Nguyen Nhat Anh, children's bestselling author, has just released his latest book Bay Buoc Toi Mua He (Seven Steps to Summer), and sure enough, it is yet another bestseller. But in writing his books, which are also popular among teens and adults, he does not pander to any particular taste, and stays true to himself, the author tells Minh Thu.
Inner Sanctum: Every year you release several books of children's stories and all of them are bestsellers. You seem to have an endless source of inspiration.
I had to leave my native place when I was very little. I have always wanted to go back my childhood and write about it. Bay Buoc Toi Mua He evokes memories of when I lived in my nativehomeland.
I have many things to write about rural areas, children's games and childhood. I still have many stories to tell my little readers, and each new book reveals untold stories.
In Toi Thay Hoa Vang Tren Co Xanh (I See Yellow Flowers on Green Grass), children let dragonflies bite their navels in the belief that it will help them swim. In Ngoi Khoc Tren Cay (Crying on a Tree), children blow bubbles from a stem of papaya leaf dipped in soap water.
I also recall in my stories a memory of seeing a train for the first time and children excitedly showing each other a plane flying across the sky. The games, stories and scenes with children in the rural areas are very attractive to little readers because they have few chances of experiencing this life.
Inner Sanctum: Readers have been fascinated by the book Chuc Mot Ngay Tot Lanh (Have a Good Day) as a dictionary for dogs, pigs and chickens. How did you do it?
I made a mixture of pig's oink, dog's bow-wow and chicken's chirp that were very familiar when I was a little boy. I described my mother's garden and the house I lived in 1978. I also named a character in the story after my mother.
The book is a kind of memoir and it's a very meaningful one for me.
Inner Sanctum: You often write stories about your village and childhood. Are you afraid that some day you will not have anything left to tell?
I'm not the only author writing about rural life. If inspiration can be exhausted, many writers should worry. Love is a subject which has been exploited for thousands of years, but no one's fed up reading about it.
The subject can be something new, something old. The point is how to approach it, how to tell it to other people.
Inner Sanctum: Your books open a world that is serene and beautiful. Do you try to create it to make readers happy or have you been lucky enough to have a happy childhood with many emotional memories?
The fact is that I don't write according to readers' tastes and demands. I follow my emotion and I'm faithful to my childhood's memories. I haven't tried to know what the readers want or waited to learn it before writing.
In my opinion, writers work for themselves, to live life to the fullest and dream to the last.
Readers like a writer because they have feelings similar to that of the writer, and because the writer reflects the readers' own dreams. That's the empathy between writers and readers.
I'm not lucky enough to have had a totally happy childhood. But I have the advantage that both happiness and sorrow can be an inspiration for my works.
When I was a primary-school student, I loved reading Victor Hugo, Hector Malot, To Hoai and The Lu. I wondered how they could write such fascinating stories. I dreamed of being an author. After ups and downs, the dream has come true. That is my luck.
Inner Sanctum: What do you think is the influence you have on your readers?
My stories are inclined towards humanity, sincerity and innocence. I expect that they can help children feel happy, feel secure and enjoy life.
I'm not tired of writing for children, especially now that the number of writers for children is very low compared to those for adults.
Inner Sanctum: You often bring animals into your stories. Is this because every child loves animals?
Yes, for children, animals are friends. I have found that all 12 animals of the oriental zodiac have appeared in my stories except the goat. I was born in the Year of the Goat.
This year is the Year of the Goat, so I intend to write a story on this animal, of course in a very natural way.
I have to confess that I planned to release the story early this year, but you know, life doesn't happen as you wish. I have to obey my feelings and let them lead my pen.
My grandfather raised a herd of goats and they were my friends when I was small. I played with them, fed them and talked with them but writing about them is much more difficult. — VNS