Working with Words: Hoa Pham

Hoa Pham’s novels include Vixen (which made her one of the Sydney Morning Herald’s Young Writers of the Year in 2001) and Quicksilver. Her play Silence was published by Currency Press in 2010 and was on the VCE Drama List. She is the founder of Peril, an online magazine focusing on Asian Australian issues. Her latest book is The Other Shore, winner of the Viva Novella 2 competition.

We talked to Hoa about evoking the imagination through writing, the pains of copy editing, and why you should writer what you want to write.

What was the first piece of writing you had published?

My short story ‘Reality’ in Aurealis, the Austrralian sci-fi and fantasy magazine.

What’s the best part of your job?

Being able to evoke the imagination.

What’s the worst part of your job?

Copy editing!

What’s been the most significant moment in your writing and editing career so far?

There are so many I wouldn’t know where to start. Most recently being a winner of the Seizure Viva la Novella prize.

What’s the best (or worst) advice you’ve received about writing?

From Neil Gaiman - write what you want to write, not what other people would like you to write.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve ever heard or read about yourself or your work?

That Vixen, a historical fantasy I wrote about fox fairies, was about the environment!

If you weren’t making your living by working with words, what do you think you’d be doing instead?

I’d be lying on the beach in the sun!

There’s much debate on whether creative writing can be taught – what’s your view?

I think technique and craft can be taught, like learning how to read music to compose. But the happy synergy of imagination and ability to self-reflect on your writing practice comes with time, patience and of course, writing and reading lots.

What’s your advice for someone wanting to be a writer?

Stay true to your original intention and read read read what you would like to write.

Do you buy your books online, in a physical bookshop, or both?

Both. I still like paper.

If you could go out to dinner with any fictional character, who would it be and why?

Orlando. We would converse about poetry and the fluidity of gender.

What’s the book that’s had the most significant impact on your life or work – and why?

Haruki Murakami, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. I first encountered an excerpt of it when I was at Varuna, The Writers House. It showed me what was possible with history and surreal fantasy in an urban setting in Japan. It had subtlety and depth with many quirky details.

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