly Woven (fantasies)
and Perfect Chemistry and Rules of Attraction
(great voice, hero/heroine povs, sexual tension).

i’m on goodreads and do rate books there. it helps
me keep track of what i’m reading and the long
list of books i want to read. hope this helps! =D

Thanks for the detailed response, Cindy!

you’re welcome!! =D

Haha I loved the last part, Silver Phoenix and Mulan share a kick butt heroine and adventure and that’s about it. Silver Phoenix defintiely makes Mulan appear tame.

I’m with Cindy, I’d love to learn more about Ghanian belief in the spirit world.

Great questions (especially about the folklore/sprits and sex as a life force). I have a strong urge to go re-read Silver Phoenix 🙂

Thanks for the lovely comments, Ari!

so good to see you here, ari!

A wonderful interview!

I just wanted to stop in and wish you the best of luck with your book, Cindy! Thanks for sharing some of the process (and struggle) here on Bisi’s blog. As a new writer, it always helps to hear that a successful writer once faced everything I’m facing. (Or will face one day, when I finish my own novel.) 😉

I hope you get that movie deal!

All the best,


the victorian heroine

that is so kind, corra. thank you!

I have to admire those who write fantasy and historical fiction. The world-building and research would be so daunting, I probably couldn’t get started.

Congrats, Ms. Pon. Wishing you every success.

thank you so much, joy! i think a straight historical would be much more challenging. this is historical-like but i definitely took liberties making some things up!

This was a great interview….two of my favourite ladies!!! 🙂

Cindy you’re an inspiration to us writer folk, as evidenced here again; I’m glad Bisi was able to showcase more of that for us!


aww, thanks romi! =DD

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