Hey everyone! I’m so excited to have Fonda Lee, author of Zeroboxer (Flux, April 8th, 2015) here for an interview today! First, here’s more information about Zeroboxer:
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.
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And now here’s the interview! Enjoy!
Question: Congrats! Zeroboxer will be out in the world in just a few days! Do you have any last minute things you’re trying to squeeze in before release?
Answer: There are a number of launch-related details to work through, but for the most part, at this point I’m just waiting impatiently.
Question: Zeroboxer sounds AMAZING! Where did the idea for it come from?
Answer: Several years ago, I was working in corporate strategy at Nike and was in a room where we were showing product and marketing plans to LeBron James. I think he was about 22 years old at the time. I remember thinking, “Wow, he’s still so young.” Here’s this guy who has a room full of business people working to make him a star and he’s barely out of his teens. I started thinking about how much we as a society invest emotionally and economically in our star athletes. Another example came to mind: when Manny Pacquiao gets into the boxing ring, business in the Philippines practically shuts down so people can watch his matches.
My science fiction-loving brain starting imagining a prizefighter in the far future who rises to become a celebrity, a young man who represents and inspires people on Earth at a time when Earth is no longer the only inhabited planet. From there, the story of Zeroboxer fell into place.
Question: That cover is so, so cool! Without spoilers, can you explain what the cover is depicting?
Answer: My editor and I wanted a cover that conveyed the feel of the book without making it seem like it was “just about fighting.” (It isn’t.) We wanted something futuristic, epic, and emblematic. Carr’s name in the prizefighting Cube is “the Raptor.” Early on in the story, he has wings tattooed across his back to reflect his identity. We asked the designer to play off of the symbolism of the wings, along with the imagery of space. When I first saw the cover I was floored by how awesome it was.
Question: Why space? Why boxing? How does the setting boost the plot? Do you think Zeroboxer could have worked as well if it was set on Earth?
Answer: Basically, the idea of what combat sports might look like in a distant future was too ridiculously cool to not write about.
In the future depicted by Zeroboxer, humankind has colonized the inner solar system with the aid of genetic engineering. The societal effects of both space colonization and genetic engineering are crucial to the story. As for whether the story would have worked if it was set on Earth: as Carr says, “Planet life is overrated.”
Question: YA books set in space seem to be very popular lately. What sets Zeroboxer apart from them?
Answer: Zeroboxer isn’t a space opera. It’s not about exploring space, or space battles, or aliens. At its core, it’s a sports drama, set in a science fiction universe, about an athlete struggling with extremely difficult challenges and decisions.
Question: Did writing from a male POV come naturally? What did you do to get yourself into your MC’s head and voice?
Answer: This question always bewilders me because I don’t find male POVs any harder or easier to write than female ones. I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs personality test a number of times, and apparently my personality type is one of the most “masculine” and male-dominated of the sixteen possible combinations. So perhaps that says something. Carr’s personality and voice were loud and clear to me from the start, though I did read a whole lot of MMA and boxing memoirs to get into the head of a professional fighter.
Question: According to your bio, you wrote your first novel – about a young dragon and assorted magical companions on a quest for a magic pendant – in fifth grade! Will we ever get to read it? (Joke! Sort of..)
Answer: Not a chance in hell.
Question: According to your bio, you’re a long-time, avid martial artist in karate and kung fu and a corporate strategist by training. It seems like those things helped with writing Zeroboxer! Did you pull a lot from your real-life experiences?
Answer: For sure. I pulled on my martial arts background to think about how zeroboxing would work—imagining what moves would be effective and what wouldn’t, and how a combat sport might really evolve to take place without gravity. And my business career definitely informed a lot of Carr’s experiences as he becomes not just a top athlete, but a marketable celebrity.
Question: Weirdest thing you’ve had to Google for a WIP?
Answer: “Liquid armor.”
Question: Are you working on anything new?
Answer: Yes. I have another young adult science fiction project, and a fantasy novel for adults in the works.