A Backwards Story.
1) What were your favorite fairy tales growing up? What drew you to them?
I love the Hans Christian Anderson stories like The Little Match Girl and The Little Mermaid
and The Snow Queen. They were all magical but also all rather tragic. I think my father was the
one to buy me his anthology and I treasured those stories.
2) What Chinese folklore tales were your favorites? What did you like about them?
My favorite is The Cowherder and the Weaver. It is called the Chinese Valentine’s story and not only incorporates fantasy, but is very romantic. The weaver girl in the story was immortal and despite having children and living a happy human life, she was pulled back and separated from her family and husband to return to the heavens by her angry grandmother. So it is only on July 7th of each year that the lovers can meet in the heavens on a bridge across the Milky Way formed by magpies.
2) Did any traditional tales influence you when writing Silver Phoenix?
Not really. I'm influenced by everything I read in a way. But with Silver Phoenix, I simply knew I wanted to tell a heroine's journey and have a fantasy inspired by ancient China.
3) Was it hard coming up with your own lore when you began world-building, especially because, despite the Chinese influence, Xia isn't China? How did you bring everything together?
That wasn't the difficult part. The difficult part was allowing myself the freedom to make stuff up!
I had to realize and accept that I wasn't writing a historical or even a historical fantasy (which would
have to take place in a certain time or place in our history), but creating my own world inspired by China.
Once I gave myself that freedom, it was easy to just write Ai Ling's story the way I envisioned it. It is no
different than what Tolkien or Lewis or many fantasy authors did, use real culture and myth but also create your own for your fantasy world.
4) What are some of your favorite fairy tale inspired novels and/or authors?
I really enjoyed Entwined by Heather Dixon as well as Ash by Malinda Lo. White Cat by Holly Black is amazing (followed by Red Glove). These novels are loosely based on the White Cat fairy tale and is a favorite series of mine!
5) If you could live out any fairy tale, what would it be and why?
As tragic as it is, and as afraid as I am of being underneath the sea very deep, I'd have to say The Little Mermaid. I've always been fascinated by mermaids since reading the story.
6) Will you be writing any more novels that incorporate mythical beings? Can you tell us anything about your upcoming work?
I only sold two young adult novels so Ai Ling's story ends with Fury of the Phoenix. For my next project, I do hope to write and sell another Xia fantasy starring a shape-shifting snake demon (very popular in Chinese folklore) heroine and a wannabe monk. =)
8) What are some traditional Asian tales that should be more well-known in the Western Hemisphere?
Journey to the West (Monkey King) is the best known (but still not very well-known) story. I'm very excited, as Neil Gaiman has been asked to write the screen play and I hope to see an excellent film made for the US audience in the near future!
And now, in traditional Fairy Tale Fortnight fashion, the lightning round of crazy but fun questions!
~Best fairy tale villain and why? The stepmother from Snow White. She was just so conniving and scary
~Rapunzel is named after lettuce; what odd thing would you be named after if you were in a fairy tale? A pastry, like Pie or Cupcake.
~ Using that name, give us a line from your life as a fairy tale:
Cupcake wandered lost in the strange forest, surrounded by star-shaped donuts, singing apple pie slices, and dancing blueberry scones.
~Would you rather:
-- eat magic beans or golden eggs? Golden Eggs!
-- style 50ft long hair or polish 100 pairs of glass slippers? Polish glass slippers!
-- have a fairy godmother or a Prince Charming? A fairy godmother!