The Next Big Thing is a blogging meme conceived by She Writes. NBG gives authors an opportunity to discuss their next book, whether it has been accepted for publication, will be self-published, or is still a work in progress.
My thanks goes to poet of magical verse, Marsha Berry (@Marousia), for tagging me and giving me a way to introduce my forthcoming book. The questions are preset and in the style of an interview. Without further ado:
What is the title of your book?
Breakfast under the Bodhi Tree
What genre does it fall under?
Creative Nonfiction / Food and Travel Memoir /
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie?
Since almost all of the people who appear in the book are Vietnamese, I’d have to watch a lot of Vietnamese film before choosing the actors. Perhaps Nguyễn Như Quỳnh, Lê Khanh, Đơn Dương, Ngọc Hiệp…
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A Canadian woman travels to Việt Nam, falls in love with the country, immerses herself in the culture, marries someone from Huế, becomes a tour guide, and tries to learn everything she can about the language, cuisine and ways of life of the people around her.
Will your book be self-pub or represented by an agency?
I’ve completed two thirds of the manuscript. When it’s ready, I’ll be seeking an agent.
How long did it take you to write the first draft?
Because this is a collection of essays, some of the stories were finished and published in different literary journals before I’d even begun on others, so it’s difficult to divide it into first and second drafts. It has been an ongoing process. Strangely, the essays towards the end of the book were completed first and most have them have been or are about to be published in journals or travel magazines. I’m now at work on the the essays in the opening section.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
When I first travelled to Việt Nam, I stayed for three months. The trip was both holiday and research. I’d always wanted to visit Asia and having already had a basic knowledge of the language and culture of Việt Nam, it seemed like a good place to start.
I was also ready for a change, and I left Canada with a question: was Việt Nam a place where I could live and work? The answer was and is a resounding “yes!” Returning from that trip was difficult. I’ve been back many times, and lived there for long stretches.
While there, I keep in touch with family and friends by email. At first, these were brief and newsy, like little e-postcards. Then they began to evolve. People wrote back asking for more details and some requested info on specific topics. The letters became essays. I realized, too, that I was writing for myself. When I returned to Canada, I’d be able to put all the letters together to form a travelogue.
A few of the essays were published in literary journals and I also wrote articles for some Vietnamese travel publications. At some point, I realized I had enough material for a book. The question was, what form should the book take? I could use the original dated emails, so that the book would read like a diary or a collection of letters, and would preserve the spontaneity of the originals. Or, I could rewrite and polish them all into either journalistic or creative nonfiction. I chose to go with creative nonfiction in order to keep it personal and to tell my own story as well as the stories of the people I met in Việt Nam.
So that’s it! Thanks for reading. Do stay tuned for more news about Breakfast under the Bodhi Tree. The title story will appear in issue 51.2 of PRISM International. Life with Mệ, a story about living with my husband’s grandmother, appears in the hot-off-the-presses Foreign Encounters, a Writers Abroad anthology.
You can read Marsha Berry’s interview answers and learn about her forthcoming poetry collection, Spinning, here.