Monday, September 19, 2011

the tuesday interview: vanessa hua

Vanessa Hua is a terribly cool girl. The kind that writes gorgeous stories, wins important awards, and is impossible to hate because she's one of the hardest working writers I know.

RQD: What are you working on now?

Vaness Hua: After finishing the latest revision of my novel, I decided to step away and work on short stories. In the novel, I'd been working on a thread involving female relationships and betrayal, and I continued to explore that in a short story, albeit in a far different setting, and with far different characters. I'm also working on a comic story, based on true events, yet with a high degree of the absurd. A lot of fun to work on, and the perfect break to take before returning to the novel manuscript. At present I'm figuring out how to work in the brief, brief, moments that I have to myself.

RQD: What's interesting to you about the characters you're writing about now?

VH: Both stories involve deceit and secrets, and how the characters carry that burden. I've found that's an ongoing theme in my work. I became a first time mother in August and I’m interested to see how that will influence and change my writing.

RQD: What other art or artists influence you?

VH: I always struggle with the question of influence. While I can readily tell you whose art and music I admire, who am I to say if those elements are present in my work? It seems presumptuous at best, self-deluded at worst. That said, if my writing reflects the playfulness of Calder’s mobiles, the tactile sensuality of Moore’s sculptures, the reimagining of the familiar of O’Keefe’s paintings, then I would be proud and ecstatic.

When working on specific projects, when pondering character and setting, I’ll listen to music and look at art from that era and locale. For example, for my novel, I pored over Cultural Revolution propaganda art and musicals.

RQD: What book or story or poem do you return to over and over?

VH: It depends on what I'm working on. For example, when figuring out how to weave together narrative arcs in two time periods, I studied Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides and Veronica, by Mary Gaitskill, among others. Anything I read while working on a novel, I find myself drawing connections and comparing, analyzing how other authors solve different narrative issues.

RQD: What are you reading now?

VH: World and Town, by Gish Jen and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Wroblewski

RQD: What were you reading as a kid? how did those books impact the writing you do now?

VH: I read widely and voraciously, from the copy of Little Women that my mother brought over from Taiwan, to my older sister's copies of Candide and Animal Farm (the allegory flew far over my head), and Russian fairytales I found on the bookshelf at home. In elementary school, I wanted to read every book in the library! My favorites were female heroines who were writers: Jo from Little Women, Anne from Anne of Green Gables, and Laura from Little House on the Prairie, and their examples must have made becoming a writer seem possible. I continue to be an omnivore in the subjects and characters I write about.

Photo: Georgia O'Keeffe via PBS