What inspired you to write this book?
Having spent my late teen/early adult years while the Vietnamese War was happening, it played a huge part of my formative years. I had a strong curiosity about the country and with the 40th anniversary of the end of the war coming up in 2015, I began to wonder how the country had changed since those war days. Thus, I empowered my main character, Allison Wagner, with that responsibility. I tend to visit the places that are my settings so a trip over was mandatory. While there, I noticed things that bothered me. Small children were in the streets selling postcards and other souvenirs while an adult male stood in the background watching. I noticed many massage parlors and karaoke bars that had questionable, seedy appearances. Young teens were in the pub sections of town dressed in suggestive clothing and heavily made up to looks years older. I did some investigation of my own and discovered that often these bars and parlors are coverups for human trafficking activity. Once home, I did more research on trafficking and what I learned truly bothered me on so many levels. I knew I had to write about it. Of course people know this goes on, but I don’t believe they realize the magnitude of the problem and I felt I needed to get the conversation going.
What topics in your book or background do you think people would find interesting?
Like many war-torn areas, the word Vietnam sends off a negative force. I think it’s important that people know Vietnam is not just a war but also a country. What I discovered is that the Vietnamese people do not hold any negative feelings toward Americans. Truthfully, I was shocked to discover that. How it was explained to me is that because of their Buddhist beliefs, they feel that once something is over, it’s over. It doesn’t make sense to harbor grudges and to expend valuable energy and time over the past. How wonderful it would be if the rest of the world felt that way.
Tell us about your career outside of writing and how it influenced your writing.
I was an elementary teacher for over 30 years. I loved working with kids and seeing first hand the growth that took place between September and June. It was thrilling to be part of that aha moment when something clicked inside a child’s mind. You could see it in their eyes and to know I had a part in it was very satisfying. I spent many years teaching the fundamentals of writing. Once I retired I had the time to apply what I knew to my own storytelling. I also have a passion for travel and experiencing different world cultures. I love being taken out of my comfort zone. Peggy Lee’s classic hit, “Is That All There Is” comes to mind because once you’ve live a long life, nothing is too much of a surprise. You’ve done it. Well, lunching in a Peruvian hut with guinea pigs running around on the floor; having a squirrel monkey jump on your back in the Amazon rain forest; or riding an ostrich in South Africa allow you to feel like you’re a kid again. What’s not to like about that? Having the opportunity to join both of these–the love of storytelling with the passion for travel–is simply crazy and exciting.
Describe your style of writing
I want my words to take the reader to a place that I’ve been and perhaps they haven’t. When researching I look for the itty bitty things that most people don’t always notice. For example, the tape covering a rip in a Vietnamese couch or the chatter of voices as the women clean the fish that lay on mats in a fishing village. I use descriptive phrases that are to the point but try not to bore the reader with unnecessary words that will drag a story. I strive to use shorter sentences, fewer words and much dialogue. I want the pages to turn quickly and the reader to always wonder about the next chapter. I want them to know my characters and care about them because I certainly do. Putting together a storyline is very much like assembling a jigsaw puzzle. At the end, I want the reader to be entertained but also to have learned. But here’s the crux–I want them to learn without the awareness that this learning is taking place.
What authors inspired you
It was the presentation given by children’s author and illustrator, Lynne Cherry, that planted the seed in my mind that perhaps I could do this. I love Khaled Hasseini and Katherine Paterson’s gift of storytelling and aspire to those heights one day. Of course, The Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens is a masterpiece which explains why it has stood the test of time.
By: Freddie Remza
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