ABOUT KHANH HA
Khanh Ha was born in Hue, the former capital of Vietnam. During his teen years he began writing short stories which won him several awards in the Vietnamese adolescent magazines. He graduated from Ohio University with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism. Flesh is his first novel. He is at work on a new novel.
Thank you for this interview, Khanh. Do you remember writing stories as a child or did the writing bug come later? Do you remember your first published piece?
A: I began writing stories around the age of nine or ten. That was when I had enough vocabulary and my thoughts had become more refined. I wrote my first short story when I was a young teen. I won a magazine’s short story contest with that piece and was the youngest among the guests to accept the prize.
What do you consider as the most frustrating side of becoming a published author and what has been the most rewarding?
A: The frustration for a published author is distraction—the time spent in promoting your own work. You are in it as much as your publisher. It’s your child. And you’d better take it as seriously as with your writing. But such distraction takes you away from your writing, more painfully so when you’re at work on your new novel. But that frustration is negated by the sense of self-fulfillment when you hold a copy of your book in your hands. Your book is the link that connects you with the world.
Are you married or single and how do you combine the writing life with home life? Do you have support?
A: I’m a husband and a father of two sons. If you’re not single and you choose to be a writer, you’d better choose when to write and when not to. Though dedication to writing is a must, you can take it to the limit but not over it. There’s devotion to others, especially your loved ones. You can write seven days a week, sometimes late into the night; but when you go to bed and find out the side you sleep on is cold and the body lying next to you is warm, then somebody is really mad! Two women who have always been my staunchest supporters: My older sister who is an artist, and my wife.
What do you like to do for fun when you’re not writing? Where do you like to vacation? Can you tell us briefly about this?
A: Away from writing? I’m a neurotic when I’m not making pages. I read more, much more, when I’m done with a project. That’s for myself. For my family, we go together, here and there, on the weekends—our bonding time. And we vacation once or twice a year, depending on our sons’ school schedules. We always spend our vacations at seaside, sometimes out of the country, say, the Caribbean or Mexico.
If you could be anywhere in the world for one hour right now, where would that place be and why?
A: On Mt. Everest of the Himalayas. Maybe I could see the immortals who have been heard to inhabit that place.
Who is your biggest fan?
A: My sister who reads every first draft of my works.
Where’s your favorite place to write at home?
A: An unused bedroom where both of my sons had slept as little boys. We have a library but I never use it to write in. It doesn’t feel right.
Do you have any pets?
Tell us a secret no one else knows.
A: At ten, I had an intimate relationship with a girl two years older than I.
What’s on your to do list today?
A: Still doing promotion for FLESH—just about every day now—and continuing research for my next novel.
Now I’ve got a couple of fun questions for you. If Tom Hanks, in the movie Cast Away, unearthed a copy of your book, how would that help him find a way off the island?
A: Well, if he reads it and likes it he’d probably fantasize escaping to Vietnam and how to get there to meet Xiaoli. He might just hug the book when he sleeps and dreams about the girl with her long braids.
You have a chance to appear on the hit talent show for authors, American Book Idol, with judges Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, Kara Dioguardi and the newest addition, Ellen DeGeneres, to determine whether your book will make it to Hollywood and become a big screenplay where you’d make millions of dollars. What would impress them more — your book cover, an excerpt or your author photo — and why?
A: Definitely the book cover. If it entrances Tom Hanks enough for him to romanticize with Xiaoli, I think the female judges would appreciate the beauty of the cover art, and the male judges would dream of seeing her face.
You just got word that your book has received the 2012 NY Times Bestselling Book Award and you have to attend the ceremony to give an acceptance speech. Anyone who’s anyone will be there and it’s your shot for stardom. What would you say and who would you thank?
A: My wife and my publisher will be there with me. I’m always grateful to my wife for her care and dedication as a wife and a mother, and to my parents who always believe in me as a writer. And I want to say this: Do you know what really makes me happy? It’s to see somebody reading a copy of my book in a library, and then checking it out. That will bring tears to my eyes every time.
I understand that you are touring with Pump Up Your Book Promotion in August through September via a virtual book tour. Can you tell us all why you chose a virtual book tour to promote your book online?
A: Nowadays most people don’t read newspapers or magazines, but they read stuff on the internet. Most of us are glued to a computer every day and what’s seen or read online might hit home instantly and spread far and wide. It might not translate into the sale for your book, but it does one thing: giving the book a certain degree of visibility. And that is what you as an author must go after.
Thank you for this interview, Khanh. Good luck on your virtual book tour!
A: Thank you,for having me for this interview.
The setting is Tonkin (northern Vietnam) at the turn of the 20th century. A boy, Tai, witnesses the beheading of his father, a notorious bandit, and sets out to recover his head and then to find the man who betrayed his father to the authorities. On this quest, Tai’s entire world will shift. FLESH takes the reader into dark and delightful places in the human condition, places where allies are not always your friends, true love hurts, and your worst enemy may bring you the most comfort. In that emotionally harrowing world, Tai must learn to deal with new responsibilities in his life while at the same time acknowledge his bond, and his resemblance, to a man he barely knew-his father. Through this story of revenge is woven a another story, one of love, but love purchased with the blood of murders Tai commits. A coming-of-age story, but also a love story, the sensuality of the author’s writing style belies the sometimes brutal world he depicts.