It’s time for your next summer read. WANT is an absolutely fantastic, diverse, YA sci-fi novel that younger me kept looking for. And hello, there’s an awesome Asian boy on the cover!
Cindy Pon’s newest novel follows Jason Zhou, a teen who lives in a divided Taipei of those that can afford special suits that protect them from pollution, and those who cannot. In order to take down his city’s corruption, Zhou and his friends decide to target Jin Corporation, the company that manufactures the suits. To do so, Zhou disguises himself as a wealthy teen in order to uncover information. But things become muddled as Zhou befriends Daiyu, the heir of Jin Corp, and begins to fall for her.
How would you explain WANT in a seven-word sentence?
Blade Runner and Ocean’s Eleven in Taipei!
WANT is different from your other novels, being that it’s non-fantasy. What sparked the idea for the novel and was the writing process different from Silver Phoenix and Serpentine?
WANT is my first SF as you said, and also my first novel told in the first person narration. Lots of firsts! The only reason I dared to try was because I had written it originally as a short story which appeared in the Diverse Energies anthology. The writing process was different for me in that I was a lot more hesitant about what I was doing as a writer, since it was a completely new genre for me. Usually when I’m rough drafting, I aim for 1k words a day, but with WANT I went easy on myself and only aimed for 500!
Your novel is one of the first YA books to be set in Taiwan (which is so awesome). How does that make you feel?
So very thrilled an proud. I think it actually IS the first YA set in Taipei published by a big US publisher, and if not, definitely the first YA SF novel! I grew up reading voraciously just like all writers I know, but never read a book with anyone that looked like me. There is especially a dearth of marginalized protagonists in speculative fiction. Reader responses have been very positive across the board, and I couldn’t be more happier!
Did you conduct any research for WANT? If so, where did you begin?
My biggest research was probably my actual trip to Taipei in 2013! I am naturally a very sensory writer and there is no better way to bring a city to life in a novel than visiting and experiencing all the sights, sounds, scents for yourself. I did exactly that in this week long trip, and much of what I took in on that trip made its way into WANT.
WANT’s cover is gorgeous! When you wrote up the first draft of the novel, what had you imagined the cover to be like?
I agree, I love it so much. Thank you!! I hoped that the cover would convey the story and the world, and I think the WANT cover does all of that, with an amazing added bonus of #cuteasianboy featured front and center!!
What do you hope reader’s take away from WANT?
I hope they fall in love with the characters as much as I did, found it a thrilling adventure and ride with them, but also sat back to think about how this can very easily be our own reality. Too easily.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?
Yes! I was so elated to sell the sequel to WANT while I was doing a research trip in Shanghai! So yes, the sequel titled RUSE will be set in Shanghai, China. I think my second titles in my duologies are always stronger, so I have a lot to live up to, and I don’t want to let my rad readers down!