VTB: Today on the blog I have the fantastic Fonda Lee, author of the upcoming YA sci-fi novel ZEROBOXER. Fonda, please tell us more about your book!
Fonda: ZEROBOXER is an upper young adult science fiction novel about an eighteen-year-old prizefighter battling to make it to the top in the world of zero gravity combat, amid brewing interplanetary conflict between Earth and Mars. Pitched as Rocky meets Gattaca, it will be published by Flux in Winter 2015.
I’ve always admired the power of science fiction to explore the issues of our society through the lens of an imagined future. ZEROBOXER was a way for me to delve into themes of sports celebrity and personal responsibility…against a background of futuristic fight sequences!
VTB: ZEROBOXER sounds incredible. Wish we didn’t have to wait until 2015 for it! Can you name three things that inspire you to write?
Fonda: First, reading books and watching movies that hit the heart, the head and the gut. To me, a great story makes you feel, makes you think, and raises your pulse.
Second, my other passion: training in martial arts, which I’ve been doing since I was a teenager. When I’m not writing, I’m probably training.
Third, the sublime anxiety of facing a blank document knowing my writing career depends on black squiggly lines resolving themselves into something that people would pay to read.
VTB: That is very cool. 🙂 Did you face any obstacles related to being Asian or a person of color on your road to publishing?
Fonda: No, and I think the fact that this blog has featured so many Asian-American authors is a good indication that there is plenty of opportunity. The only caveat I would give is that if you are writing something that might be perceived as being culturally niche, there’s the possibility of it being labeled “not marketable.” I’ve certainly seen and heard of it happening. The traditional publishing industry can be notoriously risk averse.
Fonda: The same advice that I would give to any aspiring writer: write the books inside you, work your ass off, and persevere beyond all reason.
For minority writers in particular, if you want to write something that draws on your cultural heritage, then go for it! But if you want to write funny picture books about robot chickens, or Regency romance novels, then do that. I think one of the wonderful things about being a writer is the ability to explore the world you want to explore. I have immense admiration for Bill Cheng for writing SOUTHERN CROSS THE DOG (a Southern gothic novel set in 1927 Mississippi) and doing it extremely well, just as I admire both Asian and non-Asian authors who are inspired by and write about Asian cultures.
There’s a Chinese phrase, “Eat Bitter,” which pretty accurately defines what it takes to be an author. In my martial arts school, we’ve occasionally used our own updated version: Embrace the Suck. In short, you have to practice like a dog, day in and day out, enduring all hardship until you come as close to perfection as you can. So, you see, if you’re a child of Asian parents and have ever heard this saying, you’ve already gotten the best writing advice you can get.
VTB: I love that! Can you tell us about your favorite Asian character from a book?
Fonda: I can’t pinpoint one character in particular, but I am a big fan of science fiction author Paolo Bacigalupi. He writes bleak, gritty, thought-provoking stuff, and his work has a lot of awesome characters who are Asian. That’s what I love to see in science fiction and fantasy – the normalizing of diversity. It’s not that we need more “Asian heroes.” We need more heroes who happen to be Asian. There’s a difference.
VTB: Thanks for sharing that about Paolo Bacigalupi. Who’s an Asian writer or artist you wish more people knew about?
Fonda: I’m a big fan of the wuxia genre and I wish more people on this side of the world knew about Jin Yong (Louis Cha), who is the best selling Mandarin language author alive. I can’t read Mandarin, so I wish more than just a few of his books were translated into English.
VTB: What’s your favorite book from childhood?
Fonda: Good Lord, you’re asking me to choose? Lloyd Alexander’s THE CHRONICLES OF PYRDAIN made me fall in love with high fantasy. A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L’Engle was the defining science fiction novel of my childhood and it made me cry. And I was a sucker for animal stories, especially Jack London’s WHITE FANG.
VTB: If you could be any character from any book and live in that book’s world for a day, who would you pick?
Fonda: I would be one of the elves in Lord of the Rings.
VTB: If you were a bender (from the Avatar: The Last Airbender universe), what element would you choose and why?
Fonda: Fire. I would like to say water, but really, it would be fire.
VTB: Thanks very much, Fonda! Guys, remember, ZEROBOXER releases Winter 2015!!! Be on the lookout for it!
FONDA LEE writes science fiction and fantasy for teens and adults. To the horror of her high school English teacher, she pursued a degree in Finance, went on to earn an MBA at Stanford, and spent years working in management consulting and corporate strategy before returning her attention to making up stories. Born and raised in Calgary, Canada, she now lives in Portland, Oregon, where she trains in martial arts and seeks out excellent breakfast spots. You can check out her website at www.fondalee.com, follow her on Twitter @FondaJLee, and add ZEROBOXER on Goodreads.