2015 Debut Author Bash: Meet ZEROBOXER Author Fonda Lee (and a book giveaway)
A Sci-Fi Thrill Ride Set in the Action-Packed Sports Arena of the Future A rising star in the weightless combat sport of zeroboxing, Carr “the Raptor” Luka dreams of winning the championship title. Recognizing his talent, the Zero Gravity Fighting Association assigns Risha, an ambitious and beautiful Martian colonist, to be his brandhelm––a personal marketing strategist. It isn’t long before she’s made Carr into a popular celebrity and stolen his heart along the way.
As his fame grows, Carr becomes an inspirational hero on Earth, a once-great planet that’s fallen into the shadow of its more prosperous colonies. But when Carr discovers a far-reaching criminal scheme, he becomes the keeper of a devastating secret. Not only will his choices place everything he cares about in jeopardy, but they may also spill the violence from the sports arena into the solar system.
The Fonda Lee Interview
Not book related, but I read online that you are involved in the martial arts. My 13-year-old daughter just got her black belt in Tae Kwon Do. How did you get involved in the martial arts and what has it meant to you? (I’m totally sharing your answer with my daughter)
Besides being a writer, being a martial artist is a core part of my identity. I have a second degree black belt in karate and a black belt in kung fu, which is what I primarily train in these days. I took up martial arts when I was 13 years old (so your daughter already has a leg up on me!). Martial arts is like writing: both require a lot of discipline, perseverance, and relentless focus on improvement of technique. Also like writing, martial arts is something that gets into your blood. Once it’s a part of you, you can’t *not* do it.
Can you tell us a little bit about your journey as a writer?
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was about ten years old. I wrote a 300 page novel on lined paper while riding the school bus for 45 minutes each way to and from school in fifth grade. I wrote my second in high school during biology class. I wrote fanfiction in college while studying toward… a degree in finance.
After more than a decade of having a practical, lucrative, all consuming career as a corporate strategist, I hit a point where I decided that if I didn’t make time in my life for what I truly wanted to do (write novels) then it wasn’t going to happen. In 2011, I cut back on my work hours dramatically and started writing with the goal of being published. I landed my agent and first book deal at the end of 2013 with the second book I wrote.
How would you describe your book in a 6 Word Sentence?
Zero-gravity prizefighting amid interplanetary conflict.
What would you like for readers to take away from Zeroboxer?
I want to give readers an action-packed, exciting story with characters they can root for, while also giving them tough issues to chew on. I’d like to make them feel as if the world of zeroboxing is real, and to recognize how much it reflects our own present day society.
I am a huge fan of Science Fiction, what are some of your favorites and influences?
Issac Asimov was a big influence for me early on, but I think Michael Crichton really had a huge impact on me by writing science fiction that was gripping, thrilling, action-packed, accessible, and that captured the imagination of people who don’t self-identify as science fiction readers. Outside of science fiction, Neil Gaiman is one of the writers I most admire.
If a teen came and asked you to recommend 1 classic science fiction title to read, what title would you suggest?
If we’re going with classics, then the best YA introduction to science fiction still has to be Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. More recent books though, would include: House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer, Feed by MT Anderson, and Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi.
Your book also deals in part with marketing and sports figures as brands. How did this come about? Were there any specific people or campaigns that made you think about leaning in this direction?
I worked in corporate strategy at Nike for several years, so that experience definitely filtered into Zeroboxer. In fact, part of the inspiration for the book came about when I was in a meeting with LeBron James. LeBron was twenty-one or twenty-two years old at the time, and I remember thinking how young he was to have so much attention, money, and expectations attached to him. I started imagining a young athlete competing in a future when the entire planet was rooting for him, and the story of Zeroboxer began to come together.
What have been some of your favorite reactions from teen readers?
My favorite has to be when an eighth grade teacher told me that some of his students were writing Zeroboxer fanfiction. That’s the best response any author could ask for: for readers to feel enough of a connection to the story and characters to want to write more themselves.
What did you read as a teen?
Naturally, I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy. A Wrinkle in Time is one of my all time favorite books from when I was young. John Christopher’s Tripod Trilogy. Lloyd’s Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain. Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series. Issac Asimov’s robot series. Piers Anthony’s Xanth series. I could go on. I read a lot.
About Author Fonda Lee
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About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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