On fighting, YA and sci-fi: An interview with Fonda Lee

Fonda Lee knows kung fu, so when she writes a fight scene you know it’s going to be awesome. Which is fortunate, since her debut novel, Zeroboxer, is all about boxing (plus you know, intrigue,  planet-spanning criminal enterprises and a smattering of romance).

Find out how you can win a copy of Zeroboxer at the bottom of the interview.

BELINDA: What is YA science fiction (sci-fi) to you?

FONDA: YA is fiction about the experiences of characters who are transitioning to adulthood. Science fiction is the genre of exploring the possible—not the world as we know it, nor a world that has never been, but the world as it could be. So to me, YA science fiction is about young characters navigating challenges in the context of a world that is different from, but a plausible extrapolation, of our own.

BELINDA: What drew you to the genre?

FONDA: I write science fiction and fantasy because it’s what I was drawn to read when I was growing up. As I kid, I loved Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain, and John Christopher’s Tripod Trilogy, among so many others. In my teenage years, I loaded up on Issac Asimov, Anne McCaffrey, and Piers Anthony. I’ve been an aspiring writer since I was ten years old, and have always written speculative fiction. I guess in some ways I’m lucky in that I have no desire to write anything else; I’ve enough to keep me busy!

BELINDA: Do you think there is a difference between YA sci-fi and that which is marketed at adults?

The cover of Zeroboxer by Fonda Lee.
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FONDA: I do think there’s a difference. I’ve had many adult readers tell me that they “don’t read science fiction.” Yet they’re fans of Star Trek, and Star Wars, and they read Michael Crichton and loved the movie The Martian. I think there’s often a general public perception that adult science fiction literature is for brainy physics types who want to read the hardest end of what we in the field dub “hard science fiction.” Which is not all true, though some readers do prefer this type of literature and perpetuate the impression. YA science fiction can still be “hard” (adhering strictly to science as we currently understand it) but because it contains elements typical of YA (focus on a young protagonist, coming-of-age issues, relationships with friends, parents, and romantic interests, and faster story pacing), I believe it can often be marketed as more mainstream and accessible than science fiction literature for adults.

BELINDA: What inspired the world of Zeroboxer?

FONDA: Zeroboxer was inspired by a number of things: my love of science fiction, martial arts, and action movies, combined with my background working in a sports company and seeing first hand the enormous amount of marketing, money and emotion involved in the athletics industry. It all came together in my mind as a nascent idea about a futuristic prizefighter who ends up inspiring and representing Earth. Everything else fell into place.

BELINDA: You’re a martial artist, what do most writers get wrong in fight scenes?

FONDA: I’m a big fight scene aficionado, and one of my biggest pet peeves is when writers don’t realistically depict the time required for someone to become a good fighter, and the extent of how exhausting and dangerous fights are. I roll my eyes when someone writes a character who seems to fight for hours against multiple opponents without getting injured, or who gets injured but then seems to miraculously recover after a short period of time.

BELINDA: What are a few of your favourite YA sci-fi books?

FONDA: House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer, Feed by MT Andersen, Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi, and the Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld.

About Fonda Lee

Fonda Lee, author of Zeroboxer.
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Fonda Lee is the author of the novel Zeroboxer (Flux/Llewellyn, April 2015), which is an Andre Norton Award nominee, a Jr. Library Guild Selection, and an ALA Top 10 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers. Her second YA sci-fi novel will be released by Scholastic in January 2017. A recovering corporate strategist, when she is not writing, Fonda can be found training in kung fu or searching out tasty breakfasts. Find her online at www.fondalee.com and on Twitter @fondajlee.

YA Sci-fi giveaway

Win a copy of Zeroboxer, along with six other awesome YA sci-fi books, in our giveaway running from 8 April 2016 to 10 April 2016.

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Feature image courtesy of clement127 (via Flickr). Used with a Creative Commons licence.

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