Whatever happened to Po?

Posted on February 28, 2012

Whatever happened to Po?

The character of Po first appeared in Bennett book #4: Untameable Rogue. Madeline Mercy Delacourte scooped him up out of the gutter and took him to Jake Bennett’s dojo. Jake gave him a roof over his head, a bed and all the food he could eat on the promise that Po would end his theiving ways. And Po did, mostly. And by the end of Bennett book #5 (Red-Hot Renegade), Po had become a Bennett.

Since then I’ve had so many emails about Po, most of them asking the same questions. When are you going to write Po’s story? Please, will you write about Po?

A few considerations have stopped me from doing just that. For a long time Po was still a kid in my mind. Streetwise, with big dreams, but still a scrappy kid. Secondly: I worry about cultural misappropriation. As in, what inconsistencies/errors am I going to bring to the mindset of a once-abandoned half-Chinese/half-Filipino hero? Thirdly: Is my larger readership ready for a Chinese hero? This last question is the hardest to answer. What I do know is that – particularly in the US market – my Asian-set stories don’t sell as well as the stories I set elsewhere. I’ve enough figures now to say this with confidence.

So what to do about Po?

Well… every now and again I take a peek at where he’s up to and write a scene I know I’m never going to use. Except maybe on a blog. And afterwards I’d have to beg my reader’s indulgence (consider it done). But for readers who want to know what’s happening with Po…


Po Snapshot #1

‘Quick,’ said the tiny six year old girl to the handsome man with the all seeing eyes. She grabbed his hand and dragged him forward into the darkened room. ‘Hide. Po, you have to hide now. He’s coming.’

Po may have been a karate black belt and he may have been up to his neck in study for his degree, but that didn’t mean he was above teasing a certain dojo princess who had best remain nameless – to say her name aloud tended to strike fear into the hearts of Bennett uncles around the globe. ‘Who’s coming?’ he asked, as if mystified and let the poppet tug him further into the room.

‘Daddy.’ The tugging grew more insistent. ‘Come On, Po. I found the perfect place for you. And I can fit too.’

It served the sensei right that his only daughter had the heart of a renegade tiger. Jake had sired boys ever since, and uncles and aunts around the globe had sighed their relief. Not so Po. Po loved it when his siblings ran wild. The shackles of responsibility would find them soon enough. ‘Where is this perfect place?’ said Po.

‘Up there.’

Po looked up and blinked. Then he grinned. ‘You mean the ceiling beams?’ The ones that ran at regular intervals across the wide high roof.  The ones many metres up and no wider than a handspan.

‘Yes.’ She fixed him with an imploring black gaze. ‘None of the boys will show me how to get up there.’

‘That’s because they have brains,’ said Po. Not to mention a healthy respect for their father’s wrath.

‘I have rope,’ the dynasty princess said next. Skipping rope to be exact, and in one small person’s estimation at least, rope was clearly superior to brains. ‘And confetti.’ She opened one tiny hand to show him a fistful of crushed rose petals. There’d be a vase full of butchered roses around here somewhere, nothing surer.

Po put his hand to the back of his neck and looked up at the ceiling beams again. Weighing. Considering. Today was the sensei’s twentieth wedding anniversary. Preparations for a party were well in hand. Po’s task – should he choose to accept it – was to keep his siblings in check and out of mischief.

A muffled giggle from beneath the bed assured him all was well elsewhere in the land of hidden little ones. He looked up at the beams again and the lawyer in him headed south. He shrugged out of his jacket and his white dress shirt and shiny black shoes and shot them all beneath the bed. More giggling ensued. The skipping rope he tucked into the back of his waistband.

‘And the confetti,’ said the Hun.

The confetti went in the back pocket of his trousers and up he went, to the very top of the built-in toy shelves. A short leap and he was swinging from the nearest ceiling beam. From there to sitting on it took less effort than breathing. From there another longer leap this time – over to the next beam. He shimmied onto his stomach across the beam, reached behind him for the rope and let it coil down towards the floor. That the rope fell well short of reaching the floor didn’t bother him in the slightest.

He could see the fearless one’s mind working. He didn’t feel the need to make things any easier for her.

‘You want up?’ he said. ‘Climb the rope.’


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  1. Having just finished His Singapore Fling for the first time I first of all thank you for this timeskip and would like to add that if you ever have the opportunity to write his story (and it could be a companion novel to Jasmine and Kai, while we’re at it – as I just had finished The Trouble with Valentine’s right before that, – sort of the second generation of Bennett connection series ^^), I would buy it ^^.

    Also, I was happy to read that among your favourite books are the Chesapeake Bay Saga (just starting a reread) and C. J. Cherryh’s The Paladin.

    And dittoing everyone’s rec for Graceling, although it’s not a romantic fantasy, it’s straight fantasy with a romantic subthread.

  2. Sally, I’d forgotten all about the tellytubbies. And now that I remember, MAKE IT STOP!

    I’ve been thinking about Graceling’s Po and wondering why it worked there and might not work for a category romance read. Have sci-fi/fantasy readers been somewhat conditioned to put up with challenging names? I know I’ve wrestled my way past quite a few naming disasters before finally enjoying a story. (Name of The Wind’s Qvothe, I’m looking at you). Mind you, romance hero names can get pretty out there too, at times. I’ve been guilty of thinking Judah Blake a mighty Fine romance hero name – though I haven’t written him yet.

    But mostly, Sally, I just want to Thank You for giving me my memories of the tellytubbies back. I’m going to need wine…

    • Madeline Ash

      I’d say that fantasy readers are definitely more willing to accept unusual names that strict category romance readers. If we can accept a new universe and magic and supreme evil beings, then a new name isn’t much of a stretch. But for readers of books where every tenth hero is called Jack, I can see the potential problem :-)

      You should definitely read Graceling, but I agree with Li, Fire is better!

  3. Sally Clements

    I loved Red Hot Renegade, and the other Bennett books, and I have wondered about Po…even though I didn’t remember exactly what his name was, so when I saw the title of the blogpost, the first Po that came to mind was the unfortunate ‘tinky-winky, dipsy, lala, po’ Did you have the tellytubbies? Unfortunately they’re burned in to my memory so indelibly, that’s what flashed through my head at the mere mention of Po…

  4. Edwardo Bridgette

    I am always a great fan of bloggers that enjoy what they do and I have to say I really enjoyed this article. Thank you

  5. … [Trackback]…

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  6. I loved this scene – but then I’ve loved your Bennett books.

    I was going to say that Kristin Cashore’s used Po as her hero’s name and her books are massively popular, but I see I’ve been beaten to that! I agree it’s not a common name for a hero (and I admit I don’t think it’s a common Chinese name either – I pass on the Filipino front), but at the same time, I hate the thought of Americanising his name.

    • Kelly Hunter

      Hi Li, between you and Madeline mentioning Kristin Cashore’s Po, I think I may need to track him down. As for renaming Po, no. That’s his name, and to some extent it signifies very clearly to a casual browser what to expect from the story. That’s a good thing. I think.

      • Oh, GRACELING is very definitely worth tracking down! Though her companion book FIRE is even better, IMO. And I’m very glad to hear your views on renaming Po.

  7. Maisey Yates

    Hmmmm…*she says thoughtfully*

    On the subject of readership and race…this is something that I’ve spent a LOT of time turning over, both with myself and with my editor. I’ve written a biracial hero, of African and Caucasian descent, and I worried, a lot, about the reception he would get. He hasn’t been released in the US yet, but the response to him has been overwhelmingly positive. Whether that will translate into wonderful sales or not, I don’t know. But for me, it came down to the fact that I felt very passionate about telling his story. And that I feel passionate about breaking down the man made barriers that have been set up that somehow divide people into categories. Barriers that say, stories about ‘certain’ people don’t belong on mainstream literature, or movies.

    Someday it won’t be such a big deal. Maybe it won’t matter at all. But in order for it to get there, the books have to be written.

    Having said that, this is a complex issues, and sales DO matter. And of course, any time you take a risk with a character (and this does include nationality…my American heroes don’t seem to sell well Stateside) you take a risk with your sales figures.

    In spite of what it might sound like, I’m really not trying to tell you what to do or disagree or anything like that. It’s just something I personally have spent a lot of time thinking about, and ultimately deciding to do because I was that passionate about my hero. And to say if you feel passionate about giving Po a story, I would be first in line to buy it!

    *looks up* oh..I have blabbed. ;)

    • I agree that when we write a hard-to-sell Anything it helps to be extra passionate about it. Means we keep at it, for starters. And keeping one eye on sales is something of a necessity too – more thoughtful hmmming. I now think carefully about when to shoehorn a not-so-popular setting into my writing schedule so as to even-out yearly income and keep overall sales figures robust. Practicalities of business. And staying in the vague vicinity of editorial guidelines matters too…

      I really enjoyed your The Highest Price To Pay, Maisey. May he sell extremely well.

      • Maisey Yates

        Thank you! I really, really appreciate the kind words about that book. And I hear you about planning setting, etc carefully into the schedule. Being business minded is an absolute necessity. ;) That’s all you can do really…hmm thoughtfully, and try to do the best you can.

        • And nod sagely and keep hmmming and chalk it up to experience when a risky write goes belly up. Hmmm hmmmm.

  8. Julia Broadbooks

    When I saw your tweet about Po’s story, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I certainly wasn’t one of those readers clamoring for his romance because in my head he was still a kid — around the age of my own daughters who are most certainly not ready to find true and everlasting love. But having read what you’ve done here, now I think I’d quite like to read his story, some day, when you’re ready to write it.

    • He’s not fully grown in my mind either, Julia. I haven’t even thought about a woman who might suit him. He’s got to get through all the ones who *don’t* suit him first. :)

  9. Madeline Ash

    And so Po ages six years, shooting up, filling out. A handsome man now. Thank you, Kelly.

    I have to disagree on the name issue. I find Po short, strong, and memorable. I read a romantic fantasy (Graceling by Kristin Cashore), in which the hero’s name was Po. After the first few pages, the word simply became the hero, not a name. It saddening to think that a reader would be turned off by an unfamiliar name alone. But I know it’s subjective. As a reader with a standing emotional attachment to the character, I would read it BECAUSE it’s Po.

    Of course, I’ll read it however it comes :)

  10. You could be right about the name, Lissa.

    Maybe I could package the book with copies of the ‘Kung Fu Panda’ film ;). Po was very heroic in that story. Kind of. In his own special way…

  11. Lilian Darcy

    Gorgeous scene. Totally see why readers want Po’s story. Can I suggest another reason why I think it would be hard, though? His name. It’s not attractive to an English speaker’s eye, just as there must be many very hero-worthy names in English that create giggles or poor associations in other languages. Could you send him to America for a few years, and have him choose to Americanize his name? Would be very interested in other opinions on this one.

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