The Oprah Show --- World's Smartest Kids (May 12, 2008)
When Nancy Yi Fan moved to the United States from Beijing, she was 7 years old and didn't speak a word of English. Determined to master the language, Nancy says she learned English by reading lots of books. Six years later, Nancy wasn't just a straight A student. At age 13, she became the youngest best-selling author in Harper Collins history. Nancy began writing her first fantasy novel, Swordbird, when she was 11 years old. "I love to read," she says. "Books were the fuel for me to start writing." In search of writing advice, Nancy e-mailed her manuscript to publishers she found online. A few weeks later, she says she received a surprising response—her book was accepted for publication. After hitting bookstore shelves, Swordbird flew to the top of the New York Times best-seller list. It's currently sold all over the world. "For all the other kids out there who want to pursue their dreams, follow your dreams," Nancy says. "Truly nothing is impossible."
Nancy's novels Swordbird and Sword Quest were put on Oprah's Books:
Report from Time for Kids
She's Two for Two
Nancy Yi Fan tells TFK about her latest book
By Claudia Atticot
May 6, 2008
Nancy Yi Fan, 14, has done it again. She has written another novel. Her first book, Swordbird, flew into the Top 10 of the New York Times best-seller list last year. Sword Quest, her second book, also follows the adventures of Swordbird. This time, the action takes place hundreds of years earlier. Sword Quest hit stores in January. Now Nancy is hard at work on novel Number 3.
TFK:How did you come up with the ideas for your books?
NANCY: My first book, Swordbird came from a strange dream that I had about cardinals and blue jays at war, while Sword Quest, came from an untold story from Swordbird.
TFK:Sword Quest is prequel to your last book. Why a prequel?
NANCY: In Swordbird, the character Swordbird is a supernatural divinity that helps birds in need. In the story, I also created the Old Scripture, an ancient book that good birds turn to seek wisdom from. As a part of the book, there is the diary of Ewingerale, the woodpecker, who is a friend of Swordbird when Swordbird was still a mortal. While writing this I suddenly found myself interested in Swordbird's past. How did he become immortal? What happened to Ewingerale? I decided to write a new book all about it.
TFK:Without giving too much of the plot away, what is Sword Quest about?
NANCY: It's about how Wind-voice and his friends Ewingerale, the woodpecker scribe, Stormac, the myna warrior, and Fleydur, the musician eagle, go on a journey to stop the archaeopteryxes and find a real hero.
TFK:Writing and publishing a novel is a major accomplishment for any writer. How does it feel to have your second book out?
NANCY: I'm so excited! I hope readers will enjoy Sword Quest. I feel so lucky to have published two books now. My goal is to write better and better.
TFK:How do you come up with the names for your books?
NANCY: Swordbird is the symbol of peace and freedom in my first book. His name is simple yet special. That's why I decided to use it as a title. I originally titled my second book Quest because there were layers of different quests going on in the story. Later, I changed it to Sword Quest because the word "sword" symbolizes the power and authority the antagonists pursue, as well as the righteousness the heroes seek.
TFK:You have said that "birds are symbols of peace and freedom", how did you first become interested in them?
NANCY: I remember when I was five, I placed some breadcrumbs on my windowsill so I could see a bird up close. Then, two hours later, a cheery little sparrow flew over to perch there. He sang, flicked his wings, and ate. I almost laughed out loud with joy.
TFK:When you're not writing, what do you like to do?
NANCY: I like drawing, practicing martial arts, and kayaking. Sometimes, in a jolly mood, I read aloud what I've written so far to my pet birds. They chirp and seem to understand.
TFK:You own three lovebirds, how did you come up with their names?
NANCY: Ever-sky got his name because he is black, blue, and white. My yellow lovebird, Dyppler, warbles a tune that sounds like his name. Pandora is so called because, although she is the noisiest of my three birds, her liveliness renewed my hope and determination while I was in the middle of writing Sword Quest.
TFK:Who are some of the people who inspire you?
NANCY: Jackie Chan, Christopher Paolini, my family, friends, and teachers. They all inspire me to work harder toward high goals and realize that nothing is impossible. My pet birds inspire me too, of course, with their constant happiness.
TFK:Do you have plans to write more books? If so, will you continue the series?
NANCY: Right now, I'm working on my third book about the eagles of the Skythunder Mountains, who are mentioned in Sword Quest. Although it's a sequel to Sword Quest, it's still a prequel to my first book. I hope I can keep writing stories till the time line goes back up to the era of Swordbird. I find it fascinating to transform the legends told in Swordbird into real stories.