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Young author learned martial arts for her novel

Nancy Yi Fan answers questions about writing, her inspiration, her favorite authors and her next novel, “Sword Quest,” which is based on Old Scripture stories.
/ Source: TODAY

Our third book for Al’s Book Club for Kids is “Swordbird,” which was written by Nancy Yi Fan when she was 12 years old. Born in China in 1993, she moved with her parents to the U.S. when she was seven years old. “Swordbird” pits a tyrannical hawk called Turnatt, who captures “slavebirds” to build his fortress, against the cardinals and blue jays. To overcome Turnatt, the blue jays and cardinals summon the Swordbird, the “mystical white bird, the son of the Great Spirit.” TODAY asked readers to write in questions for Nancy. In her answers, she discusses her inspiration for “Swordbird,” her favorite books, taking martial arts lessons to research her book, and her next novel, “Sword Quest,” a prequel to her first one. Read her responses:

Dear Nancy: I really like your book. How did you get that topic?— Paige, Billings, Mont.

Dear Paige: I love birds. I tried to learn as much as I could about them and their habits, appearance, song, and habitat. I looked for birds in my back yard or in the woods and on nature trails. This is how “Swordbird” got started. In school, I was learning about the American Revolution and terrorist attacks. One night, I had a dream about cardinals and blue jays fighting, and of a huge white magical bird. When I woke up, I started writing a story about them to express the importance of peace and freedom. It eventually turned into “Swordbird.”

Dear Nancy: Why did you make the birds be violent? Why did you make the birds talk?— Peyton, Fla.

Dear Peyton: The birds have swords because they are struggling to get their freedom back. I wrote these fighting scenes to show how terrible it is to take away someone’s freedom and the awful consequences of violence. I took martial arts classes to help me write better fighting scenes. 

I thought it would be more interesting to have a story with talking birds. I feel as if my pet birds are always having conversations with each other and with me.

Dear Kris: I just finished writing my second book about birds. It’s called “Sword Quest,” a prequel to “Swordbird.”  It’s about how Wind-voice found his magical sword. You might recognize Ewingerale the woodpecker from the Old Scripture excerpts. Many new characters fly their way into the story, including parrots!

Dear Nancy: Do you enjoy writing? What were your favorite books before you published “Swordbird”? When’s your birthday? I got to go now, thanks for reading this note, Nancy.— Nela H., Coulter, Iowa

Dear Nela: I love to write and I try to write every day. Some of my favorite books are “The Hero and the Crown” by Robin McKinley and “Night” by Elie Wiesel.

My birthday is coming up later this summer. It’s on August 26.

Dear Nancy: I was wondering what got you to do this. Do you have any tips on writing? Also your book is AWESOME.— Megan, Villa Hills, Ky.

Dear Megan: I love to write, just like the way some of you play sports or musical instruments.  Writing is my passion. Here’s what I try to remember when I’m writing: a good story should have interesting characters, drama and action scenes and a message that readers will remember. You need to be passionate about your writing; you have to love to write and feel completely dedicated to your story for it to feel real.

Dear Lizzie: No, I’ve never met the author of Arianna Kelt or any other kid author. I think it would be really cool to go on a book tour with other kid authors.  

Dear Nancy: Your book is very good. I was wondering if you’ve read “Arianna Kelt and the Wizards of Skyhall.” King wrote his book when he was 12 too. Did his book help inspire you to write?— Anonymous, Yelm, Wash.

Dear reader: I haven’t had a chance to read “Arianna Kelt and the Wizards of Skyhall” yet.  For as long as I can remember, I have always loved to write. I also love birds. That is what inspired me to write “Swordbird.”  I noticed there were very few children’s books with birds as the main characters, so I decided to write a book for other bird lovers to read.