You may know Sylv Chiang as the author of the popular Cross Ups series. We had a chance to ask her a few questions, and found out that sometimes her own characters surprise her when she’s writing.
What was your favourite book when you were a kid?
I loved a series of books called Trixie Belden. Trixie is a sleuthing young teen who, along with her friends and siblings, solves mysteries and crimes. She’s a lot like Nancy Drew, but cooler (in my opinion).
What do you like about writing for kids?
For me writing is my creative outlet. I like making up stories, but I also like the puzzle of figuring out how to make the plot and subplots all come to a satisfying end. I was an avid reader as a child and I have happy memories of escaping into books. It’s nice to think that my books might offer that kind of positive escape for young readers. Also, as a teacher, I know that the greatest predictor of success at school is how well a student can read. And since the way you get better at reading is by reading more, I like to think that my books are a fun way to get kids to do better at school.
When you were writing Cross Ups, did you originally imagine there would be illustrations? What do they add to the story?
I did not imagine illustrations. In fact, when the folks at Annick Press told me their plan to add illustrations to Tournament Trouble, I was worried. I pictured a bland style, like the art I saw in older children’s books, and I didn’t like that idea at all. When Annick asked me what style of illustration I’d like to see, I knew it would have to match the gaming theme of the story to work. I am so happy Annick found Connie Choi. She really connected to the characters and the gaming. Her art really brings the characters to life and helps readers picture the scenes. And as a bonus, the images also break up the text for reluctant readers. Plus, I’m not big on writing descriptions, so by the time I was writing the second and third books, I really appreciated the illustrations and let them serve the story. I didn’t have to describe characters in as much detail, since I knew the reader would have images for reference.
If you had to design your own avatar, what would it be?
Well, I’ve come up with all the Cross Ups game characters, so I’m running low on ideas. I love to swim, but I could never make any of the sea creatures work in the game, just because of the logistics of not being in water when they fight. I think a kraken would have some pretty awesome super moves. Plus, I think having so many tentacles could help me type faster so I could write more books! That’s a super move I would definitely appreciate!
What is one of the most surprising things you’ve learned when creating your books?
I’m a pretty logical thinker. Before I started writing books, I figured that the author of a story always knows what is going to happen. But, every once in a while, the characters actually surprise me! I’ll be really into writing a scene, and as I’m typing along, something happens that I honestly did not see coming. For example, in Tournament Trouble, Jaden’s mom said something to Jaden that literally made me go “Whaaaaaaat?!” And then I thought she was ten times cooler because she surprised me. And the best part is, now I’ve got a cool plot twist, because if I didn’t see it coming, how could the reader see it coming? These are the coolest moments of being a writer for me.
Do you have one piece of advice for kids who are interested in writing?
Do it! Just start. Have fun with it. And read a lot of fiction – because story structure will come more naturally if you’ve read lots of stories.
Thank you Sylv for sharing all those great stories with us! We can’t wait to get reading.