Narrative 10

To celebrate the publication of her story collection Deceit and Other Possibilities, we posed our Narrative 10 questions to Vanessa Hua.

1. Who is your favorite character in fiction; your fave character in life?

Jo March in Little Women, a feisty girl who grew up to be a writer; my twin sons, who challenge and inspire and make me laugh every day.

2. A line (that you or someone else wrote) that continues to inspire you?

No one will care as much as you do. As much as I count on my husband, my agents, my editors, my writer friends, the work ultimately rests on me.

3. The story, book, or poem you wish you could read again for the first time? What did it teach you?

Maxine Hong Kingston’s Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood among Ghosts. I first saw a photo of Kingston in a local magazine. With her ethereal silver locks, she looked like a fairy elder descended from the mountains. I had to read her book, which gripped me with its urgent family secrets, with its myths retold, with its great humor and compassion. Above all, the book told me that stories about immigrant families, about women of color, were worth telling.

4. Best part of the day?

Late morning.

5. Your cure for when the spirit flags?

Swimming, running, or hiking.

6. Ten words you use most on the page? In life?

Glimmer. Battered. I know you are busy, so thank you.

7. What’s your current obsession?

My Vitamix, purchased refurbished, which I use every day. It obliterates anything you put into it within seconds and is easy to clean. I’m late to the party, but call me a green juice convert! A warm mug of homemade cashew milk is the perfect nightcap. I’m not a name-brand kind of person, but I keep raving about this high-speed blender to my friends.

I also love my hot water heater installed into my kitchen tap—hot water at the ready. I get back all those one-minute and thirty seconds of waiting to heat up water in the microwave.

Hmm, I sound more hydrated than I am, though.

8. What’s the most useful criticism you’ve ever received?

Turn up the emotional heat. Also: develop the controlling consciousness—the narrative POV is never neutral but a reflection of the character.

9. What did you know at age twelve that you wish you hadn’t forgotten; and/or what do you know now that you wish you knew then?

When I was twelve, I could read all day, read until my eyes crossed and my head ached. I don’t have those oceans of time anymore for sustained bouts of reading, and in truth, I now know too much about how the sausage is made to get lost in a book. When an author foreshadows, I pick it up, the subtle cues like neon. Every twist is a spoiler alert. As much as a sentence might sweep me away, I find myself going over it again, trying to figure out the craft. On occasion, I do stay up all night reading, and though I rue it the next day, it’s a delicious return to my childhood.

10. To quote Auden, “O tell me the truth about love.” We’re all ears.

Love enlarges. What you put out into the world, you get back tenfold.

Finally, is there a short passage from the book you’d like to share with our readers?

From the story “VIP Tutoring” in the forthcoming Deceit and Other Possibilities:

For a term paper I demanded a Louis Vuitton purse. For a take-home midterm, a Tiffany bracelet. I soon had a dozen VIP Tutoring clients, and I took whatever I wanted from their walk-in closets packed with clothes, shoes, and accessories new with tags. I sold my haul online.

And Don’t Miss:

A River of Stars,” a novel excerpt by Vanessa Hua