Người Sao Chổi, a book by 11-year-old author Cao Việt Quỳnh, is available at bookstores. Photo courtesy of Quỳnh’s family
By An Phương
The local literature scene has become more vibrant now that an 11-year-old student has published his fictional novel Người Sao Chổi (Comet Man).
The author Cao Việt Quỳnh, who lives in HCM City and studies at Nguyễn Thị Thập Secondary High School in District 7, started writing when he was in the third grade.
In his latest novel Người Sao Chổi, the publisher honoured Quỳnh as “the youngest novelist of Việt Nam”.
“Người Sao Chổi is a story about Thành who happens to discover a city where locals are attacked by members of an army. When Thành discovers the people are being kept hostage in Paris, he and two teammates Người Mắt Tinh (Vision Man) and Người Vô Hình (Invisible Man) decide to stage a rescue mission there. Their adventure leads them to other countries where they meet new enemies and try to save the world,” Quỳnh told Việt Nam News.
Quỳnh’s protagonist is known as Người Sao Chổi because he can fly and has super speed, just like a comet.
Though new characters are introduced in Người Sao Chổi, Quỳnh’s unique way of naming his characters has made it fun and easy for readers to follow.
When he was in third grade, Quỳnh’s mother, Quỳnh Trang, gave him a Harry Potter book, and his passion for writing began to develop, beginning with small stories which received many compliments from his friends.
Eleven-year-old Cao Việt Quỳnh has been writing since he was in the third grade. Photo courtesy of Quỳnh’s family
“I was not that good in describing things. It sometimes took both physical gestures and talk to try to describe what I saw,” Quỳnh said, adding he was glad his writing skills eventually improved.
Similar to other writers, inspirations and interesting ideas did not always come to Quỳnh so easily.
“When I am stuck between pages, I choose to spend as much time I have thinking about the plot. I do so even before bedtime or during meals,” he said.
Quỳnh said that ideas can spontaneously come when he reads a book, watches a movie, or draws or paints.
“I have a habit of collecting random thoughts along the way so that when I need some for my book, I can throw them in conveniently,” he said.
In addition to his initial challenges, Quỳnh's decision to choose Việt Nam as a background and his addition of multiple modern elements, unfortunately, led to negative feedback from the publisher.
“Though the publisher argued that Việt Nam cannot be that modern, I stood my ground about my views, which led to a delay in the publishing schedule,” Quỳnh added.
While many local novelists tend to skip fiction and the fantasy genre, Quỳnh's way of balancing realistic and fictional elements has made Người Sao Chổi stand out from the crowd, especially in the children's book industry.
Many readers agree that the characters and location names in Quỳnh’s novel, which are inspired by Việt Nam, such as Bông Lúa Island, Rừng Sác Town, and Cần Giờ Airport, have contributed to interesting twists in the book.
During his years of writing, his mother Trang has been his pillar of support as she has guided him through the hardships of learning grammar, typing on the computer, and publishing procedures.
As an author herself, Trang was surprised at how her son was able to create a unique and diverse imaginary world.
“It was fascinating to see how Quỳnh knew how to section his book and save important twists for later chapters. Most importantly, I appreciate how happy Quỳnh is when writing from his imagination,” Trang said. “I don't want to force him, but want to let him write as his way of entertainment."
Quỳnh has recently completed the second book of Người Sao Chổi and is in the process of writing the third one.
Quỳnh enjoys reading books and watching movies during his free time. Photo courtesy of Quỳnh’s family
“I have ideas for about 10 books for Người Sao Chổi. I will try to show my creativity in the following publication, which involves spin-off stories of other characters in Người Sao Chổi,” Quỳnh said.
“I would like to create a universe in Người Sao Chổi,” he said, adding that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has drawn more people’s attention to their plots by doing so.
So far, the first novel Người Sao Chổi has received positive support from readers, even from older readers. “My friends at school are also very kind, friendly and supportive of my writing. I never feel distant from them.”
In addition to writing, Quỳnh enjoys reading books and watching movies during his free time.
“Books from J.K. Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkien and H.G Wells are always on my list as they are very inspiring,” he said.
“For my future plans, I'm not sure whether I should pursue academic writing classes. I just know that I will try to do well in school, and not give more or less attention to my subjects.
“I am a Vietnamese who loves the country, the people and everything about it. I hope that my readers will feel and share the love with me via Người Sao Chổi.” VNS