September 13th, 2010 - 20 Writerly Questions

Posed by

1. How would you summarize your book in one sentence?

It's a story about the intersection of the lives of three very different people in Vietnam and how those relationships allow them each to reconcile themselves with aspects of the turbulent past.

2. How long did it take you to write this book?

Two years.

3. Where is your favorite place to write?

At the kitchen table on a sunny day.

4. How do you choose your characters' names?

I choose ordinary names appropriate to the culture or context. Extraordinary names draw too much attention to themselves and disrupt the reading.

5. How many drafts do you go through?

Countless. Maybe 25?

6. If there was one book you wish you had written what would it be?

The Passion by Jeannette Winterson.

7. If your book were to become a movie, who would you like to see star in it?

A Vietnamese Natalie Portman.

8. What's your favourite city in the world?

The one I have yet to visit; the stuff of daydreams.

9. If you could talk to any writer living or dead who would it be, and what would you ask?

Ryzard Kapucinski. On balance: do you think we, as a species, are a good one?

10. Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what kind?

I have been listening to the same pieces of contemporary classical music at the beginning of each writing day for the past decade. Arvo Part's Te Deum and Henrik Gorecki's Symphony No.3. I prefer music without words, or at least without words in English - too distracting.

11. Who is the first person who gets to you read your manuscript?

No one reads my work until it's ready for editorial eyes.

12. Do you have a guilty pleasure read?

Hello Magazine. The British edition.

13. What's on your nightstand right now?

A lot of baby books.

14. What is the first book you remember reading?

A. A. Milne's When We Were Six.

15. Did you always want to be a writer?

Yes. But more a poet.

16. What do you drink or eat while you write?

Red Rose tea, strong, with milk, and whole wheat toast with butter and Marmite.

17. Typewriter, laptop, or pen & paper?


18. What did you do immediately after hearing that you were being published for the very first time?

No recollection, but it probably involved wine.

19. How do you decide which narrative point of view to write from?

It's an unconscious decision. The voice arrives and determines the pov.

20. What is the best gift someone could give a writer?


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