New Voice: Cindy Pon on Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia

Cindy Pon is the first-time author of Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia (HarperTeen, 2009). From the promotional copy:

No one wanted Ai Ling. And deep down she is relieved–despite the dishonor she has brought upon her family–to be unbetrothed and free, not some stranger’s subservient bride banished to the inner quarters.

But now, something is after her. Something terrifying–a force she cannot comprehend. And as pieces of the puzzle start to fit together, Ai Ling begins to understand that her journey to the Palace of Fragrant Dreams isn’t only a quest to find her beloved father but a venture with stakes larger than she could have imagined.

Bravery, intelligence, the will to fight and fight hard…she will need all of these things. Just as she will need the new and mysterious power growing within her. She will also need help.

It is Chen Yong who finds her partly submerged and barely breathing at the edge of a deep lake. There is something of unspeakable evil trying to drag her under. On a quest of his own, Chen Yong offers that help…and perhaps more.

What were you like as a young reader, and how did that influence the book that you’re debuting this year?

I think that I have a slightly different background than most.

I was born in Taiwan and came to the United States when I was six. It was mid-semester of first grade. I remember going into the class and not understanding anything. It made a deep impression on me–when a child cannot comprehend what’s being said. I remember my first grade teacher writing my name on the board because I didn’t know the alphabet, much less how to spell.

For a long time, I went away an hour a day with other recent immigrants from Taiwan to learn English from my ESL teacher. I remember sitting in the living room, staring longingly outside as the neighborhood kids played and I tried to memorize how to spell “yellow” and “slide” and “swing.”

But at some point, my English ability surpassed my mom’s (who was my devoted English tutor at home), and all of a sudden, a new fantastic world opened up to me in books. I remember reading voraciously as a child, and loving the Scholastic Book Orders! it was like Christmas every time!

I loved Noel Streatfield. Dancing Shoes and Ballet Shoes (1936) were my favorite–but I basically read the entire series. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell (Houghton Mifflin, 1960) remains a favorite. It’s the book I wish I had written. A Little Princess by Frances H. Burnett (1905) as well as a Wrinkle in Time by L’Engle (1962) were all read over and over again.

Like most writers, I began writing because I loved reading so much.

As someone working with a publicist, how did you identify that person? Why did you decide to go with professional help? What steps are the two of you taking to raise awareness of your new release?

I’m working with Rebecca Grose, who happens to be local in San Diego.

I found her through referral, and loved that she specialized in children’s book publicity. I wanted to hire a personal publicist because this is all new to me, and I didn’t think i was savvy enough to promote my debut as well as I’d like. I just wanted to give my all to Silver Phoenix. So it gave me peace of mind.

Already, Rebecca has connected me to a organization called Rolling Readers. They are local and doing a fundraiser dedicated to chidren’s authors and artists. It’s perfect as I’m doing a children’s picture book as well, and I love that the function is for a good cause. She’s also putting together a press kit for me, doing outreach to people who may be interested in reading and blurbing my novel, as well as targeting groups who may enjoy reading my book. She has the background and expertise to guide me through my debut book launch.

Cynsational Notes

See the Silver Phoenix Book Trailer.

The New Voices Series is a celebration of debut authors of 2009. First-timers may also be featured in more traditional author interviews over the course of the year.