I am very happy to be doing the very first author interview for my blog, and what a great person to be interviewing! Cynthea Liu is the author of Writing for Children and Teens and runs the debut children's author site, Authors Now.
Cynthea’s debut young adult novel, THE GREAT CALL OF CHINA, is about a Chinese-born American adoptee who jumps at the chance to travel to Xi’an, China to learn about anthropology and to explore her roots. The Great Call of China comes out tomorrow, February 19th!
Congratulations on your book, Cynthea! First of all, tell us, what inspired you to write about China? Have you been there? If so, did the places you saw make appearances in your book? What did you do to make the settings in The Great Call of China authentic?
Actually, the idea to write a book set in China came from my agent. The publisher had notified her that they were looking for proposals for a series featuring teens traveling abroad. So I said, "why not?" My brother lives in Xi'an, China, and when I read more about the series, I knew I'd set the book there. Many of the places my brother took me to in Xi'an are in the book!
Though in some cases--Beijing in particular--I had to do a lot of reading and verifying with other people to make sure I got the details right.
What kinds of troubles does your main character, Cece, run into?
As one can imagine, looking for an orphanage in a city you are unfamiliar with, in a country you have never been to, where everyone speaks a language you don't understand poses some huge challenges. On top of that, Cece learns something about her past that makes it difficult for her to want to uncover more. There's also complications in her romantic life, but as you can imagine those issues get worked out. :)
This book is part of the S.A.S.S. series. What does S.A.S.S. stand for? Will you be writing more books for the series?
S.A.S.S. stands for Students Across the Seven Seas. It's a program for students to travel abroad. Main characters apply for the program and get whisked off to a foreign land filled with excitement, adventure, and romance. I don't know if I'll be writing more books for the series. At the moment, I owe Putnam another original MG or YA book, so I'll be busy.
Alot of writers would be interested to know, how many agents did you query before you found 'the one'? How has your writing life changed since you found an agent?
After about a year of submitting on my own, I did a couple of queries at first--to feel out the market. I got some nice responses but no offers. A little after that, I finished PARIS PAN, and editors seemed to be responding positively to it, so I decided I'd do a full round of agent queries. That was about five or six agents. Ironically, the agent who had rejected me the first time I queried (I queried picture book manuscripts initially) offered representation for my novel.
Since I've gotten an agent, I spend WAY less time obssessing over editors. I get to focus on other things, which is kinda nice. In fact, without an agent, I'm not sure I'd be able to further my career by much. A baby underfoot, book deadlines, and two releases this year leave me more than occupied.
How many manuscripts did you write before you sold one? Have you found that your writing style meshes more with one genre than another?
I had written a little bit more than ten manuscripts, I think. I've got three completed novels, two chapter books, several picture books, and some easy readers. I find that I get the most enjoyment from writing younger works because I can get a little wilder with the humor. But young adult books are a great challenge, too!
You run a very prolific and interactive personal website, run the AuthorsNow! debut authors website that features over 100 authors, and are a part of the 2009 Debutantes– plus you're a mom! How on earth do you find the time to write?
This is one of the most popular questions I've gotten since I started doing interviews! The answer is simple. I have part-time help from a wonderful college student named Julia. Lots of coffee. And I don't sleep very much!
Well, I guess you get that question alot because we are amazed by all that you do! You have another book coming out this summer--PARIS PAN TAKES THE DARE (Putnam, June 2009). Could you give us a sneak peak?
Here are the first lines...
Looking back I should have been suspicious from day one, but now I know that if you want something bad, you'll do anything to get it.
You'll lie to your friends.
Steal from your family.
Eat a whole box of orange Creamsicles.
Last but not least, if you could live in any book, which one would it be and why?
Oh, dude. I think I like the real world just fine! Seriously, there is too much tragedy in fiction novels. I'd never survive as a character!
Thank you, Cynthea, for frolicking over to answer some questions! Best of luck with THE GREAT CALL OF CHINA.
Please stop by Cynthea’s launch parties tomorrow at taralazar.wordpress.com and at www.cynthealiu.com. All day, February 19, 2009. Writers should hop on over to Tara's site to see what Snoop and Cynthea are doing for writers. Nonwriters can join Cynthea at her own website where there will be party favors for everyone and some good ole fashioned fun.
THE GREAT CALL OF CHINA is available online at Amazon.com , Borders, B&N.com, Indiebound, and throughout bookstores across the country.