Welcome to Flesh Author Khanh Ha! Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer some questions about your life and book!
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. He is at work on a new novel.
Flesh Interview with Author Khanh Ha:
Please tell us in 20 words or less, why we should read your book.
Publishers tend to publish books that have been published before in the same vein. ʺFleshʺ isn’t in any such vein.
If you could have a first edition signed copy of any novel, what would it be and why?
ʺThe Bearʺ (William Faulkner). Read it up to the end of Part III after Boon Hogganbeck and Lion his dog have killed Old Ben the wicked bear. If you want to become a novelist, then study the master. In ʺThe Bearʺ you will find yourself fall in love with the English language. You will find yourself admire Faulkner for his meticulous descriptions of things so elaborately done — not overly done, mind you — you’d feel as if you were in the midst of the scenes, watching them unfold. His depiction of Lion, the great blue dog, is unparallel in its sheer power of bringing an animal to life. You will learn how the master creates a personality such as Boon, the whiskey-loving huge man with a quarter of Indian blood in him.
Do you have plans for a new book? Goals for future projects?
Yes, I’m done with one and working on another. The breaks between novels are for replenishing myself and then getting back to work, i.e., revising the finished manuscript, researching for the next novel.
Did you lose any characters along the way?
No. I might have to bring in a new character never imagined before, because in writing out the scenes, you create a chemical reaction among your characters and sometimes this action might alter the plot. I might merge two characters into one if that helps strengthen the storyline and firm up the character. But no character already created ever suffers a wipeout.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? If so, what did you do about it?
A novel is a long story made up of interconnected scenes. Whenever you start struggling with a scene, it’s a good indicator of a potential problem. If you can write each scene to its fullest, in its truest sense, it’d breed the next scene. You can’t force a story to happen. When you do, you’ll face ‘writer’s block.’ I try to stay true to myself—the only one I’m accountable for—in every word I pen. Yet there are times when I’d look at words and see only empty spaces. I know it is not a writer’s block. I don’t believe there’s such a thing. Rather it is the ebb and flow during an act of creativity. I don’t need to ʺsqueeze the peel of the little oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made.ʺ [Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast]
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
Toughest criticism toward me as an author? It came from me. I’m the harshest critic of my own self, because I want to write better than any writer dead or living.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Advice? Write something, even if it’s just a suicide note, they said. When you write, you’re the only writer that exists, none before you, none after you. Somewhere I remember Toni Morrison once said, “I wrote my first novel because I wanted to read it.”
Do you skip around, peek at the ending, or do you read straight through a book?
If you start doing any of that, i.e., skipping around, peeking at random sections, then that book isn’t worth reading in the first place!
A worthy book is one that you find yourself immersed in and eager to get back to after having put it down between breaks. Before buying a book, I always read it randomly to see if it’s up my alley. I don’t, almost never, read praises that adorn a book. Why should I be partial to a book just because other people have thrown around their opinions about it? That is, I think, a discredit to the book’s author when you decide not to trust your own opinion, your own intelligence, to read a zillion and a half published comments on a book before even trying to read it for your own pleasure.
What’s the last truly great book you read?
ʺA Lesson Before Dyingʺ by Ernest Gaines. This classic reminds me of ʺFlowers for Algernonʺ whose author taught me creative writing at Ohio University. Ernest Gains portrays Grant Wiggins perfectly — the Creole who teaches black children in a small Cajun community, who is full of self-pity, self-hatred because of his race.Yet it is Wiggins who takes on the challenging task to counsel a young black man named Jefferson already on the death row for a murder he did not commit but was dragged into the scene against his will. His lawyer who defends him pleads to the jury to spare his life, the life of a ‘hog.’ Ernest Gaines portrays every person he creates as real, as sympathetic, as interesting, and as formidably moving as a grand master of fiction would do. In the end, it is other people who have to lean on one another for the moral support. And it is Jefferson who ‘walks’ to the chair and has his life taken away from him. In the end, he is not a hog, but a man transformed. By his own will.
How do you react to a bad review?
I don’t react to a bad review. Neither do I react to a good review. I’m always surprised (but not clinging to words in a good or bad review) to read my reader’s viewpoints, their reactions, and their feelings about my book. It’s a revelation, to a certain degree, to see how people take on a book. To an author it’s like seeing his work in multiple personalities. And to me, it’s a nice little secret.
Give us a one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A coming-of-age story of a young man psychologically scarred by violence & driven by familial loyalty and societally imposed moral obligations.
What genre does your book fall under?
Literary fiction—more a label than a choice for the author—so it might appear to readers that genres existed before the writers.
Tell everyone where they can go to stay up to date on your latest news!
Find me with all the latest news about my writing at: http://www.authorkhanhha.com From there you can branch off to Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, Blog
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
The most ideal book for sale should look like the red-cover ʺThe Catcher in the Ryeʺ: no advance praises, no author bio, no nonsensical decors like award seals shouting out on the front cover. Read the book for what it is.
Set in Tonkin (now northern Vietnam) at the turn of the 20th century, Flesh tells the story of a boy who witnesses the execution, by beheading, of his father, at notorious bandit and sets out to recover his fathers head, and then find the man who betrayed his father to the authorities. A coming-of-age story of brutal self-awakening and also a tender love story, Flesh takes the reader into place both dark and wonderful, in the human condition where allies are not always your friends, true love hurts, and your worst enemy can bring you the greatest solace.
Purchase Flesh at Amazon.