Want is the upcoming SFF YA novel of Cindy Pon. The story follows Jason Zhou who’s planning to expose the corruption of the city’s elite with the help of his friends. In the same vein of The Legend trilogy and Six of Crows, you can expect a rogue band of misfits trying to pull the heist of a lifetime that could save Taiwan from an exploitative corporation.
Hollywood News Source had the pleasure of interviewing Pon about Want where she talks about inspiration, Asian representation, upcoming sequel, and more.
Tell us what your readers can expect from WANT.
I aimed to bring Taipei to life in this book. I was born there, and I did a big trip back in 2013 to specifically research for WANT. Many places I visited made their way into this novel. You can expect sexual tension and an intriguing cast of teens on the fringe trying to fight a corrupt system.
WANT is about exposing an exploitative government featuring a misfit crew of different Asian backgrounds. It also touches on privilege. What inspired you to write this under SFF instead of your trademark high-fantasy genre?
WANT began as a short story. It is my first non-fantasy novel as well as the first one told in first person. I was willing to give it a shot since it was only a short story, so did not seem scarily impossible to do. The reason I expanded WANT into novel length, besides the characters and premise drawing me to write it, was because I was told by publishing they wanted no more fantasy from me. It was my “last hoorah” attempt to publish with a bigger publisher before really assessing where I was at as an author. And whether of not I wanted to keep banging my head against their door. As for inspirations, I pulled directly from current headlines while writing.
In YA, it’s difficult to find a pairing where both of them are non-white, much less they come from the same background. WANT has a Taiwanese hero and love interest. I love that they are emotive and quite sensual compared to most YA characters where the romance fade to black. How did you find the balance?
This is just how I am as a writer. ha! I don’t shy away from sensual or sexy or what is natural to the story and the book. I write demons and food and desire the same way, I think. My books always have sexual awakenings, and WANT probably has the highest sexual tension. It’s what I loved about Zhou and Daiyu, Zhou’s inner turmoil over falling for someone who is clearly identified as their enemy. I always write how it feels true and organic to me, between characters. If I go too far, or not far enough, I rely on my critique group, then my editor to let me know.
What more would you like to see in YA? I’m honestly here for more #cuteasianboys, girls and non-binaries but that’s just me.
I’d love to see all of those! I want to see more inclusive speculative fiction for certain in YA. I’d like to see more strong female friendships in YA fantasy and science fiction! And I’d love to see more #cuteasianboys as heroes and also as love interests!
What’s next for Cindy Pon?
I’m currently working on a pitch for WANT sequel, which my editor has been very patiently waiting for. I’m excited to follow these characters more—they have more adventures (and getting into trouble) to share with us!
Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits, protecting them from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, while those without suffer illness and early deaths. Frustrated by his city’s corruption and still grieving the loss of his mother who died as a result of it, Zhou is determined to change things, no matter the cost.
With the help of his friends, Zhou infiltrates the lives of the wealthy in hopes of destroying the international Jin Corporation from within. Jin Corp not only manufactures the special suits the rich rely on, but they may also be manufacturing the pollution that makes them necessary.
Yet the deeper Zhou delves into this new world of excess and wealth, the more muddled his plans become. And against his better judgment, Zhou finds himself falling for Daiyu, the daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO. Can Zhou save his city without compromising who he is, or destroying his own heart?