You know those books you cannot wait for release day? That was me and Rebelwing. After taking a shot and writing Andrea we were able to set up a review AND an interview! Lucky me, but also lucky us! Without further ado, check out Andrea Tang’s interview about all things debut and Rebelwing!
Business is booming for Prudence Wu.
A black-market-media smuggler and scholarship student at the prestigious New Columbia Preparatory Academy, Pru is lucky to live in the Barricade Coalition where she is free to study, read, watch, and listen to whatever she wants. But between essays and exams, she chooses to spend her breaks sweet-talking border patrol with her best friend, Anabel, in order to sell banned media to the less fortunate citizens of the United Continental Confederacy, Inc.
When a drop-off goes awry, Pru narrowly escapes UCC enforcers to find that her rescuer is, of all things, a sentient cybernetic dragon. On the one hand, Pru is lucky not to be in prison, or worse. On the other, the dragon seems to have imprinted on her permanently, which means she has no choice but to be its pilot.
Drawn into a revolution she has no real interest in leading, Pru, Anabel, and friends Alex and Cat become key players in a brewing conflict with the UCC as the corporate government develops advanced weaponry more terrifying and grotesque than Pru could have ever imagined.
The world building in Rebelwing is stunning. Cybernetic dragons and rebellions. Where did you even begin for the world building?
I find that when it comes to SFF, especially SFF set loosely in “our” world, I like to anchor the speculative elements with solid, and sometimes even mundane, elements. In the case of REBELWING, we have cybernetic dragons and colorfully futuristic tech, but we’ve also got crowded, delay-prone public transit systems, endless schoolwork deadlines for kids and endless bureaucracy-fueled paperwork for adults, and bits of everyday detailing that hopefully create the impression that there’s a whole world — rooted in a lot of the same realism as ours — contextualizing the high-stakes, adrenaline-heavy mecha adventures that Pru and her friends find themselves gallivanting around on.
I loved how we are able to get to know Pru’s mother as a character in her own right. Can you talk about their relationship and how it was to write their story?
Don’t tell any of the others, but Mama Wu is probably my favorite character in the entire book. My goal in writing her — and her relationship with Pru — was really twofold: first, to create at YA parent with a real personality and impact on the plot, and second, to write a sort of “grown up” version of a YA heroine. As a result, Sophie and Pru are a pretty classic mother-daughter duo in some ways, but they also have a real friendship, as well as a sort of mentor/mentee dynamic going on because Sophie’s been through her own version of Pru’s particular crucible, and it informs the kind of adult and the kind of parent she’s matured into.
A major theme in Rebelwing is belief. There’s clashes between idealism and realism, can you talk about why this theme is so important to you or Rebelwing?
I think one of the hardest things to contend with in life is how rarely reality matches up to the best version of events we wish would unfold — especially when we’re talking about issues of politics and social or economic justice. Humans are messy, complicated creatures, inhabiting a messy, complicated world. That said, we’ve also seen remarkable moments of grace in hard times. In REBELWING, I wanted to highlight those moments of grace — the notion that idealism is necessarily tempered by the practicality of realism, but that extraordinary things are still worth striving for.
If we adore Rebelwing and want to waste time until book two, do you have recommendations for books, tv, movies?
Books-wise, definitely check out Axie Oh’s REBEL SEOUL if you haven’t already! It’s got everything: giant robots, political intrigue, and fantastic world building! For TV, start binge watching THE EXPANSE for science fiction that feels specifically designed to feed the souls of international relations theory nerds everywhere. Movie-wise, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve re-watched PACIFIC RIM, for obvious reasons, but I generally love all things Guillermo del Toro. I also super dig Taika Waititi’s particular brand of humor-infused SFF with heart a la THOR RAGNAROK.
Lili butting in here to point you to my love of REBEL SEOUL and everything Axie Oh! Plus I watch Thor Ragnarok on an almost monthly basis.
What are some of your favorite Asian SFF?
Oh man, where to begin! Cindy Pon deserves a huge shoutout for really being the author who paved the way for me personally — I remember reading her Chinese-inspired high fantasy debut SILVER PHOENIX in my own late teens and thinking for the first time, “huh, there IS a place for Asian stories in genre fiction!” More recently, I gobbled up her futuristic Taiwanese sci-fi adventure WANT, which pairs up immaculate cultural detail with some incredibly smart world-building and a delightful ensemble cast.
Katie Zhao’s middle grade contemporary fantasy debut THE DRAGON WARRIOR is a ton of fun, and really tackles the Chinese-American diaspora experience with humor, heart, and an impressive knack for seamlessly building speculative elements into a modern world. Rebecca Kuang’s THE POPPY WAR, meanwhile, is a gorgeously constructed adult fantasy whose political plotting chops will probably give you a better crash course on twentieth century East Asian military history than most academic treatises!
About the Author
Andrea Tang grew up in Princeton, New Jersey, and currently resides in Washington, DC, where she pens fiction by night and collects geopolitical gossip by day. A graduate of Bryn Mawr College and the University of Oxford, she’s also a perpetually recovering theater kid, Fulbright grantee, former pentathlete, tae kwon do black belt, and serial dabbler in various martial and movement arts. Among other things, she enjoys superheroes, giant robots, and the endless versatility of pie.