Cindy Pon is the author of young fantasy books Silver Phoenix, Fury of the Phoenix, Serpentine and Sacrifice. She is also the author of Want, a near-future sci fi thriller set in Taipei. Cindy is the co-founder of Diversity in YA with Malinda Lo and part of the We Need Diverse Books advisory board.
Please share with our readers the synopsis of your story in this anthology.
“The Crimson Cloak” is based on the very popular and well known Cowherd and Weaver Girl Chinese folklore. It is a holiday celebrated in July on the lunar calendar and considered somewhat similar to our Valentine’s Day here in the United States.
What inspired you to retell this particular folktale?
It’s so well known and considered romantic. But I noticed that as with so many of these tales, the Weaver Girl never truly has a voice in the stories. I wanted to give her a voice.
What kind of Asian inspired stories would you like to see in SFF?
Oh gosh. Any and all kinds! I’d love to see more sister friendships—it’s what inspired me to write Serpentine.
If you were stuck on a lonely island and had access to only ONE Taiwanese dish, what would it be and why?
This is just a cruel and unfair question! Almost as bad as the “favorite book” question. But it’d probably be a sticky rice dish like migao. Augh, I can’t dwell on this question as there are too many fave foods. lol
I read in another interview of yours that your choice to writer stories featuring Asian characters in intentional. Can you tell us some of your cost-benefit outcomes of that choice in terms of traditional publishing? I feel like marginalized writers are often pressured to *only* write stories about marginalized characters, and it feels like non-marginalized audiences expect and fetishize painful stories by such authors. What are your thoughts on this?
Hmm. My thoughts are I don’t care what people think? haha! Totally rude but totally true. I think that marginalized folk are put through more shit whether you always write Asian protagonists or maybe if you never write an Asian protagonist. Writing journeys are personal journeys. And I write to please myself. I am a truly selfish writer. I write what I want to read. I write what I want to see. I especially write for young teen Cindy who never saw herself in a book. So whatever outsiders might think of me or my stories or my intentions matter very little to me. I am at the stage where I DO want to write All Asian Alll the Time. But my writing motto is “never say never”. It could change in the future, but this is what I’m passionate about now. You can only make your choices as a writer and stand by them. It hadn’t been an easy journey for me for making that choice. WANT is my most well known title, five books in. Staying published was never a given for me. I don’t regret anything, and I feel very lucky to do what I do. I love my readers!!
Given that your novels WANT and its sequel RUSE are set in Taiwan, was visiting Taiwan and conducting research crucial to the process or in hindsight do you think you could have produced the kind of stories that you did without going there? Did visiting for research inspire you in any unexpected ways?
I did do a research trip to Taipei for WANT. It was the very best trip. Much of where I visited and saw and experienced made its way into the novel. I’m a sensory writer, so nothing helps more than to visit the locations. Although honestly, my previous books set in an inspired China I never visited until after they were published! RUSE is actually largely set in Shanghai, and I took a trip there last May for research. As for inspired in unexpected ways, yes! I took a trip to the top of the Taipei 101 and took many photos and wound up setting Jason Zhou’s apartment in that building. And when I was in Shanghai, there were scaffolding *everywhere* due to the construction—only they were made out bamboo. I loved that so much, and I could visulize the scene that eventually made its way into RUSE.
Please share any RUSE teasers if you can – the wait is unbearable!
It is the WANT sequel mostly set in Shanghai. Jason Zhou is not the sole narrator in this book. 🙂
In case you missed it, check out our previous 1KBE author interview with Aliette de Bodard!