Thursday, July 11, 2013

Trang Sen by Sarah-Ann Smith ~ Interview~

I am honored to welcome Sarah-Ann Smith to whom so graciously allowed me to ask her a few interview questions about her release Trang Sen. You may find my review of Trang Sen here.

Crystal: Thank you so much for stopping by today. Would you share a little bit about yourself with us today?

Sarah-Ann: Born in South Carolina, I've wandered around the U.S.and around the world, especially Asia. I spent several years in Hong Kong and Taiwan, during my years in the diplomatic corps, and have traveled extensively in China and Southeast Asia. I've taught courses on all those areas, and lectured on several tours to China, as well as on one to Indonesia. 

Crystal: Do you have a favorite scene you would like to share with us?

Sarah-Ann: That is really hard. Maybe the best way to answer is to note a couple of the scenes I've used in readings: The section where, after the birth of Kim Hoa's baby, Trang Sen witnesses the burning of the monk, and that event becomes entangled with her memory of the birth; on another, far lighter note, after she came to the U.S., Trang Sen's being hired for the job in the Roy Rogers fast food restaurant and the cultural misunderstandings and confusions between her and her employer. 

Crystal: I loved all those scenes you mentioned. Where did you come up with the idea for Trang Sen?

Sarah-Ann: My first Foreign Service assignment involved Indochina, during the final two years of the Vietnam War, 1973--75. I watched almost firsthand the unwinding of that war, and the terrible uprooting of lives, both Vietnamese and American, that conflict and its aftermath caused. Several years later, in the early 1980s, observing the comings and goings of Vietnamese immigrants in an area outside Washington, D.C., where many had settled, I knew I was going to write a fictional account of that time and those people.

Crystal: Is sounds like you had a lot of personal experience and I must say that it shows in the book. It's very descriptive and I think gives us readers a good picture of what life was like. What are you currently working on?

Sarah-Ann: I'm just beginning to put on paper - that is, on the word processor - some preliminary ideas for a memoir. And I have several short stories I've played around with, ranging across genres, even one with a science fiction theme. 

Crystal: Do you have any special routine that you follow when you are writing?

Sarah-Ann: Not really. I just try to do some writing every day, and don't always succeed. I don't recommend my lack of routine! 

Crystal: Did you have to do a lot of research for Trang Sen? If so do you have a fascinating fact that you have learned you would like to share with us?

Sarah-Ann: I did a good bit of research across economic, social and cultural fields to be as accurate as possible about life in Vietnam. I also was lucky enough to travel to the Saigon area (now Ho Chi Minh City) before Vietnam began to develop economically, and so saw the physical evidence of what that city had been like during the war. What surprised me most was how much the skyline resembled that of a midwestern American city of the 1960s, as the tallest buildings had been built by the Americans, for the use of our personnel.

Crystal: Who are some of your favorite authors that you like to read?

Sarah-Ann: My reading interests are wide-ranging. I love Ursula K. LeGuin's fantasy and science fiction novels, and Jane Austen, for her incredible psychological perceptions. I've read a fairly large amount of Asian fiction, and I particularly like the Japanese novelist, Yasunari Kawabata.

Crystal:  Did you do anything special to celebrate the release of Trang Sen?

Sarah-Ann: Not really. My college class reunion occurred shortly before the actual publication, and I surprised all my classmates with the news that my novel was being published. 

Crystal: . Is there any chance you are going to write a sequel to Trang Sen? I would love to hear more about what happened to Trang Sen and her family as the years went by.

Sarah-Ann: I have no plans to write a sequel, but I may follow up a bit about some of the characters through one or two related short stories. 


  1. What a interesting interview. This sounds like a great book :)

  2. It is! I've read it and reread it, and it's just an awesome book. The characters are so real and the story moves along like a miniseries - you can't put it down.

    Great book!