post by: Ticana Zhu
Why did you start writing your book(s)? <- Every author has heard this at some point. The two novels I’m working on have vastly different spawning points. However, both distinct. I knew the exact moment the stories would birth.
Colors of an Empire and Loss of Orbit are as different as day and night. Colors of an Empire is a Chinese historical fiction piece, taking place during the Xia Dynasty. The dynasty itself was considered a myth until 2011, when rammed earth walls were carbon dated to the era. Loss of Orbit is decidedly science-fiction, with little of the story taking place on Earth.
I started Colors of an Empire in 2012. I was perusing Yahoo! news (when a few stragglers still read Yahoo! for news!) and was directed to an article about Gwyneth Paltrow using the “N” word in a tweet, feeling justified because she was at Beyonce and Jay-Z’s party. I recall mentally commenting on cultural inappropriateness. Then, my eye catches an adjacent story with an image. What? Rihanna dressed in Asian garb? I click on it. Chris Martin and Rihanna did a song, “Princess of China.”
“Okay, I’m intrigued,” I pulled it up on youtube, giving it a chance.
I couldn’t finish it. I leaned back in my chair, covering my face. “Why?! Cultural inappropriateness! ugh!” I gripe aloud. I’ll skip over the thoughts and events that followed the discovery of the video. I’ll stay on topic, instead of ranting politically.
Not long after the discovery of the wildly disappointing music video, I reminisced. I’d read that Chris Martin and Rihanna were inspired by old kung fu movies for their video. Growing up, I’d watched countless, great historical fiction TV series from China. The main themes were a far cry from the “Princess of China” music video. I knew then, I needed to write something to share the proper essence of how a “Princess of China” should be. Thus I set out with a short story to capture a tone. As I continued, the tale evolved into a novel. I’m hoping it’ll be out by the end of 2020.
Loss of Orbit found its roots sometime in the winter of 1997~1998. My father was gifted a decorative plaque for winning- you guessed it- a karaoke contest! Yes, I know! How Asian! The plaque was of a dragon. On the back of the box, three other designs were advertised. There was a phoenix, of course. A kirin and a thousand year turtle. I felt exceptionally intrigued by the kirin, because for a long time, I believed it was just another name for a giraffe. This box was telling me it was a mythological creature like the phoenix and dragon. (side note: After researching, I discovered giraffes were brought from Africa to China and presented to the emperor as the exotic kirin. Seeing a giraffe at the time was as rare as seeing a kirin. The little nubs on their heads were explained as horns. Nowadays, a common name for the giraffe in Chinese is chang jing lu, loosely translated as “long necked deer.”)
Immediately my imagination took off, beyond my control. What if these plaques were badges given to leaders of a group? Better yet, since the creatures could fly (I ignored the poor turtle, but don’t worry, he has another purpose), what if they lived in outer space?! Or… just Venus and Mars. I started off with a short story here and there. Phoenix, Dragon, and Kirin were the leaders of a sanctioned group sent on special missions, mostly humanitarian. As years passed, the story and the protagonists’ purposes changed. They became militaristic… and later vigilantes. Clones became involved, different star systems too. For a period in my life, the story was the default place I’d go when my mind was idle.
There had been many attempts to consolidate the vast, every changing world of the Silver Phoenix (temporary title for the series, and nickname of the main character). However, it wasn’t until I graduated college did I make my first real (and failed) effort in completing it as a novel. Discouraged for a while, I set the story aside. Recently, it’s been making waves in the back of my mind. I decided to try my hand again. I’m hoping Loss of Orbit will debut Phoenix and Dragon, and all their companions and enemies (and frenemies) by the end of 2020.
Before I end this post, I want to address the turtle! In some mythologies, the world is on the the back of an enormous turtle. The turtle in my story is the fundamental concept of a tangible universe. In earlier iterations, it was a disembodied guiding force, leading the heroine and hero on their journeys. I have a few ideas on how to ultimately resolve his role! He might hold one or both attributes. It remains to be seen, even by me!
This is not a sponsored post. Tune in September 3rd for our next post, by Ava Reiss.