Fonda Lee’s debut novel, Zeroboxer, just came out, and she kindly answered a few of my questions about the new book, and more! Please give her a warm welcome1
I love the premise of ZEROBOXER. Will you tell us a little more about it and what inspired you to write it?
I came up with the idea for Zeroboxer after working in corporate strategy at Nike for several years and seeing firsthand the amount of money, emotion, and expectations we as a society invest in celebrity athletes. Being a science fiction writer, a martial artist, and a fan of combat sports, the concept came together in my mind as the story of Carr “the Raptor” Luka, a young man battling to make it to the top in the world of zero gravity prizefighting, amid brewing interplanetary conflict between Earth and Mars.
Why do you think readers will root for Carr Luka (aka “The Raptor)? What did you enjoy most about writing his character?
Carr is relentless as a athlete but gracious as a person, and manages to stay that way despite the amount of attention and scrutiny he falls under. I admire his drive, his talent, and his determination to be the best he can be. He cares deeply about the people in his life, and wants to make them proud. I especially think anyone who has ever been a serious athlete, or been close to a serious athlete, or even rooted for a favorite athlete, will root for Carr when he is faced with the difficult choices he has to make.
What kind of research did you do for the book? I’m guessing that your love for martial arts helped in that area?
I did of lot of research into how humans would travel to and colonize Mars, the nitty-gritty of living in space, genetic engineering, and MMA. My martial arts background absolutely helped when it came to envisioning and depicting the sport of zeroboxing but I also spent a lot of time watching UFC, reading fight memoirs, and attending MMA matches.
You’ve been writing since you were very young, but have had a career as a corporate strategist. Did you always keep up with your writing even as you pursued your career?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but I pushed that desire aside for many years in order to pursue a career in the far more practical, stable, and lucrative field of corporate strategy. I did pen stories during college but had very little time to write for quite some time afterward. Finally I realized that my persistent dream of “I’m going to write a book someday” wasn’t going to come true on its own; I had to consciously cut back on my day job hours and ambitions in order to finally focus on finishing novels and getting published.
What were a few of your favorite books as a young girl, and what have been some of your biggest literary influences?
My favorite books as a child included The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander, A Wrinkle In Time by Madeline L’Engle, The Neverending Story by Michael Ende, The Tripods Trilogy by John Christopher, and Devil on My Back by Monica Hughes. I also had a big soft spot for animal stories like The Black Stallion and The Incredible Journey. As a teenager, I was a big fan of Piers Anthony’s Xanth series, Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern, and all the robot books by Issac Asimov, starting with Caves of Steel.
I have to ask…how did you celebrate when you found out ZEROBOXER would be published?
Zeroboxer sold in mid-December of 2013. I already had winter vacation plans to visit with family in Hawaii, so really, that was the celebration. Lying on a sunny beach with a newly-minted book deal is pretty hard to beat.
You’re a big action movie fan. Do you have any recent favorites?
The Edge of Tomorrow (which was renamed Live Die Repeat for the DVD release) was one of my favorite movies of 2014. It was vastly overlooked and underrated for its poor release timing, weak marketing, and the fact that it stars Tom Cruise. However, it’s a smart and thrilling sci-fi action movie; Emily Blount kicks serious ass in it, and you haven’t seen it, you should.
Have you read any good books lately? Is there anything you’re looking forward to?
In YA sci-fi and fantasy, I’m really looking forward to This Monstrous Thing, by Mackenzi Lee and The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough. On the adult side, I want to dive into Grace of Kings by Ken Liu and The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi.
If you could experience one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
I wish I could reverse my age and experience the Harry Potter series for the first time as a child.
What’s next for you?
More books hopefully.
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 put everything he cares about in jeopardy, but they may also spill the violence from the sports arena into the solar system.