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Interview with Vera Lam, author of THE LONELY AMERICAN

Vera Lam

Vera Lam

Inspirational and unforgettable, bilingual novel depicts the American war in Vietnam as it has never been portrayed before. Vera’s novel was just released in March 2014.

LitVote:  How did you, an entrepreneur and executive in Silicon Valley, take up writing novels in the first place?

Vera: I started writing dairy when I eight or nine.  My diary was my best little friend.  I would tell her everything – when I was scared, when I was happy, when I was sad. In many ways writing was a way to channel my feelings and to record incidents that had happened in my life.  The reasons for writing The Lonely American are more or less the same.

LitVote: Was there a particular theme or question that inspired you to write your novel?

Vera: I began writing the book several months after my father died. His passing brought back memories, both happy and sad memories that I had wanted to erase from my mind. My father was a brilliant military strategist. He told us lots of war stories. That was almost all he talked about at the dinner table.

LitVote: How long did it take you to write the novel?

Vera: It took me 6 years to complete the English version of The Lonely American, and one year to translate it into traditional Chinese text.

LonelyAmericanLitVote:  The Lonely American is dedicated to your father and all the soldiers and civilians who died in the Vietnam War. Why?

Vera: The Vietnam war began in 1954 and ended in April 30 1975.  During those 20-plus years, 1.4 million soldiers  and 4 millions civilians died or wounded. I consider myself very fortunate to have survived through that horrific war.

Why I dedicate this book to my father? In my mind, my father was an unsung hero. He dedicated the best part of his life to serve his country (Taiwan) for over there decades. He placed his duties and responsibilities to his country before his own family. I think that’s quite admirable.

LitVote: How much did you know about your father’s true occupation when you were in Vietnam?

Vera: Very little. He disguised as a businessman. He travelled a lot and he had a lot of friends from foreign countries.

LitVote: What was it like to live in Vietnam at the time?

Vera: Good question! It’ll take me hours to talk about it.  Maybe  you can read the book instead.

LitVote:  The last chapter starts with this: “Forgive and be free, forget what you have forgiven and be freer.”  Is this the message that you would like to convey to your readers?

Vera: It is one of the messages I want to convey. There are several layers of messages I wish to convey, on the interpersonal level and international level.  For me as an author, it is most exciting and rewarding for the readers to explore and tell me what messages are most important to them, and why. To the extend The Lonely American could help the readers in any big or small way, I am happy.

LitVote: The novel gives  vivid and detailed descriptions of American, Asian and European cultures, especially on food, flora and fauna. Why?

Vera: Growing up in an environment where explosions and death could be just around the corner, I learned how to appreciate the other beauties of life. For me, those other beauties were good compliments to the unpleasant things in a war-torn country.

LitVote:  Similar to your own personal experience, Emma, the protagonist of your novel, was born to Chinese parents in Vietnam, moved to France and later settled down in the U.S. Emma isn’t quite sure whether she is Chinese, Vietnamese, French or American? Do you have an identity crisis?

Vera: I did struggle with that issue for quite a long time.  I remember shortly after I arrived America, people asked me “Are you ABC or FOB?” I didn’t even know what FOB stands for at the time, and I hated being put on the spot like that. When I was in France, people called me “the little Vietnamese refugee”. I knew it was a fact, but still, I didn’t like to be reminded again and again.

LitVote: The Lonely American belongs to the growing genre of stories that prepare us to embrace the global culture. What kind of readers do you think the book will attract?

Vera:  I thought The Lonely American will be most interesting to people who have some knowledge about the Vietnam war or to those who have interests in Asian and European cultures. To my surprise, the book has attracted not only the 55-plus age-group readers, but also the twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings. The younger readers, though they knew little about the American involvement in Vietnam, still enjoy the book. They said they enjoy the global setting and the life story of the female protagonist. It was nice surprise to have received thank-you notes from the younger readers.

LitVote: Are both English and Chinese versions of The Lonely American available? Why pick Chinese?

Vera: Both English and Chinese versions of The Lonely American are available on Amazon. The book is dedicated to my father who was born in China.  So it is important for me to translate it into Chinese.

LitVote: Do you have plan to translate it into another language?

Vera: Yes, the next project will be to translate The Lonely American into French.

LitVote: I saw in the Amazon reviews that your readers look forward to reading your second book. Do you have plan to write a second book?

Vera: I greatly appreciate the support from my readers. I have already begun writing my second book.

LitVote: In the acknowledgment section, you mentioned that without a cornea transplant, the book would not be made possible. Can you tell us a little bit about what happened to you?

Vera: I have this extremely rare eye disease, Fuchs+PPMD.  It is genetic. The symptoms are I am losing my vision slowly on both eyes. So I need to have corneal transplants to stop the deterioration of my vision. I am most grateful to the anonymous donors.

LitVote:  We wish you the best of luck!

Vera: Thank you

________

Vera Lam was born in Vietnam and grew up there during the ‘American war’. As a teenager she emigrated to France, where she attended high school and music conservatory. Moving to the U.S., Vera earned degrees from the University of Southern California and an M.B.A. from Harvard. She has been an entrepreneur and executive in Silicon Valley for more than twenty years. The Lonely American is among other things the fulfillment of a promise to tell the story of places and experiences she has known, and of people whose destinies she has shared.

The book is inspired by her late father who had served the KMT party as a soldier and a spy for 35 years.  She dedicates this début novel to him and to the millions of soldiers and civilians who died in the War.

The Lonely American bids fair to be the great story of Vietnam, full of unforgettable characters and showing the American war as history and literature have never quite managed to portray it. More than anything, The Lonely American is an inspirational tale that touches the reader and gives the gift of greater life.

Saigon, 1962; the United States is trying to help the South Vietnamese government defeat a communist insurgency. An American Air Force officer, David Emerson, meets a lovely young woman, Lucie Hong. David has a girlfriend back home, but Lucie arouses feelings in him that he can’t control; and Lucie is swept off her feet.

David disappears into the war and becomes a hero of the Air Force, flying 47 missions without a scratch to himself. But he never forgets Lucie. Some years after they’ve separated, he finds her, and she tells him about the daughter he gave her.

Unlike many others, David is not a man to love and run. When Saigon falls to the communists, David leaves his wife and son in California and hurries back to a flaming city which most people are trying to escape, desperately determined to rescue Lucie and Emma. They are nowhere to be found.

Years go by; as tragedy strikes his own family, David manages to locate Lucie and Emma in France, and goes there. Lucie is lost to him, while Emma loathes and mistrusts him.

Print copies of The Lonely American are now available on Amazon

Book Launch Event and more info

In Chinese

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