Interview with Ha-Le Thai, Author of WARATAH: From the Ashes of the Vietnam War, Grew a Spirit that would not be Stopped
- Tell us a little about yourself. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?
I was raised in Vietnam and left my country in 1988 at the age of 24. I am living in Sydney now!
- At what age did you realize your fascination with books?
I have been fascinated with books since before I attended school, even before I knew how to read. I loved words which were so mysterious to me at the age of three when my father took four of us, my three brothers and myself in his motorbike around the town. I normally asked my older brother to read every word on the street signs and stores signs for me, and I also asked him to read all the books that he had from his school to me, mainly historical and science books.
- What genre are your books?
The genre for my books are self-help skills and real-life stories
- What draws you to this genre?
I am very fascinated by people’s lives in either fiction or nonfiction books. When I was young, I already loved the novels of Victor Hugo, Jane Austen, and some famous Chinese writers. I also liked the incredible real-life stories of such as Thomas Edison, Issac Newton, Galileo Galilel, Mary Currie… All these people showed how powerful a human being was and they confirmed to the world that impossibilities could be changed to the possibilities. They were the people with their innovations, new ideas and dared to be different for changing the world.
- Is there a genre you want to write but have not yet done so?
Children’s books both in different contexts and of various content.
Let the reader get to know a little bit more about you. The more they become familiar the book and you, the better the chance they will buy your book.
- Thinking back, when did you begin to write?
The first time that my writing was read aloud was when I was a child, in year three. This was when I first realised that I writing was a connection to other people, a way to evoke emotions, to move them and put into their heads the things already in my head. The story was about a cat. It was a simple story, but I’d worked hard on it, using all of my descriptive abilities to evoke the image of a cat in the minds of my classmates. My cheeks were flushed and hot as my teacher read from my paper, but despite my reddened face, I was happy. I was even more so when my teacher finished and all the rest of the children clapped their hands for me. My heart was bursting with pride at what I’d done. My imagination was set on fire, and from that moment on, all my little mind wanted to do was write.
When I was young, I often wanted to write about my world, the sadness and worry that engulfed me, the small joys and triumphs in the life of young Ha-Le, but the struggles of making it from day to day didn’t leave me much time to pursue this craft. I said to myself, ‘I will write my story when I grow up. I’ll write all about it, for the world to read.’ I saved up everything that I wanted to write about, storing in my little heart all of the things that I wanted so desperately to say. I carried these memories in my body for so many years, for so many decades. And when I grew up, I had written different things, and have spoken different topics from my writing and people loved what I shared both in English and Vietnamese. Put all together, what I have achieved which giving courage and motivation to write WARATH and I am sharing it to the world now.
- How did you choose this title for your book?
The reason that I chose this title of the book was so cohincident! I found my great passion for WARATAH flower when I visited the Blue Mountain for the first time. This was in 1991, after we’d been living in Australia for a few months. The vibrant red colour caught my eye and drew me closer. It was like a gorgeous drop of blood seeping vividly into the surrounding landscape. I did not yet know the flower’s name, but I loved the way it looked. I felt captured by its beauty.
Twenty years later, I bought myself one of these giant red flowers. I kept it fresh for a very long time, enjoying its great splendour. I fell in love with WARATAH more and more, but still I did not know the flower’s name.
After I was diagnosed with cancer for the third time, this time, Lymphoma, I went to a Psychosomatic training. It was a part of my efforts to heal myself through knowledge and self-growth. One morning, my Master, Linda Thackray held a card reading. I was given a card that read, ‘ WARATAH – Become the true you. Show the world who you really are and what you were born to do. It’s time to focus on your true passions purposes to become Your Authentic Self. Share your gift and talents with the world and blessings will come your way.’ I felt like the message was for me! From that moment, I knew the name of my favourite bush flower- WARATAH. And it has become my attribute, the token of my fiery emotions. WARATAH represented my character and everything I’d gone through.
The more that I researched about WARATAH, the more that I found myself in awe of it. WARATAH is nearly impossible to kill. Not even bushfires can destroy WARATAH. When a bushfire occurs, the flower may burn up, but then from the ashes of destruction, a new WARATAH bud will bloom, growing from the same seeds. The bud is new, but the plant is the same. Flames can not extinguish this large red flower. No matter what engulfs WARATAH , it will continue to grow, changed but undying.
I was the same as WARATAH. Nothing could defeat me. The fighting and abuse in my childhood could not defeat me. The Vietnam War and rise of communism could not defeat me. A terrifying voyage across stormy seas could not defeat me. Life as a refugee could not defeat me. Cancer, three separate times, could not defeat me. No matter the figurative fires that ravaged my life, I would always grow new petals. I would always regrow and bloom.
WARATAH is like a phoenix. Each destruction is a rebirth. Through WARATAH , we can see how loss can be gainful. We can see how entropy becomes creation. “I love WARATAH, and I hope to always have the spirit of WARATAH flowing through me.”
I kept on trying to find the perfect name for my memoir, the perfect title that captured the essence of my story. I wanted a title that told others I was survivor. I kept on choosing different names related to survival, but I was never happy with any of them.
One day, in the middle of my meditation, I pictured myself as a warrior, standing tall, and looking back through all the battles I’d fought through. I had been thinking of the title, ” A Vietnamese Warrior,” but the name didn’t give my heart a punch. I played with the title in my mind, picking it apart one word at a time. I landed on the last word.
“Warrior! Warrior! Warrior!”
I chanted and chanted this. That is the punch that I’d been waiting for struck me in the heart. I cried out with excitement, “WARATAH!”
I gave birth to my memoir’s name, after keeping WARATAH in my heart for such a long time.
- How much of your book is based on real incidents/people in your life?
My book is 100% based on real incidents in my life.
- Do you work with an outline or plot or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?
Yes! I did get some personal coaching and training for outlining and plotting techniques. I paid a big amount of money for it since I wanted to publish the best memoir book possible the readers.
- Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others? Love? Action? Racy?
- Yes! There were some hard parts to put down on the paper. I have to say about LOVE: my relatioship with my parents, ACTION: how I react to my son in law, my daughter, and RACY: to put down on paper real life experiences of my mother and father, my husbands , my daughter and son in-law!
- If you could choose, who would you have selected to
be your writing mentor?
I didn’t know anyone who could do the mentoring for my writing. If I knew, I’d have chosen the mentor who had achieved an excellent mentoring award for memoir writing in the world.
- What is the best advice you have ever heard and used?
I was advised to turn to a very good memoir writing mentor and choose the best people for my writing team despite the cost in order to produce the best memoir possible.
- What is the hardest thing you have found about writing?
English is my second language and I taught myself English from scratch. So it took me more than ten times to complete my first draft, huge amount of time and energy to convey the meanings I intended to convey effectively since I am not a native speaker of English. Proof reading, checking plus editing took a long time for the manuscript to turn around to me.
- What is the easiest thing you have found about writing?
- This is my life story and I found it so easy to write each of the periods that has been imprinted in my mind and my heart. I just put down on paper the true incidents and emotional experiences that I went through.
- What are your writing habits? Do you have any
writer rituals? Where do you write?
Yes! I have a writing habit. I started my writing at 4 am every day and it went on for a long a day if my energy allowed me to do so. I loved writing in bed with a soft and warm blanket in winter and autumn or writing in my garden under the sun with the light breezes during spring, summer and autumn.
- Who edited your book and how did you select
I had two editors: Cate Hogan and Jennifer Higgins. I chose them after trying different editors which cost me quite a lot of money. They both focussed on memoir works and had a strong background with memoir editing. Cate is at the top of rating scale as structural editor while Jennifer got a Master degree in English Literature and was one of the best persons in memoir editing as well. She has her own blog, and I liked her style of writing and got her in.
- How do your books get published?
I self-published my book.
- Tell us a little about your latest book in one sentence. Follow-up with – Briefly, what led up to this book? What were you writing (and getting published, if applicable) before breaking out with this book?
I have written a few books on Parenting and self-help/life skills but they haven’t been published yet.
WARATAH is the first book that I chose to be out first since in this book, I had poured out my heart for sharing with the world my life journey! I have witnessed so many of my clients, friends and people around me who wasted their lives in many ways and actions as well as their lifestyle could influence future generations to go into the same inescapable cycles. Those people and the happenings around them had made me think and driven me with great passion to try to finish and share my books with all people hoping that these books will help them to transform their lives for happiness, success and prosperity.
- Ask about specific passages or lines. Or you can ask about character development – why the character made the choices they did – what moral issues were they struggling with? It shows you read the book and deepens the discussion.
I had my mother in the memoir book. My mother made choices within limited choices that she had. She struggled after her betrayal to my father for another man, which resulted in their broken relationship throughout my childhood. My life turned sour ever since.
- After finishing your book, is there anything you wish you had written differently?
It’s my life story and I had tried my best for it. I just want it natural,
true, bold and beautiful
as it is without wishing to rewrite it differently.
- Did you promoting/marketing your book on your own or prefer to work with agents/professional of publishing and marketing? (Here authors can pay you back with a little of promo ad, you can also add this question – Did you make any marketing mistakes or is there anything you would avoid in future?)
I prefer to work with agents/professionals of publishing and marketing. I did try some marketing methods from the advertising companies but didn’t know how far it will be going! I had paid for ads but I feel like I’ve wasted my time and money for unprofessional services!
- What are you working on now?
I am preparing my speeches
for WARATAH and I am going to have inspirational talks around Australia and some
other countries to inspired and encourage people to have their excellent and
best lives possible.
I am also working on my parenting book, HABITS TO BENEFITS, which will be released shortly. My hope with this book is to contribute to teaching parents how to cultivate a good future for their children. As an Early Childhood Teacher, I will help parents to understand clearly why their children are doing what they are doing. The book is written within a sound theoretical framework of child psychology and sociology.
- What you are reading now?
I am reading my WARATAH, THE JOURNEY by Brandon Bays, and VYGOTSKY FOR EDUCATORS by Yuriy V. Karpov
- Who are your favorite authors to read? What is your favorite genre to read? Who inspires you in your writings? Which author or book has been the greatest influence to you? What was your favorite book growing up?
My favourite authors are Victor Hugo, Wane Dyer, Bruce Litton, Jane Austen, and Nicholas Sparks… My favourite genre is real life stories. I also inspired myself for writing. Wane Dyer was the most significant influence on me in many ways when I was growing up. My favourite book of Dyer was THE SHIFT!
Feel free to elaborate here.
- Which famous writer, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
I want to meet Oprah Winfrey. I want to meet her for showing my respect to her with what she has contributed to the world. I want to hug my idol who has the courage to overcome all life challenges and is now getting to the top of success. I also want her to interview me for my book and promote it for me. I believe that she would love to read WARATAH and introduce it to many readers!
- What advice would you give to your younger self?
My advice to my younger self is to have SELF-LOVE, enjoy the life to the fullest and focus on myself first in all situations. I need to be SELF-ISH before SELFLESS.
- What advice would you offer to aspiring writers?
Have a good focus and self-discipline on your writing when you have something to share to the world and commit to making it to the end and never quit!! Your story is unique and the world will need it!
- If your book was chosen by Hollywood, which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book? Or, if you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would select to play your characters?
If my book gets chosen by Hollywood, I would like to have Nicole Kidman, Mel Gibson Bradley Cooper, Jackie Chan, Nichole Bloom, Kelly H as my actors/actresses.
- If there was an opportunity for a movie about your life, which actor should play you?
- Kelly Hu may play me. But to be honest, when I thought of this I was unable to find a really suitable one who could play my role. I guess i am the best one who would play me ;))
Contacts of the author:
Blog: inside the website
Facebook: Ha-Le Thai
Twitter: Ha-Le Thai
Lnkedin: Ha-Le Thai
Amazon Author Page:
Smashwords: Ha-Le Thai
Book Links: (* American, UK, etc.)
Baker & Taylor -Accepted
Bibliotheca – Accepted
Tolino – Accepted
Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Waratah-Ha-Le-Thai/9780648448624
There are still many more that are yet to be reached 😉 like Waterstones, Wrap Distribution, The nile, James
Bennett, Peterpal, Coop.com.au, etc..