New Voice: Cynthea Liu on Paris Pan Takes the Dare

Cynthea Liu is the author of Paris Pan Takes the Dare (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, June 11, 2009). From the promotional copy:

Twelve-year-old Paris Pan’s life is a mess. She’s just moved to a tiny town in Nowheresville, Oklahoma; her family life is a comical disaster; her new friends are more like frenemies; and the boy she has a crush on is a dork.

Things couldn’t possibly get worse, until she discovers that a girl mysteriously died years ago while taking a seventh-grade rite of passage–the Dare–right near Paris’s new house. So when Paris starts hearing strange noises coming from the creepy run-down shed in her backyard, she thinks they could be a message from the ghost of a girl. But while she has no plans to make contact with the great beyond, her two new friends have other thoughts.

Everyone who’s anyone takes the Dare, and now it’s Paris’s turn.

How did you discover and get to know your protagonist?

Interestingly enough, Paris Pan’s voice wasn’t difficult to create. She sounds a lot like me! (Yes, I often talk like a twelve-year-old.) I figured out Paris’s story by sitting down in front of my laptop on a cold November day. I waited for the first scene to pop into my mind and started writing. The scene was a girl on the first day at a new school in a teeny Oklahoma town.

As I got further into it, I knew Paris would make some friends with a whole lot of trouble in store for her, that trouble being the Dare. I then found I was injecting tons of my own childhood experiences into the manuscript. All the moving I did as a kid. The constant feeling that I never had money despite the fact that my parents worked so hard to make it. And of course, those quirky family dynamics!

How have you approached the task of promoting your debut book?

I try to keep a strong Internet presence. Not because I feel I have to. Because I like to and I have been, long before my agent sold my first book. Sure, at times, it can be overwhelming, but there is nothing like being able to connect with other writers who get it.

With my books out now, there are even more people to connect with–teachers, parents, librarians, booksellers, book reviewers…and the kids!

Though it seems to me for a middle grade novels like Paris Pan, reaching out to adults (versus kids) makes more sense since many 10-year-olds aren’t surfing the Internet to buy books off Amazon or Indiebound. They’re still doing super-cool stuff. Like moving around. Outside. Hopefully! So if they find me online, they’ve already read my book and want to tell me so.

I’ve also broadened my scope online to include more writers. It’s lonely being just me and Snoop (see photo) out there.

I built AuthorsNow! to help children’s book enthusiasts like book reviewers, librarians, and teachers learn about all kinds of debut books for children and teens.

For Paris Pan specifically, I’m throwing a launch party online called “Take the Dare: Show You Care.” For me, launch parties are not about selling books; they’re about celebrating.

And I’m celebrating big along with many fabulous author friends for a great cause– all royalties for launch party sales of Paris Pan will go toward a Title I school [Tulakes Elementary in Oklahoma City], and I can’t wait to present a school-in-need with a nice check.

Offline, I am making a concerted effort to do school visits, and I am equally excited about a huge essay contest I’m holding for my readers.

It’s their chance to get published, win some cold hard cash, and make their teachers, librarians, and parents all proud and happy at the same time.

What advice do you have for your fellow debut authors?

Do what you can do. What you want to do. All this stuff? I don’t think it will make or break your book. Sure, there are always exceptions where one thing you did led to the next thing and the next. But there are so many factors that go into how a book will perform in the marketplace and not all of them are under your control. In fact, most of it is not under your control!

So again, do what you’re comfortable with. What you want.

Know that the hard work is already finished–you wrote the book. Now write the next one!

Cynsational Notes

Surf over to The Paris Pan Takes a Dare Launch Party! Enter to win giveaways, bid on auction items, and so much more!

Giveaways include autographed books, posters, and T-shirts, including an autographed copy of Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu (Morrow, 2000). Note: there are 18 giveaway books–from picture books to YA novels!

Auction items include query letter, synopsis and manuscript critiques by authors, agents, and editors as well as prize packs, virtual author visits, and audio books! Donors include: authors Esther Hershenhorn, Saundra Mitchell, Susan Taylor Brown, Brenda Ferber, Maggie Stiefvater, Lindsey Leavitt, Jay Asher, and Bruce Hale as well as agent Jennifer Rofe of Andrea Brown Literary Agency, author-agent Ammi-Joan Paquette, and editor Karen Chaplin of Puffin/Speak. Note: many more offerings, including more in various categories from some of the folks listed here; see the whole list.

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.