Di Li has made a name for herself as a remarkable author in the detective literature genre. She released her first detective novel Trai Hoa Do (Red Flowers Camp) in 2009, which was a resounding success. She quickly garnered a following because it had been a long time since the last detective novel by a Vietnamese author was published. The newly published novel, Cau Lac Bo So 7 (Club Number 7), reclaimed her readers' hearts.
What makes a young, beautiful woman like you write about criminals, murderers and savage circumstances?
I have written many genres such as short stories, chronicles and prose. But the genre I like most is detective. I've loved it since I was young. My all-time favourite novel is Vang Va Mau (Blood and Gold) by The Lu, which was so interesting, mysterious and thrilling to me. The story was still imprinted on my mind when I grew up.
As a writer, I write what I love to read because, after all, I'm the first reader of my works. Although Vietnamese detective literature was established in the 1940s, there are not many stories. After The Lu, Pham Cao Cung and Dai Duc Tuan, Vietnamese literature hasn't seen any other remarkable authors. I want to be the next generation of them. I expect that I can make Vietnamese literature richer.
What are the challenges of writing a detective novel?
The biggest difficulty is material. Detective literature requires extreme accuracy. Writers must have a clear understanding of criminal psychology and tell the story in a logical way even when it's fictional. Otherwise, the work will be clumsy and stupid.
I read many books on criminology, criminal psychology and police records. Thanks to Pham Huy Than, former vice director of the Investigation Department, I had the chance to approach many sources of specified documents. Than also consulted me during the writing process. With a sense of an experienced investigator, he found mistakes and incongruous details in the story and helped me fix them.
I still remember the cold winter day. I came to the People's Police Academy of Viet Nam to find books in the library, which took much time and sweat. In order to write about exhumation, I spoke with people working in this field to learn how long the process takes in different types.
There are very few authors of detective literature in Viet Nam. Is this to your advantage?
Actually, I expect that there will be more and more detective writers. I don't want to walk on a new, thorny road alone. I think when a country has a prominent mathematician; it doesn't necessarily mean the country also has sustainable mathematics.
In Viet Nam, love stories are more likely to become best-sellers. The number of detective readers is modest in comparison with readers of romance stories.
That's why when we have more detective authors, the detective literature will be developed and lure more and more readers.
Would you reveal your plan for detective literature?
As I said before, I write across many genres. I also work as a lecturer at university and as a public relations officer.
I started writing Cau Lac Bo So 7 in 2009, but it took seven years to finish. That's too long, and I felt into debt to literature.
In the next few years, I won't write anything but detective literature. Non-writing works will be limited so that I can focus on writing.
I have ideas for three detective novels and will try to complete them in 2017. — VNS