Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Fonda Lee?
A novelist, martial artist, action movie aficionado, recovering corporate strategist, and Eggs Benedict enthusiast.
Your latest novel, Jade War, was recently published by Orbit – who have also announced the follow-up: Jade Legacy. They are the second and third novel in your Green Bone Saga series. How would you introduce the series to a new reader? And what can fans of the first novel expect from the middle and third books?
The Green Bone Saga is an epic urban fantasy Asia-inspired gangster family saga. I’ve referred to it as “The Godfather with magic and kung fu.” Fans of the first novel can expect the second book, Jade War, to be bigger in every way — not simply in terms of page count, but because the scope of the story broadens onto an international stage. Jade Legacy is going to take place over a longer period of time and gives the conflicts introduced in the earlier books intergenerational aspects and repercussions.
What inspired you to write the series? And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?
I had a really specific vision for the Green Bone Saga as a stylish and gritty blend of epic fantasy, gangster family drama, and martial arts. All of my books have been inspired by a mashup of things I enjoy or have experience or interest in. I think that’s the work of a creator — to see the connections between seemingly unrelated things and find a way to bring them together in ways that feel fresh yet surprisingly natural.
How were you introduced to genre fiction?
I was an avid reader in childhood and gobbled up books like the Chronicles of Prydain, A Wrinkle in Time, the Chronicles of Narnia, and others. Later on, I discovered Asimov, Bradbury, McCaffrey, and other science fiction and fantasy writers. I haven’t looked back since.
How do you like being a writer and working within the publishing industry?
It’s simultaneously more awesome and more difficult than I could’ve ever imagined. I think it’s the best job in the world and I’d never trade it for any other, but it’s also full of ups and downs that are not for the faint of heart.
Do you have any specific working, writing, researching practices?
I spend months thinking about, researching, and brainstorming an idea before I start working on it. I’m not a fast writer, nor do I write every day. When I’m drafting, I aim to write 1,000-2,000 words per day. I prefer revision over drafting. I always work with a cup of tea on hand and noise-canceling headphones.
When did you realize you wanted to be an author, and what was your first foray into writing? Do you still look back on it fondly?
I’ve wanted to be an author since I was ten years old. My first foray into writing was in fifth grade; I wrote a 300-page fantasy novel on the school bus. Even so, I didn’t think I could be a professional writer. I didn’t know any writers, and so I figured that it wasn’t a practical ambition. Looking back now, I wish I could tell my 10-year-old self to believe in her dream whole-heartedly.
What’s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?
I’m excited by the ways fantasy fiction is growing and broadening. We’re seeing it depart from the traditional medieval European milieu by drawing on inspiration from other cultures and time periods. I think the Green Bone Saga is absolutely part of that evolution. I doubt a book like Jade City would’ve been published ten years ago. Now I can easily name a dozen fantasy novels that are non-traditional or have non-Western settings.
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline, and what are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on Jade Legacy, the third book in the Green Bone Saga. That’ll be my focus for the next year. And I have some other exciting projects that I can’t talk about yet. Stay tuned!
What are you reading at the moment (fiction, non-fiction)?
If you could recommend only one novel or book to someone, what would it be?
I have to go with the first modern SF novel: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.
What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?
I eat really fast. As in, I’ve rarely been at a meal where I wasn’t the first one done. It’s probably unhealthy. Also, but I am a big chicken when it comes to horror movies. You could show me Tarantino-levels of violence all day, but any movie trailer with a dark hallway and ominous music and I’m out.
What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?
Finishing my manuscript of Jade Legacy! I’m also looking forward to traveling around Ireland after WorldCon in Dublin, and to being on the faculty of the Viable Paradise writers workshop in October. And like I said, there are a few other exciting things I hope will happen in the coming year.