Thursday, June 11, 2009

Savvy Scribblers: Cindy Pon

This month's edition of savvy scribblers features Cindy Pon, author of Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia. According to Cindy's site,, she is "a stay at home mom and when she's not writing or painting, she likes to read, daydream, travel, eat and watch films in the theatre, and she loves pastries, chai lattes and taiwanese food!"

If you haven't read Silver Phoenix already, you really really need to. I'm serious. Or, you could enter to win it below too! I want you all to know that I started reading it with serious reservations because I was not fluent in Eastern culture, but I seriously loved it!

Cindy, thanks for being here with us for this interview! Let's get started, shall we?

About the Book:

IHM: Are there really books called "The Book of Making" and "The Book of the Dead" or texts similar to these in Chinese culture, or are they complete fiction?

CP: no, there are not. those are made up. =)

IHM: Can you explain a little about Chinese naming conventions?

CP: from experience, most chinese people
have three characters in their name. the first character would be
the family name (or last name by our convention). but they don't go
around being called by their surname.

thus, my heroine's name is "ai ling". her family name is "wen".
so her whole name is "wen ai ling".

my heroe's name is "chen yong". his family name is "li".
his whole name is "li chen yong". (he DOES introduce himself
as li chen yong at one point in the novel.)

there are some cases where a person only has ONE character
for his name. then often, their family name is included in the name
all the time. this is the case with "li rong". "rong" is his name and
"li" is his family name--the same as chen yong--as they are brothers.

yeah, i had to make it complicated. but it stays true to conventions. =)

IHM: Regarding pronunciation, are there any guidelines we should know about? For instance, how would Xia and Xian be pronounced?

CP: too hard to go into alas. pronunciation is difficult without actual classes
in mandarin. but xia would be pronounced like she-ya, spoken quickly.
and she-yen for "xian".

IHM: Is there any significance to all of the banging of heads that takes place throughout Silver Phoenix?

CP: it is a person humbling himself to god or his elders or whomever
is higher than him in status. often, a way of apologizing or of showing

IHM: What religion would Ai Ling and Chen Yong have practiced? Also, what roll does ancestor worship have in that religion?

CP: chinese religion is based on both taoism as well as buddhism
amd confucianism. and altho based on chinese culture, what they do
believe in is an amalgam of these things--the idea of reincarnation
(buddhism) or filial piety (putting family over self) from confucianism.
or reverence for ancestor spirits and immortals in taoism. i think they
are all touched upon in Silver Phoenix!

About Cindy:

IHM: What made you decide to start taking Chinese brush painting lessons?

CP: i had a coworker who took it for over a decade. she showed me her
portfolio and i was just so...inspired. art is beautiful. and i've always been
drawn to color and vivacity and nature. there's a lot of that in chinese brush

IHM: What was the biggest culture shock to you when you moved to America with your family?

CP: i think probably that i couldn't speak a word of english. when you're six years
old and you took all those years to master a language (chinese), it's a shock to
go somewhere completely new and not be able to understand what was being
said or speak back. it made a big impression on me.

IHM: Imagine the world is coming to an end (via zombies, vampires, global disaster, etc.), and the only things you have left to burn to keep yourself warm are books. Which would you burn first?

CP: which book would i burn first? haha!
the dictionary comes to mind, as it's big. but i'd
hate to lose that. it'd have to be a giant chemistry
or physics textbook i think. ha!

IHM: Can you share with us one thing that you can't leave the house without?

CP: tissues. ha! so unglamorous.

IHM: You write beautifully about bravery and courage and honor, may I ask who your real life hero is?

CP: my mother. she shows me how to be a heroine.

IHM: Thank you Cindy, for being here with us today.

CP: thanks so much for having me, shesten! this was a super fun interview!!

And, as a special bonus, I bring to you:

top ten television shows Cindy loves:

america's next top model
make me a supermodel
gossip girl
housewives of nyc
project runway
the millionaire matchmaker

Now, to enter to win a copy of Silver Phoenix, you need to make a guess as to one of the shows that Cindy and I both watch. Yep. How fun, right? I've talked about my shows on twitter, I talk about them on Facebook, and I talk about them on my personal blog (which if you've been paying attention, I've linked to exactly twice). So there are some places for you to find cheats, or you can simply guess OR I'm sure you can catch me on Twitter and coerce me into answering some questions that might help you decide which ones are the same! I'll tell you that we have 4 in common, so all you have to do is guess one of the four. You may guess once. Wrong guesses get one entry. Right guesses get 2 entries!

The winner will receive a copy of Cindy's debut novel, Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia, brand spakin' new from me, as well as a signed bookplate and a bookmark featuring Cindy's brush painting, from Cindy. How cool is that? This is open worldwide! Please make your guess by June 30, 2009.

Get to guessing!!

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