Interview with Fonda Lee

Hello everyone, today we have Fonda Lee, the author of the Green Bone Saga over to talk about the series as it comes to an end with the release of Jade Legacy on the 30th of November! If you’ve seen my review of Jade City, you know I absolutely love this series and I am so excited to share with you all my questions and the answers Fonda gave to them!

Jade City
By Fonda Lee 

Genre: Fantasy
Age Group: Adult 

Trigger Warnings: violence, death, drug use, drug overdose, mentions of sexual assault, mention of suicide, and self-harm

JADE CITY is a gripping Godfather-esque saga of intergenerational blood feuds, vicious politics, magic, and kungfu.

The Kaul family is one of two crime syndicates that control the island of Kekon. It’s the only place in the world that produces rare magical jade, which grants those with the right training and heritage superhuman abilities. 
The Green Bone clans of honorable jade-wearing warriors once protected the island from foreign invasion–but nowadays, in a bustling post-war metropolis full of fast cars and foreign money, Green Bone families like the Kauls are primarily involved in commerce, construction, and the everyday upkeep of the districts under their protection.
When the simmering tension between the Kauls and their greatest rivals erupts into open violence in the streets, the outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones and the future of Kekon itself. 

Jade City has been described as ‘The Godfather with kung-fu’ and I wholeheartedly agree with this comparison overall, but what were some smaller things that inspired the intricate details of the books?

The jade disciplines were inspired by the superpowers of wuxia heroes in Jin Yong novels and feats in Shaw Brothers kung fu movies. The subway system of Janloon is lifted from Toronto, Canada, where I used to live. I modeled the jade smuggler Zapunyo partly on the notorious Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. The function of the Kekon Jade Alliance was inspired by the De Beers monopoly that controlled the diamond industry for over a hundred years. 1920s Prohibition and the heyday of the mafia in America made its way into my story in the form of the ban on jade in Espenia and the resulting rise in the activities of organized crime by the Crews of Port Massy, with Blaise “the Bull” Kromner being partly inspired by the real life figure of Al Capone. The Republic of Espenia’s occupation of Euman Island is a fictional reflection of the American military presence on Okinawa. There are many more!

The green bone saga spans around 30 years taking the characters on a long journey – did you plan this out when you first started writing Jade City or did you decide it later? And how did you manage such a long time span while writing?

When I first started writing Jade City, I knew the story I had in mind might very well involve more than one book, but I didn’t know if that first novel would sell to a publisher, much less whether I would get to write an entire trilogy. It was only after I’d finished Jade City and been offered a three-book deal that I really sat down to plan out the scope of the entire trilogy. Before I started working on Jade War, I knew the second book would expand the story internationally, and that the third book would expand it intergenerationally. So I was prepared, going into Jade Legacy, that I would be covering decades of time. It was such a massive and daunting task that the best way for me to approach writing of Jade Legacy was as if it were a televsion show consisting of four seasons, each one building the overall narrative through smaller climaxes, with time jumps structurally marked by the interludes that I use throughout the trilogy.

Which character did you find the hardest to write about? Why?

art by merwild

I would have to say Shae was the hardest character for me to write. I think it’s because out of all the main characters, she struggles the most with her doubts, indecision, and conflicting motivations. It’s tricky to write a character like that also maintains all of her strength, determination, and narrative agency. 

Did you have any scenes throughout the series that you had to edit out but desperately wished you could’ve save? Or vice versa, any scenes you had to add in later which you think work wonderfully now that they do exist in the book?

When scenes are edited out, it’s always because they deserve to be cut, so I never feel any regret about losing them. I tend to write fairly lean first drafts and add more in revision, so there are plenty of scenes that are added in later drafts that I can’t imagine the book existing without. For example, several of the best scenes with Lan in Jade City were added in the second draft. I rewrote the first 25-30% of Jade Legacy a number of times, so several of the scenes in that section were late additions as well. 

Now that the series is coming to a close soon and with reactions from the readers with advanced copies already flooding in, how does it feel? Is there something about this series you loved seeing reader’s reactions to? Or anything you’re looking forward to once Jade Legacy is out?

It’s incredibly satisfying, exciting, and a little sad. At the end of Jade War, Anden returns home to Janloon and describes it as, “the sort of heaviness that comes from wanting something for so long that the final achievement of it is a loss.” I feel some of that toward the completion of this trilogy. What I love seeing the most are readers’ love for the characters and the fan art and other creative things they make, whether that’s memes, pastries, tattoos, or playlists—and the way they share them with each other. It’s wonderful. Once Jade Legacy is out, I’m personally really looking forward to being able to talk about the events of the final book. I went through them all by myself and at last others will understand. 

Lastly, what is a book you would recommend to fans of the green bone saga? 

I’m going to step out of the fantasy genre and recommend The Force by Don Winslow. It’s a crime drama about crooked cops in New York City, but it’s much more than that. It’s epic, tragic, violent, a study in character, power, loyalty, betrayal, and politics. At times the tension was so bad I could barely stand it. It’s one of my favorite books.

Thank you for coming over to talk to me about the green Bone Saga!

Fonda is a winner of the World Fantasy Award, as well as a three-time winner of the Aurora Award (Canada’s national science fiction and fantasy award), and a multiple finalist for the Nebula Award, the Locus Award, and the Oregon Book Award. Her novels have garnered multiple starred reviews, been included on numerous state reading lists, named Junior Library Guild selections, and appeared on Best of Year lists from NPR, Barnes & Noble, Syfy Wire, and others. Jade City has been translated in multiple languages and optioned for television development.

Have you read The green Bone Saga or any other books by Fonda Lee? What did you think of them? If you haven’t, are you planning to read it? Let me know in the comments below!


11 thoughts on “Interview with Fonda Lee

  1. Jayati, this is such a lovely interview, thank you for it!! The first question was especially insightful, I could spot the wuxia references throughout Jade City, but I never knew there were that many inspirations from around the world! I’m honestly even more hyped for Jade Legacy, when it was compared that Jade War expanded internationally and the finale intergenerationally.

    Also, I’m truly surprised to hear that Shae was the hardest to write, she’s my favourite character and so I think Fonda Lee did really well in fleshing out the character that she described there, I can’t wait to see how she and the Kaul family continue to grow in Jade Legacy!

    Once again, I loved this interview, the questions you asked and the responses Fonda Lee gave were such a treat! 🥰


  2. I waited to finish the Green Bone Saga to read this interview. If I had read it before, I wouldn’t have understood what the author was telling, but now that I’ve read the saga, this interview adds more weight to the stories and characters in this world. Wonderful Interview, Jayati! Thanks for sharing it with us ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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