Adam Interviews...A.V. Pham!
How is it the last Monday in July already?
Didn't we just start the month?
I have another fabulous Kindle Vella author here today, A.V. Pham!
She is writing under the name Frankie Stats, and has one Vella out, Animal Sanctuary, which you ought to check out!
But let's get into the questions!
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? I must have been 7 or 8 when my dad gifted me my first Sherlock Holmes story, The Hound of Baskerville, the abridged Illustrated Classics version. Up until that point, I loved reading and would read anything I could get my hands on, but after that, I knew I wanted to be a writer, and a mystery writer, nonetheless.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books? I’m a forensic biologist by day and I work at a crime lab. Working different crimes every day really makes my brain go… what if … and it starts filling in back stories, intricate conspiracies, and next thing you know, I have a plot that I have to get down on paper.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing? Unfortunately, I still work full-time so I only have nights and weekends to write and those sometimes get filled up with life events. I try to force myself to give at least 30 mins to my craft every day, be it brainstorming/plotting, research, editing, or even writing a scene or two. Every little bit helps.
When did you write your first book and how old were you? There are two instances that come to mind. They both sealed the deal for me that I was going to do this one day. When I was about 7, I got chosen to demonstrate a new story telling software for my school. It was really cool. It had different scenery you can choose from and different “stamps” of characters, animals, props so you can illustrate your story. Then at the bottom, there was an open space you can write in. They turned like pages in a book when you move on to the next scene. I wrote my first short story so I could demonstrate that software.
That same year, there was a talent show at my school for all grades. I was going to sing, but my dad poo-pooed the idea and told me I should tell a story instead. I wrote a story about three animals and then told it on-stage. It was probably the most embarrassing 10 mins of my life… and my dad has it on tape.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing? If I’m not writing, then I’m reading. I also play the piano and sing a lot in my free time. I’ve taken to calling it “The Anha Show” and my poor husband suffers through every one of them. I also have a cooking channel on Twitch that I co-created with one of my best friends. We show people how to make mainly Vietnamese or Southeast Asian dishes. We post the ingredients on our Instagram so people can cook along. It’s very relaxed and informal and we generally talk about our childhoods while cooking. Come find us every Sunday: twitch.tv/cooksbooksnthings
What does your family think of your writing? Sadly, being a first generation immigrant means writing is a hobby and not a career. My dad would prefer I channel my writing skills into what he considers more “productive” ways (like law school – one of the three approved careers for immigrant children). My mom thinks I’ll tire of it eventually when I don’t find success or make money. I get it, their lives were hard and their focus is on how to survive. I mainly just keep my writing to myself and I don’t really talk to them about it.
My brother thinks it’s the coolest thing. He’s my sounding board and I run all my ideas by him.
How many books have you written? Which is your favourite? I’m still a novice at this! I started seriously writing about five years ago and have a manuscript I’m editing for publication. I’m hoping to be able to get it published traditionally. I also discovered Vella and thought it was a great way to just practice and get my thoughts down. I’ve developed one story that I’ve published on Vella – Animal Sanctuary, and I have another story in development that I’m not ready to throw on Vella just yet. As for my favorite, I’m really enamored with my characters from my novel. So much so that I’ve started to tie Animal Sanctuary and the novel into the same universe, so I wouldn’t be surprised if there were cross overs.
Do you like to create books for adults? Yes, my fiction would not be considered young adult. Since I use a lot of the cases I see at work as a foundation for my writing, there are many dark and violent themes in my stories. I also tend to add some technical details from my work in there, so there’s a lot of science involved in my writing as well.
What are common traps for aspiring writers? Imposter syndrome is definitely one of them. As creative creatures, we tend to be self-deprecating to begin with; add to that the nagging feeling that nothing we write will ever be good enough or no one would want to read it and it’s easy to fall into despair and give up.
Another trap is the “I’ll do it tomorrow. Tomorrow’s another day”. I used to come home from work bone tired and tell myself that I’ll feel better tomorrow and write then. I still do this sometimes. It’s difficult not to let life shut you down. What really pushed me out of this mindset was the pandemic. I had left the lab for awhile to focus on our business and the pandemic destroyed it. With no clients and no work, I took to writing to fill up my day and that was how I was able to finish my manuscript. Had I just forced myself to write the way I did during the pandemic, I think my novel would have been finished a lot sooner.
What is your writing Kryptonite? MY PHONE. Having a little computer in the palm of your hands can be helpful, but more times than not, it’s just a huge distraction. I’m always texting, scrolling social media, changing songs on my Spotify playlist, or doing anything but writing. I know I need to turn on the Focus feature and let it go for a few hours, but its hard!
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? I write under two! I write as Frankie Stats for my Vella stories and for any writing competitions that I enter. I’m considering using A.V. Pham as my main for my novel.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer? I just met and got to know K.M. West., author of Wild Things Will Roam. She shared her publication journey with me and we discussed the pros and cons of self-publishing vs. traditional publishing. She also volunteered to help me with my pitch and query letter when I was ready. She’s such an amazing person! Also, her book is fantastic, so make sure to pick up a copy of Wild Things Will Roam!
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you building a body of work with connections between each book? The novel I’m working on will definitely be the first in a series, but I wouldn’t mind writing stand alone books too if I had an idea for it.
My favorite series at the moment is the Gabriel Allon series by Daniel Silva, so I would love to be able to write something as prolific as that.
What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters, if anything? I based the main character of my novel on a friend who’s also in law enforcement. We used to trade stories around the dinner table. He would tell me about his misadventures catching bad guys, and I would tell him about weird cases I was working on. I decided all of this was too good not to write down… and the rest is history. I owe him a lot because not only does he let me use his work stories for this novel, my MC’s life is also mirrored after his. A lot of people would be bothered by having their life on display like this, but he’s okay with it. He’s also my unofficial technical director, so he tells me if an action sequence is weird or out of place. He’s also taught me how to pick locks, get out of duct tape, and the differences between weapons.
What do you have coming next? After this round of edits on my novel, I would like to look for a line editor. While that’s happening, I’ll work on my pitch and query letter and start the agent hunting/ publication process. I’ve been sitting on this because a part of me is scared of rejection, but I think it’s time.
Meanwhile, I’ll finish developing my second Vella story and throw it up there and probably start work on the second novel in this series. I left the relationship between two characters in this novel pretty open, so I’m itching to follow-up on it.