While this is the 2009 Debutante Interview Series, I’m pretty sure this week’s deb would get kicked out of the ball on account of her incessant bootay shakin’. Yes, it’s Cindy Pon (aka Xiaotien) and she’s here to chat with us about her journey from waging query warfare to her three book deal with Greenwillow. Her first book, SILVER PHOENIX, hit shelves in ’09.
No one wanted Ai Ling. And deep down she is relieved—despite the
dishonor she has brought upon her family—to be unbetrothed, free, and
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 the pieces of the puzzle start to fit
together, Ai Ling begins to understand that her journey to the Palace
of Fragrant Dreams in search of her beloved father—missing these many
months—is so much more than that. 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.
Congrats on your debut novel, Cindy. The cover art is beautiful and I can’t wait to see it on shelves! But can you give us a little statistical rundown on how long it took you to get to this point? How many books? How many rejections? How many days, months, or years?
It took me about three to four months to write the rough draft. Then I spent a year revising it with comments from my two critique groups to help me. SILVER PHOENIX was the first novel I’ve ever written.
I queried 121 agents and i’m sure was rejected by at least 90 of them. I started agent querying at the end of january 2008, and landed agent bill in early april. He sent an email on sunday afternoon saying he loved my novel and I literally jumped up and down in the kitchen.
My bubs thought mommy had gone nutso. =)
The book went to auction in my fifth week of submission to publishers.
That’s fantastic and couldn’t have happened to a nicer person! Which “Call” thrilled you more? The call in which you landed an agent or the call in which you landed your book deal? Can you describe to us what it felt like?
Oh, such different emotions there.
I approached querying for an agent like all out warfare. and i would “revenge query” each time i got a rejection. if i had nothing in my query email box for a few days, i’d zap out a few more. It’s a strange thing to say, but many times, seeing a rejection was better than seeing NOTHING at all. (that’s the worst!!)
As I said, I was truly ecstatic when Agent Bill sent me an email to arrange THE CALL for monday morning.
It had been such a roller coaster ride. and all along, I never really knew if what i had was good enough. I only knew that i loved it–and i had to try. try hard!
Going on submission to editors was entirely different. It was utterly and completely out of my
hands. There was no more revising a query, or fiddling with your first pages of prose. Your novel was OUT THERE. and the only thing you could do was try to stay sane and wait.
I think I was in a state of disbelief when my novel went to auction. it was a very high stress and emotional time for me. Here i was, scheduling talks with editors from major publishing houses (what?!) in between picking up the bubs from preschool and their nap times. It was all very surreal.
When I said yes to Virginia and Greenwillow books, I was spent. and still in utter disbelief. It’s very strange
to want something so long and call it a dream, then to actually get it. i was thrilled and terrified. The whole experience was incredible.
Ahhh! I love stories like that. So inspiring, but staying sane while waiting? I’m working on that one… This is Fumbling with Fiction, so I have to ask, in your writing career have you ever had a big “Oops!” moment?
I sent out partial requests too soon. I think many writers make that mistake. We’ve been fiddling with the story for so long, we’re just itching to get it out there already. But you have to learn from your mistakes. That’s why you should send out in batches–so if you get a lot of rejections, you know it’s time to regroup and revise.
I think you are right. That’s a problem a lot of writers run into. I know that was one of my problems as well, so great advice!
Now that you are a soon-to-be-published author, seeing the view from the other side, what has been your favorite moment in the publishing process so far? What part of the process has most surprised you?
My favorite moment would be getting my first editorial letter from virginia, my editor! It was just such a sense of achievement for me. I had fumbled very long by myself over this story. Labor of love is exactly what it is. And i knew i was at a point where I had nothing more to offer to the prose or the story.
I had done as best as I could as a writer, with what little resources I had. To get that first editorial letter and see how my novel could be improved–and improved in such great ways–I just loved it!
Seeing my book jacket comes in as a close second. That was very emotional for me. They did such a fantastic job on it. I was floored.
You and Agent Bill seem to have such a collegial relationship. What do you think the secret to sucess has been of your extremely functional agent-author relationship?
I don’t think it’s a secret. Open communication is so key. I frequent the writing forums and I know the prevailing feeling of “not wanting to be a bother” walking on eggshells because it was so hard to find an agent. No one wants to lose an agent!
Communication is important. And so is trust. And respect. If you have a question or concern, ASK YOUR AGENT. That’s what s/he is there for!!
A valuable reminder for those, like me, who are newly agented. I hear you got an offer for a picture book thrown in your deal as a result of your editor reading your blog. What new challenges come with shifting to writing for much younger readers?
It’s a different mind set. And it’s going to be a great challenge. I’m very intimidated! I need to submit a dummy (which is a mock up of the picture book) and I’ve seen some fantastic dummies–that look like an
actual picture book.
So I’m trying not to panic. I don’t want to send Virginia a few pages stapled together and have her think, what the heck did I get myself into? =X
I have a lot to learn. But if anyone is going to guide me well, it would be Virginia.
Your brushwork is beautiful and I know you’ll do a wonderful job.
Finally, if you could have written one book previously published by another author, which book would it be?
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’dell.
HUGE Congrats again and I look forward to hearing all of your future success. Keep us updated!!