Interview with Khanh Ha, author of 'Flesh'

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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.

1. How have you been able to use social media (Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, etc.) to help market your book?

I believe that an anthor has a dire need to maintain a presence on the internet before and after the launch of his book. I believe that he ought to continue keeping alive the existence of his book in readers’ consciousness. Call it exposure. Call it visibility. It must be in the back of people’s mind all the time so that when a favorable turn of event triggers a decision to buy it, people will do so without hesitation. I favor Goodreads over Facebook and Twitter. Goodreads is a social networking for readers, writers, book reviewers, where your book has better visibility than other social networking sites. Readers will know about your book. Libraries too. On Goodreads I favor book giveaway and I give away copies of FLESH once a month to keep readers visiting my page and to receive possibly a review from an enthusiastic reader. I also buy an ad on Goodreads, which is shown to intended audience of the type of fiction FLESH is. All these I try to maintain for the exposure of the book, and for at least nine months to a year to allow the book enough time to catch on. But social media is just a part of the book promotion. You need to consider the grassroots support of the bookstores and the libraries as well. Indy and academic bookstores. Public and academic libraries. The presence of your book in these places will certainly guarantee the longivity of your work.

2. Do you have any advice for new authors looking to promote themselves on these sites?

Not only on those sites but also on Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, Powell’s, etc. You’ll need to find ways to have favorable reviews of your book posted on them. You’ll need to establish a presence of your book on these playgrounds. You’ll need to make bookstores and libraries hear and pay attention to your book. To achieve this, you must have good reviews everywhere. Also, make available to yourself at least 50 to 100 copies of your book when you aim to promote it. The more copies of it in the hands of reviewers, readers, the better chance it will be read and heard about. Promotion only pay dividends in the long run when people hear about your book, see its cover, read its excerpts. It’s not a matter of a one-month campaign, or a three-month campaign. But it’s a full year’s campaign. Brace for it.

3. What type of writing routine do you have? Any tips you can share about it?

I’m an early riser and I work best in the morning. I start early and stop for lunch at noon and am back to work until four in the afternoon. In between I read. Read. Read. Read. To keep my mind off my writing completely. I need to keep it fresh during my writing marathon, though by noon it starts to get stale. Then you just need to recharge yourself by giving yourself enough breaks in between, by reading or just listening to music, anything to soothe your nerves and to replenish your well so you can write again. You don’t miss any day, and it’s a real bad deal if you’re faced with a big gap in your writing schedule. For example, book promotion, vacation. That sort. You even write on the weekends, perhaps just a short paragraph so the circuit in your brain is continuous. That’s the capsule of a day in a life of a writer. And it starts over again the next day. If a novel takes a year or longer to write, the routine of each day is duplicated over and over again like clockwork.

4. How has it been trying to balance your writing with your day job and/or family life? Is there anything you would change?

To succeed in writing, at least to be able to start and finish a novel, you’ll need that god-awful dedication to exclude all the unnecessary distractions that revolve around you in your daily life. But, boy, do you consider yourself first a writer, then a husband or a father? If you do, reconsider your life priority. Once you are married and have a family, you have family responsibilities as a husband and as a father. By negligence of these responsibilities at the expense of your writing ambition, you will cause unhappiness to others, especially if you love them enough. Do you love them enough to put your writing priority ahead of everything else?

5. Setting is an extremely important aspect in grabbing your readers attention. What made you choose to set your book in the late 19th century in Hanoi of Annam?

The seed of inspiration for FLESH was sown circa the end of the 19th century in Hanoi of Annam. I couldn’t change that. Though the setting is an important aspect in any novel, the mood that fosters the setting is even more important. It must be atmospheric. The setting is like a restaurant that you pick for a date. But the ambiance that brings a mood must be there. I tried to bring such an atmostphere in FLESH that made readers feel belonged.

6. What types of books do you read? How do you think they have influenced your writing?

What types? I’ll tell you. Books populated with characters that make me care as a reader. I read literary fiction, the only type worth reading. I might read trash here and there, but as I read them, I make mental notes of how trashy they are so I can be aware of such pitfalls. A writer must write from his heart out of love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice as William Faulkner once said. As the writer builds his make-believe world, he must write about the truth in his fabricated lies. Books that deal with truth, deal with the human heart and the individual self-realization. Those who write about them with all their soul and compassion have influenced me as another writer. I hope I can uphold such truth. Then I will be able to realize my dreams.


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