AE Trinh: Telling it like it isBorn in Saigon, Æ Trinh fled with her parents to the United States one month before the city’s fall to Communist rule. Her childhood was spent in the Minneapolis suburbs and her college years were at the University of California, Irvine. However, it wasn't until she moved to Los Angeles for "a taste of the glamorous life" that she started collecting the experiences that became the basis for The Bender Files.
What were you doing before you wrote your novel?
Drinking too much, driving too fast, falling in love too easily… and writing about everything all along the way. Not much has changed since the novel other than a higher tolerance and more discriminating taste for booze.
Had you always planned on becoming a writer?
No way. Writers are supposed to be good story tellers. I can’t even tell a joke. Like masturbation and therapy, writing was my dirty little secret. It was something I did in private to release frustration. The urge to write never came from a desire to become an author. It was a compulsion that saved me from going mad.
How did you get your book published?
Given the option of suffering rejection for a year (or longer) to find an agent for no money or making a couple bucks a pop right out the gate, it was a no-brainer. I decided to self-publish. Relying on someone else in order to accomplish a goal was never my style. The upsides to self-publishing are many including: creative control, copyright ownership, and no query letters or proposals to write!
What was your source of inspiration? Once I had finished high school, I pretty much stopped reading. College was a blur. In my late twenties, I was drawn to the classics I had discovered as a teenager: The Great Gatsby, On the Road, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. At first these books seem to have nothing in common, but they were all products of a post-war America filled with loneliness, questioning, and hunger for the thrill and promise of the American Dream. Tell us a little about your novel.
Mix Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas with Sex and the City in a cocktail shaker, pour over ice, and you get The Bender Files.
Topics of sex, dating, and relationships, along with philosophical musing on the meaning of reality are explored between girlfriends in this loosely fictionalized memoir which documents an edge-skating, trans-continental urban odyssey. Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll add to spice up the action at the turning points of the story. A cheating boyfriend, gangsters, pimps, and drug dealers are among the villains drawn to my protagonist like needles to a heroin addict. I also threw in some midgets and girl-on-girl action for good measure.
Is your novel based mostly on your life/experiences?
Every fiction is based on truth. The protagonist in The Bender Files tempts fate at the hands of a variety of polished, volatile, and criminal characters. They are based on a cosmopolitan set of real-life friends, lovers, and hustlers. Together, they relay with my heroine as she careens from one situation to the next on an uncertain yet stubborn quest for truth and personal fulfillment.
Unlike some authors who publish fiction as a true story in order to garner credibility, I’ve released my work as fiction to cover my ass from getting sued, fired, or blacklisted.
Will there be a sequel?
Having another baby is the last thing on the mind of a woman who just gave birth. When I had finished The Bender Files, I was mentally and physically exhausted. The impulse to jump for joy was immediately overcome by the lack of energy to do anything but fall to the ground in convulsed relief.
Despite risk or fear, if we love doing something enough, there is only anticipation and the privilege of experiencing it anew. A sequel? I definitely have enough material. As for motivation… ask me in about three years.
How long did it take you to write your novel?
From concept to print, The Bender Files took forty-two months. "Forty-two is the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything" as revealed in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The mystery of Synchronicity had touched me on many occasions during the writing of this novel. When I wanted to quit, these were the magical crumbs that led me out of the forest of doubt.
What would you say is an interesting writing quirk?
I write Monday through Friday between 11am – 4pm and 11pm – 4am. During the day, I write at my desk when there is downtime. At home, I write in bed. For the last three years, I woke up every morning with half a dozen books, a chapter from The Bender Files, and a laptop next to my pillow.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Second to writing, I travel as much as possible. Over the last twenty-four months, I’ve managed to travel for twenty. The thing is, I’m never “not writing.. Even while traveling, I keep a journal. I am so fired when my boss reads this interview.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing your novel?
That I was the most illiterate writer I knew. I was far from well-read, my grammar sucked, and I had the vocabulary of a fifth grader. Each time a new round of editing began, what was once thought genius, had miraculously turned into crap. I was embarrassed to read what I had written and was confronted with my shortcomings over and over again.
What was the easiest part about the entire process?
Selecting unrelated content from five years of blog entries and physically arranging the pages on my bedroom floor like a literary jigsaw puzzle. As long as the possibilities were endless, there were no mistakes.
It took less than three days to pull a working manuscript together, but over three years to finish editing. Creating a piece of literature from raw prose is like making a gourmet dinner out of puke. The hardest part for me, as an artist, is belief in the value of my work.
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