Author Interview: Magic, Writing & Durians; A Conversation With Christina Soontornvat, Author of MG Thai-inspired Fantasy, A WISH IN THE DARK

christinasoontornvat_banner

The air is woody and crisp as you step into the Pond. You’re up early today, feeling refreshed and rejuvenated by the morning breeze. Closer in, you notice Sprout’s little plant bobbing up and down behind a bush, glowing faintly. You smile, and make your way towards them to say hello.

As you grow closer, you notice a stream of water that wasn’t there in all your visits to the Pond. The small, shallow river gurgles cheerfully, seemingly connecting the Pond to streams beyond. You notice something else too, by the spot where Sprout is sitting: something luminous in the water, reflecting the light of the morning sun.  Sprout notices you as you curiously walk forward, and waves an enthusiastic hello.

“Good morning, friend! Have you eaten your breakfast?”

carpAs you affirm their question, the light in the river pokes its head out of the water. It’s a carp! Its iridescent scales seem to glitter a hundred different colors at once.

“Friend, this is Christina!” Sprout introduces. “She’s visiting the Pond today to tell us all about her new book, A Wish in the Dark. I had the opportunity of reading it just before it was published, and it’s become one of my favorite stories! It was about so many things—about mangoes, and revolutions, and light, while still being a fun adventure through a world filled with magic. Will you come and listen to us for a while?”

Well, how could you refuse a carp that glitters? You settle down next to Sprout, and prepare yourself to listen to Sprout and Christina discuss this wonderful new book.

Welcome back to the Pond, friends! Today is a special, special day here for all of us, because this is my first author interview here at the Pond (and also in my blogging career)!

Sprout the sparrow, wearing an agender-coloured cape (dark grey, grey, white, green, white, grey) with a little green sapling on their head.I was very blessedly sent a digital ARC of A Wish in the Dark by Candlewick Press earlier this year, and though I had only a passing interest in the story when I found the book on Goodreads, I ended up reading the whole book in one sitting after I read the first chapter! It was such a brilliant middle-grade adventure with so much to say about important, complex topics like revolution and justice. I genuinely hope that more readers consider picking it up, because it completely stole my heart!

I’m so honored to have Christina here with us at the Pond today, and hope you enjoy the interview ahead of us: Christina’s responses are an absolute delight to read. But first, let me tell you what A Wish in the Dark is all about, too!

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Author Interview: On Worldbuilding and African Identity; A Discussion With Rena Barron, Author of YA West African Fantasy, KINGDOM OF SOULS

interview with rena barron, author of kingdom of souls

Last you spoke to Xiaolong, she said that it was important – absolutely, vitally, incredibly important – that you stop by the Pond today. “We have a really important visitor and she is my newest friend so you have to meet her!”

And so, today, you’re here on your way to the Pond, finding yourself pretty excited to meet Xiaolong’s newest friend.

Rena Barron as a cheetah with dark brown locs (hair) with golden beads.When you arrive, you find Xiaolong sitting at her favourite spot by the water, and sitting next to her is the most elegant and regal cheetah you’ve ever seen.

You call out a hello to Xiaolong, and the two look up at you. Xiaolong gives you her usual enthusiastic wave – she’s happy to see you! – and the cheetah gives you a shy smile.

“Friend!” Xiaolong greets. She gestures for you to come closer. “Come meet my new friend! This is Rena! She is the author of Kingdom of Souls and I invited her here today because I wanted to ask her all about her new book!”

Kingdom of Souls? How exciting! And so you sit down next to Xiaolong, ready to listen and learn about Rena’s new book.

Hello friends, and welcome back to the Pond! 💛

Xiaolong the axolotl, gesturing with her arm up, holding onto a copy of Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron.There is a significant dearth of stories about Black characters by Black authors, and there is a distinct lack of fantasies featuring and centering on Black characters and African culture. Therefore, you could imagine how excited I was to hear that Kingdom of Souls, a YA West-African fantasy, was announced. And when the cover was announced? I think I gasped when I saw it for the first time. A Black woman front and center in the cover! Sitting on a throne that is unapologetically African and Afro-futurist! My excitement amplified tenfold.

Today, I have the honour and privilege of having Rena Barron join Xiaolong and I at the Pond today! Read More »

Author Interviews from the Authors of UNDERDOG, Part 3: Life and What Gives It Meaning

Text: Author Interviews, Underdog: Life and what gives it meaning. Image: xiaolong the pink axolotl wearing a purple flower hat, reading a book 'underdog'.

You think back to the last two weeks, fondly remembering of the wonderful conversations you’ve listened in to between Xiaolong and the authors of Underdog! And it looks like Xiaolong has another four more visitors at The Quiet Pond!

When Xiaolong enters the Pond, she’s ushering in a new group of friends! There’s a green snake wearing a little straw hat with a tattoo on its chest, a magpie wearing glasses and a beanie, a smiley koala wearing an orange dress, and a fluffy cat wearing a bandanna! Now an expert at welcoming guests, you approach and give them your biggest wave and your warmest welcome.

“Hi friend,” Xiaolong says to you. “These are my newest friends! This is Cassi, Felicity, Kaneana, and Sarah! Remember when I interviewed their friends last week and the week before? And remember when I told you about the Underdog anthology? Well, they’re here to discuss more stories today!”

You give Xiaolong your biggest grin and you tell her you’re excited to listen to another round of interviews. So you sit down by the Pond, part of their small circle, and talk about the big things: stories and life.

Welcome back to the Pond, friends! I hope you all are having a wonderful week so far and that you’re reading for the final round of author interviews for the Underdog anthology.

Today is my third round of interviews with the authors at Underdog, an amazing #LoveOzYA anthology that I had the pleasure of reading and absolutely loved. I thought this anthology was splendid and profound; it explored a variety of experiences, from everyday teenage experiences to the very big questions that teens may be grappling with.

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Author Interviews from the Authors of UNDERDOG, Part 2: Exploring The Choices We Make

Text: Author Interviews, Underdog: Exploring the Choices we make. Image: an illustration of xiaolong, her arms raised above her, holding a physical book copy of UNDERDOG.

Last week when you visited the Pond, Xiaolong had four visitors; four of the authors from Underdog anthology! You hadn’t seen so many visitors at the Pond before, but the magic at the Pond felt like it was warmer and merrier with all the good company.

And it seems like today, there are four more visitors! When Xiaolong enters the Pond, leading and talking to a group of new friends, you approach to give another round of warm welcomes. (You’re getting used to this!) Behind her is an orange octopus who, upon seeing the Pond, rushes over and dives in! The water and magic of the Pond invites him, and the octopus gives a sigh of contentment. Also behind Xiaolong is an orange fox wearing a red scarf, and an orange cat wearing a red cape!

“Friend!” Xiaolong greets when she sees you. “Please meet Jes, KM, Sophie, and Stacey! They are authors from the Underdog anthology that I told you about, and they’re here to discuss their stories with us! Isn’t that exciting?”

It sure does! You help Xiaolong usher the visitors to a comfortable and sunny spot at the Pond, and listen intently to the questions that Xiaolong will ask today.

Friends, welcome back to the Pond and I hope you all are having a wonderful week so far!

Today is my second round of interviews with the authors at Underdog, an amazing #LoveOzYA anthology that I had the pleasure of reading and absolutely loved. This anthology is one of the few that really explores meaningful and relatable teen experiences, and I think teens everywhere will find a piece of themselves in this anthology.

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Author Interviews from the Authors of UNDERDOG, Part 1: Discussing Relationships and How They Shape Us

Text: Author Interview, Underdog: Discussing Relationships and how they shape us. Image: Xiaolong the pink axolotl, holding a copy of UNDERDOG edited by Tobias Madden, walking towards you and waving.

You’re sitting by the Pond, talking to Amina about her travels across distant lands and the many different magical beings she’s met, when you hear Xiaolong calling to you in the distance.

You know by the sound of her calling your name that there’s probably a visitor at the Pond today. So when you turn away to see her, you notice that it isn’t just a visitor – there are four visitors trailing behind her! You’ve never seen so many visitors at the Pond before.

“Friend, come meet my new friends!” she calls to you.

You get up, and shuffle over. There’s a meerkat wearing a blue plaid shirt, a red panda wearing glasses, an otter wearing a red shirt, and a bunny wearing a black shirt! They were chatting among themselves, but now they’re waving over at you, introducing themselves.

“These are four of the twelve authors that contributed to the Underdog anthology! Remember how I told you about the book? I loved it so much that I had to ask them to come and visit me so we could talk about it more!”

That sounds like a lovely idea, and a nice way to spend your day. You help Xiaolong welcome the visitors to the Pond, help them make themselves comfortable by the Pond, and listen as Xiaolong asks them big questions about the book.

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