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Pinteresting, my dear Watson

20 Mar

I’ve set up a Pinterest board for Sorcerer to the Crown! I don’t think of myself as a visual thinker, so never thought I’d have much use for a Pinterest board (except for keeping track of food — I admit I have a secret Pinterest account, the password for which I have forgotten, which is 70% green tea baking recipes and 30% black sesame baking recipes).

But all the cool kids seemed to be doing inspiration boards for their books, so I started one up too. And I have to say, it doesn’t come naturally to me, but I was surprised to remember all the visual sources I’d drawn upon for the book!

Follow Zen Cho’s board Sorcerer to the Crown on Pinterest.

As I pinned stuff I started putting together resources for the next book, and stuff I’d like to know for future projects, and books I’d like to read at some point. So if you’re interested in Regency fashion …

Follow Zen Cho’s board Regency dress and details on Pinterest.

or early 19th century India via the medium of Company paintings …

Follow Zen Cho’s board India in the early 19th century on Pinterest.

or Malaysian fiction …

Follow Zen Cho’s board Malaysian books I’d like to read on Pinterest.

Follow me on Pinterest for more!

Sofia Samatar, Stephanie Feldman and me!

19 Mar

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Sofia Samatar interviewed me and Crawford Award co-winner Stephanie Feldman about fantasy, family, history and diaspora over at Electric Lit. We did the interview in a Google Doc, and it was really interesting to me how Stephanie’s answers and mine reflected each other, often unintentionally. Here’s an extract!

Samatar: Spirits Abroad and The Angel of Losses are such different books: Spirits is a short story collection, Angel a novel; Spirits uses quite a bit of humor, while Angel is written in a more melancholy mode. Yet they share an interest in fantasy and diaspora. What’s going on there? How does the fantastic relate to diasporic experiences?

Cho: As with many Malaysian writers in English, it actually took me a while to figure out how to populate the sort of fantasy stories I liked with the sort of people I knew in life. So there wasn’t an immediate connection between culture and fantasy, for me.

But I think there is something there. Diaspora involves such a huge disruption, an interruption in continuity. Fantasy or mythology or folk stories, the stories of the improbable that everyone tells, are one means of maintaining continuity, and also of reinforcing connection. As a Chinese person, what claim can I lay to being Malaysian except that I was born there, I absorbed the stories of the local hantu, the English I speak is a Malaysian English? As a Malaysian, what claim do I have to being Chinese, except that I grew up on stories of monkey gods and magpie bridges and rabbits on the moon?

So maybe magic — the fantastic — is the thing that survives all that travel from the original point, that loosening of ties to land and people and languages. …

Feldman: Fantasy was my way of talking about one aspect of diaspora: displacement, whether it results from immigration, war, or even one generation unable (or unwilling) to communicate with the next. In each of these cases, there’s a gap, something missing. In my case—personally, and in The Angel of Losses—what’s missing is Jewish Eastern Europe.

The novel uses fairy tales to recreate that world and its legacy. It never occurred to me to use strict realism. Magical realism comes easily to me, and here it gave me the freedom to follow emotional truth, instead of adhering entirely to research. It also reminds the reader that my Europe is an invention; it’s a huge responsibility, after all, to tell another person’s story, and I want the reader to be mindful of where my voice begins and ends.

But most important: Fantasy let me explore how the stories we choose to tell are as much about us—our questions, our needs—as they are about our subjects.

Read the rest here: Fantasies that Bind: a conversation with Zen Cho & Stephanie Feldman.

Early praise for SORCERER TO THE CROWN

6 Mar

I have been quietly bashing out a (very first draftish) first draft of the second book in the SORCERER ROYAL trilogy, but have put it aside briefly to work on copy-edits to SORCERER TO THE CROWN, which came in last week. It’s early days yet, but the book feels realer and realer!

We’re starting to get a couple of sightings in the wild. Earlier this week SORCERER TO THE CROWN showed up on the Barnes & Noble SFF Blog in a list of 5 Awesome Alternate Earth Stories Coming in 2015. And blurbs have been coming in for the book — check out these awesome things awesome people have said about SORCERER TO THE CROWN!

“An enchanting cross between Georgette Heyer and Susannah Clarke, full of delights and surprises. Zen Cho unpins the edges of the canvas and throws them wide.”

–Naomi Novik, New York Times bestselling author of the Temeraire novels

“A warm, funny debut novel by a brilliant new talent.”

–Charles Stross

“Fabulous! If you like Austen or Patrick O’Brian, or magic and humor like Susanna Clarke, or simply a very fun read, you will really, really, enjoy this!”

–Ann Leckie, Hugo, Nebula, and Arthur C. Clarke Award winning author of Ancillary Justice

“Zen Cho’s SORCERER TO THE CROWN is inventive, dangerous, brilliant, unsettling, and adorable, all at the same time.

It shatters as many rules as its characters do. Historical Britain will never be the same again, and I can’t wait for the next book.”

–Courtney Milan, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author

“A deliciously true tale of politics and power in a charming, cruel world — it demands and deserves to be read again and again. Cho has humor and flair to match Pratchett and Heyer plus her own marvelous style.”

–Karen Lord, author of The Best of All Possible Worlds

“A delightful and enchanting novel that uses sly wit and assured style to subvert expectations while it always, unfailingly, entertains. I loved it!”

–Kate Elliott, author of the Spiritwalker series

Also the fabulous Aliette de Bodard (whose book THE HOUSE OF SHATTERED WINGS is coming out with the same US publisher, at practically the same time! we are publishing buddies!) has left the first substantive review of the book on GoodReads. (Not, you know, that I object to GIF reviews. More GIFs for everyone, I say. With a soft g!) Aliette says it’s:

Magic, manners and dragons in Regency England–this alone would be awesome, but Zen Cho adds a veneer of comment on English colonial politics …. Like a mix of Jane Austen, PG Wodehouse, and Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, and all its own thing. Glorious.

\o/

Cho and Feldman win Crawford Award

28 Jan

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I’ve stolen the headline of the Locus piece for this post because it makes me feel so weird and official. I am the Cho that has won the Crawford Award! It’s for Spirits Abroad, tied with Stephanie Feldman for her novel The Angel of Losses. (Which sounds super cool, and I can think of several people on my friends list who might be interested in it. If they haven’t already read it!)

I’m unbelievably chuffed to be in a list of winners including Karen Lord, Sofia Samatar and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. And Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels trilogy! Imagine Spirits Abroad being on the same list as the Black Jewels books. What more is there to say!

An Alphabet of Embers and some other things

7 Jan

An Alphabet of Embers

Editor Rose Lemberg has published the Table of Contents for An Alphabet of Embers! An Alphabet of Embers is an anthology of lyrical/surreal speculative flash fiction, poetry and unclassifiables. I’m delighted to be in the ToC with the first short I have completed in a while, Everything Under One Roof. And I’m absolutely thrilled that the multi-talented writer and artist M Sereno, who did the cover for the Spirits Abroad ebook, will be illustrating the anthology.

Sightings in the wild

I’m super pleased about Sofia Samatar’s shout-out for Spirits Abroad in the Strange Horizons 2014 in Review post. Also nice to see Sorcerer to the Crown pop up on a couple of “anticipated in 2015″ lists. Sort of makes it feel more real!

Links about publishing

I read a few interesting posts about publishing recently, which I gather here in case it is of interest to people other than myself:

Sherwood Smith talks about why she and co-author Rachel Manija Brown decided to self-publish the sequel to their traditionally-published YA novel Stranger. Stranger was just published in November. The sequel Hostage is out now.

Kameron Hurley posted about the ups and downs of her writing career in 2014, giving some honest publishing numbers.

Jim Hines also posted about how much he earned from his books in 2014, with some helpful context from previous years.

I read Emily Gould’s essay about earning a US$200,000 advance and then running out of money with some skepticism, not assisted by the clickbaity title and subtitle, but it provides a couple of useful data-points.

And a fascinating and bizarre look at author Helen DeWitt, who wrote a book called The Last Samurai (not the Tom Cruise one), and then things got weird. You really need to read the whole thing to get the full effect!

Q&A with Daphne Lee

5 Jan

I had a really interesting (and long!) email exchange with Daphne Lee of local, a reviews/opinion site focusing on Malaysian and Southeast Asian literature. We talked about writing fantasy, finding a voice in which to write Malaysian stories, how your reading influences your writing, Western/Malaysian publishing, and a bunch of other things. Read the interview at the link below!

Q&A: Zen Cho

A couple of other small updates:

There are 12 whole copies of SPIRITS ABROAD in stock at Amazon! Small victories, but after months of its either being out of stock or having only 2-3 copies available for sale on Amazon, this is very pleasing. (If you would like to buy the dead tree version of SPIRITS ABROAD but don’t want to give Amazon your money, friendly indie Big Green Bookshop should have a couple of copies for sale. They haven’t got it up on the website, but you can email them for details. And of course, there is always the ebook!)

Submissions for CYBERPUNK: MALAYSIA have closed. Thanks to everyone who sent in a story. We’ve received 99 submissions and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into reading them and putting together the anthology.

I SOLD MY BOOK!!!!!

18 Dec

I tell a lie. My agent Caitlin Blasdell sold my book to Ace/Roc Books in the US, and they sold it to Pan Macmillan/Tor in the UK. I didn’t do any selling myself, just fingernail-biting and jumping around in excitement. The book’s called SORCERER TO THE CROWN, and I’m to write two more in the same world.

The book

SORCERER TO THE CROWN is set in London in the early 1800s and it’s about Zacharias Wythe, England’s first black Sorcerer Royal. (As in, he’s a black guy. Not as in black magic. Zacharias is very virtuous!) But his life sucks. England is running out of magic, his colleagues are mean and racist, and everyone thinks he killed his predecessor.

When ambitious (and inconveniently magical) orphan Prunella Gentleman demands that he take her away from the school where she’s drudged all her life, Zacharias refuses, of course. But Prunella’s stumbled upon English magic’s greatest discovery in centuries, and things are about to get a whole lot more complicated for the both of them.

This is, of course, postcolonial fluff for book nerds (or rather, fluff for postcolonial book nerds) (made-up genre of my heart!). It’s what happened when I mashed up Wodehouse and Heyer and my childhood puzzlement about people in books who were described as “dark” when they were clearly white. It’s got secret dragons and schoolgirl hijinks and confrontations at balls and bossy witch aunties. It’s even got pontianak, because why not.

My feels

What can I say about this?

It will be my first published novel. It’s due to release in autumn 2015.

It feels like I’ve worked harder on this book than I’ve worked on anything else in my liiife, but that’s probably not true. I probably worked harder in Chinese school. (Nothing in my life so far has managed to beat Chinese school. If you wish to make your children traumatised strong, send them to Chinese school!)

Anyway, I am SO READY to do more of this work. I was thinking about something I saw on my dwircle yesterday — “the reward for good work is more work” — and gosh, if I could be so lucky! The best thing would be to be able to work hard on dragon hijinks forever.

To be able to share those dragon hijinks with other people is the next best thing. I hope the book comes out. (I am of course convinced that the Earth is going to be hit by an asteroid just in time to prevent actual publication.) I hope people read it and like it. :O

My new release mailing list

If you would like to receive an email notification when the book is out, you can sign up to my brand spanking new mailing list! I’m planning only to send out emails when I’ve published a new thing that you can buy and/or read. So you’ll get an email when this book is out, and also when other projects I’ve got in the works are published.

I’m also considering possibly sending out mailing list extras in future — the occasional free short story, say, or deleted scenes from the book. But otherwise I will be silent! I won’t spam you or give your address to anyone else, and you can unsubscribe at any time.


The official press release(s)

ETA: Press releases from the publishers!

Ace Books to publish an all-new historical fantasy trilogy from John W. Campbell nominated author Zen Cho

Pan Macmillan buys new trilogy in the tradition of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

(Though I should say that my book can only suffer from juxtaposition with the incomparable JONATHAN STRANGE & MR NORRELL. Clarke was definitely an influence (and Stephen Black and Arabella Strange, MY FAVOURITES), but SORCERER is, let us say, an homage. Though it’s also a lot of other things!)

SPIRITS ABROAD: desktop wallpapers and indie bookshops

17 Nov

If you liked Likhain‘s cover for the SPIRITS ABROAD ebook, you can now download it as a desktop wallpaper at her website:

We Are Forests — downloadable wallpapers

I’ve got it on my desktop now and I gotta say, it’s pretty intense. I like to think that unflinching gaze is keeping me honest.

 

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And the SPIRITS ABROAD paperback is now available at Big Green Bookshop, a friendly North London indie bookshop. I met Simon at Loncon, where Big Green had a stall in the dealer’s room where they’d sell any random’s book. There isn’t a webpage for SPIRITS ABROAD at the moment, but they have got it, they’ll sell it to you for £7.99, and they ship worldwide — contact them for details.