Exclusive Interview with
When did you start writing?
Two days after my daughter Queena’s 18th birthday on April 24, 2008, she was viciously attacked by a teenage boy and left for dead outside the Bloomingdale Library in Valrico, FL. Queena, who was a high school senior at the time with a future full of promise, suffered severe brain damage. She was put into a medical coma in an attempt to save brain function, but woke up unable to walk, see, or speak.
Once when we arrived at the hospital and found out the extent of her injuries, that’s where the journey began.
From 2008, we have so many supporters and followers. Every day, we have a message sent through Queena’s website http://www.joinqueena.com/, or an email to me, that says “I want to give up my life but when I see Queena keep going, [then that does] not allow me to do that. You need to write a book to help the people.”
So, I started four years ago to write this book.
What makes writing your passion?
My background implies that and how deeply upset I was after Queena's attack. I couldn't cry at first; I was just in shock. I remember screaming on the roof of the hospital and wondering, "Why her? Why us?" But it didn't bring my comfort to ask those questions. The kindness and generosity of other people in the community did, as well as turning to God.
And when I was faced with forgiveness and acceptance and finding God amidst tragedy.
How long have you been writing?
What was the feeling when you published your first book?
The emotions I felt like a combination of nerve-wracking, excitement, terrifying, and the greatest sense of accomplishment.
What’s the story behind your choice of characters?
Everyone has their own areas of hurting. Everyone has disappointment and struggles. My daughter’s story has taken some dark turns that none of us predicted, but she has also brought so much light to the world not in spite of her story, but because of it.
What annoys you the most in pursuing a writing career?
I did not have a chance to learn English until the 8th grade, so I felt like climbing a tall mountain barefoot. But I climbed with my pen in one hand and my Vietnamese-English dictionary in another. I climbed while reading English novels voraciously, learning new words every day so that these words would enter the realm of my unconsciousness. In addition to language, I had to overcome many obstacles to be able to write this story, including fear of censorship.
How do you get over the “writer’s block”?
I do lots of research, which also means I have got to check my facts, even on a story that is my own and get some creative inspiration.
My best way to address writer’s block is to continue jotting down notes whenever I find myself reminiscing. I used the Notebook app in my phone or just text myself. Because I never know when an idea might strike! Example if I had lunch with friends when something they say reminds me of a time I have shared with them, I recorded it immediately. That enough to motivate me to write about it when I returned home.
We all know the writer’s path is never easy, what makes you keep going? What advice would you give to new authors?
If you’ve ever thought “I really want to write a book someday” … then don’t let it become a regret!
Every night after I put Queena to bed, I dedicated the hours between midnight and 3 AM to writing our story. I wrote the entire book in the Notes app in my iPhone. English is my second language and I struggle with technology. I never thought that I’d be able to publish a book, but I did it!
Sometimes all you have to do is just think about what could be possible and that will keep you going.
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you say?
I would tell myself to think more before I make decisions. I am impulsive and I don’t always think before I do things. By the time I do, it’s too late. I would try to stop this from happening by going back to a younger me and giving them this advice.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad ones?
Yes, I read my book reviews. My book currently rated 5 star so I don’t have any experience with bad reviews (knock on wood).
What is the feeling when you get a good review?
It’s a great feeling when my book gets 5-star reviews. They boost my confidence and I love the fact that my book having a positive impact.
Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?
My book is real-life story.
Which of your characters you can compare yourself with? Did you base that character on you?
What do you think, the book cover is as important as the story?
The book cover serves as the first point of contact for the story or information inside. Most people tend to pick out a book based on its cover. A well – designed book cover inspires people to read.
Do you connect with your readers? Do you mind having a chat with them or you prefer to express yourself through your writing?
Yes. I love to connect with my readers through chat.
How do you feel when people appreciate your work or recognize you in public?
I feel motivating and exciting. It is an incredibly powerful gift.
Who is your favorite author? Why?
Suffer Strong: How to Survive Anything by Redefining Everything
By Katherine Wolf
Katherine have stewarded the story God has given them with such purpose, conviction and fruitfulness.
What’s the dream? Whom would you like to be as big as?
My biggest dream is selling lots of my book and to make enough money to ensure my daughter Queena a beautiful life and to be able to help all the people that helped us get there.
Nick Vujicic. He is a positive speaker who was born without arms or legs and has found ways to transcend his disability, sharing his experience and wisdom with others.
Would you rewrite any of your books? Why?
No. I don’t want to going back to my “painful work“ and trying to revise it.
If you could switch places with any author – who would that be?
I wouldn’t want to switch with any of them.
What would you say to the “trolls” on the internet? We all know them – people who like to write awful reviews to books they’ve never read or didn’t like that much, just to annoy the author.
I don’t have that experience, but I think sometimes bad reviews can actually stimulate buying.
What would you say to your readers?
Thank you to everyone who has reviewed my book - there is no greater gift to an author.
Thank you to everyone who has taken time out of their day to read it.
Thank you to everyone who has sent me honest and kind words - it means more than you know.
Share a bit about yourself – where do you live, are you married, do you have kids?
As a young child, Vanna Nguyen enjoyed a prestigious life in South Vietnam until the country’s fall to Communism in 1975. After risking her life for the dream of freedom, she fled to the United States where she became a citizen and raised her two daughters, Anna and Queena.
Life was perfect until 18-year-old Queena was brutally attacked and raped while dropping books off at the local library. As a result of the attack, Vanna lost not only her once-thriving small business, but she also lost her beloved daughter as she knew her.
Today, Vanna is a tireless advocate for Queena’s rehabilitation from traumatic brain injury sustained during the attack. Vanna manages the popular Join Queena website and official social media accounts.
Vanna was compelled to write her memoir The Life She Once Knew to share her journey as a refugee and as a mother whose daughter suffered a traumatic brain injury. Vanna hopes her story will inspire others and will imbue them with strength.
What is your day job if you have one?
Caregiver for my daughter Queena 24/7
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
Love to read bible when I have time. And I love to read all the studies and researchers about brain injury.
Did you have a happy childhood?
Is there a particular experience that made you start writing?
I would want to share the most tragic and truthful moments of my life as Queena’s champion.
I want to share my experiences for all who need encouragement and reassurance that families can make it through unimaginable tragedies and come out whole.
I would want to share my life testimony about the power of God, the power to do things we never thought possible.
Do you have unpublished books? What are they about?
What do you think should be improved in the education of our children? What do we lack?
If you were allowed 3 wishes – what would they be?
I wish/pray for my daughter Queena full recovery.
I wish is 100% of the book proceeds can support ongoing expenses through Hope Heals the Brain and Queena’s Medical Trust Fund.
I wish this book can adapt to movie.
What is your favorite music?
Share a secret with us 🙂
Whatever you’re facing, you can still trust the Lords promises.