On Better Words this week: Trang Thanh Tran
Creeping dread and a haunted house in the Vietnamese countryside
We don’t usually stray outside our contemporary fiction wheelhouse, but this week we’re heading into haunted house territory to discuss She Is a Haunting.
We both felt a few stomach-turning moments while reading this novel, which follows a Vietnamese-American teenager who starts experiencing some strange things while visiting her father in Veitnam. Probably don’t eat while you’re reading this.
Trang Thanh Tran writes speculative stories about food, belonging and the Vietnamese diaspora. When not writing, they can be found over-caffeinating on iced coffee and watching zombie movies.
🎧 Listen to the episode at the link below or search ‘Better Words’ in your podcast player 🎧
Things we talked about
How 'zombie ants' inspired so many elements of the haunting explored in the novel
How Trang revises her novels with a reverse outline spreadsheet and how this keeps tension and suspense throughout the novel
The ongoing consequences of families being split by an ocean
Feeling like an outsider in the country your parents called home
Weaving in historical research (without it taking over the story)
Exploring the relationship between 'expert' outsiders and marginalised communities
How music inspires Trang's writing process
Trang's journey to publication – within the year she'd allowed herself to explore writing
How it felt to see a full Vietnamese name on the New York Times bestseller list
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Before we chat with our featured author, we always share some other recommendations.
Caitlin recommends: The Trial by Laura Bates
An intense survival story about a group of teens stranded on an island after a plane crash. But while they’re fighting to stay alive, something that happened at a party the night before the crash is also coming back to haunt them. You'll be hooked from the start.
Michelle recommends: Homecoming by Kate Morton
Yes, Michelle did recommend this book in our monthly wrap for April, but it’s the first Kate Morton since 2018 so it’s allowed, right? Homecoming is a beautiful and moving novel exploring dark family secrets when, in 2018, journalist Jess discovers her grandmother may have a link to a tragic family’s death in 1959.
- Caitlin & Michelle
🎧 Search ‘Better Words’ in your favourite podcast player to get new episodes as soon as they’re live. We’ll be back with another episode next Wednesday! 🎧