Sunday, August 26, 2012

You're Invited: Book Launch Party on September 9

When: September 9, 4pm - 7pm
Where: Curve Line Space gallery in Los Angeles (Eagle Rock), California

For more details about this event, see below:
For information about upcoming events for The Map of Lost Memories, click here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Map of Lost Memories Debuts Today!

This is it … the day … the BIG day! Today my novel, The Map of Lost Memories, is officially published by Random House. Wow, it feels amazing to write that!! I’m so thrilled to share this news!

This post is a shout of joy at my dream of being a published novelist (finally!) coming true, as well as a thank you to everyone who has supported and encouraged me for so long (decades, in many cases!!). It's also to share that The Map of Lost Memories (the old-fashioned hardcover version, the e-book and the audiobook) can be purchased at your local indie bookshop, online and numerous other places. You can also pick up copies at events I’ll be doing up and down the West Coast this year. More information about all of this and more (such as reviews, upcoming interviews including one with Bob Edwards!! and a sample chapter) can be found at:

My website:

My Facebook author page:

My Twitter page:

My Goodreads page:

Thank you so much for your support, and happy reading!

By Kim Fay

“Fay’s extraordinary first novel has everything great historical adventure fiction should—strikingly original setting, exhilarating plot twists, and a near-impossible quest . . . Every word of this evocative literary expedition feels deliberately chosen, each phrase full of meaning.” 
Booklist, (starred review) 

“Thrilling and ambitious, this is a book to get lost in, a book that homes in on the human drama of the quest and never lets go. The Map of Lost Memories is a rich debut.”

“[The Map of Lost Memories] is a thrilling mix of adventure and personal discovery set in Southeast Asia in the 1920s . . . Fay crafts an intricate page-turner that will keep readers breathless and guessing.”
Publishers Weekly

 “In The Map of Lost Memories, Fay updates the archaeological adventure tale with an ambitious heroine and a cast of morally ambiguous characters in a race to discover an ancient temple in the jungles of colonial Cambodia. Fay's assured, absorbing prose will compel readers with its lush detail, multiple plot twists and keen insight into this politically combustible period of history.”
Aimee Phan, author of The Reeducation of Cherry Truong
“In The Map of Lost Memories, Kim Fay draws us into a universe as exotic, intense and historically-detailed as the ancient artifacts her unforgettable heroine seeks. It's a deliciously unexpected journey: Indiana Jones meets Somerset Maugham meets Marguerite Duras; all culminating in a glorious traipse through a forgotten Asian world. This novel will stay with me for a long, long time.”
Jennifer Cody Epstein, author of The Painter from Shanghai

“Kim Fay's engaging debut novel, The Map of Lost Memories, not only weaves together a smart, compelling story of a quest for scrolls believed to contain the lost history of Cambodia's ancient Khmer empire, but also gives us a glimpse into 1920's China and Indochina during the time of transition from colonialism to the beginnings of communism.  With deftness and clarity, Fay brings her world to life and gives us a captivating read.”        
Gail Tsukiyama, author of A Hundred Flowers

“Kim Fay breathes new and original life into the Westerner-in-Asia novel with The Map of Lost Memories, going beyond the intrigues of 1925 Shanghai to the remote reaches of the Cambodian jungle. An enchanting, absorbing first novel, all the more remarkable for its effortless portrayal of a bygone world, now nearly forgotten.”
Nicole Mones, author of Lost in Translation and The Last Chinese Chef

The Map of Lost Memories is the best book I have read this year. Exotic, thrilling, and brimming with fascinating historic detail, it had me hooked from page one and sent me to a world I knew existed, but never really understood, never really felt, until now. Kim Fay is a wonderful storyteller who truly masters the art of crafting a riveting story with heart and elegance. The result is utterly mesmerizing.”
Anne Fortier, New York Times-bestselling author of Juliet

“Kim Fay writes with such mesmerizing authority that it's hard to believe The Map of Lost Memories is her first novel. Rarely do we find a book that combines gripping adventure with exquisitely crafted prose, but Fay's novel does just that, bringing together the beauty and complexity of Marguerite Duras' The Lover with the thrilling breathlessness of Indiana Jones. The result is breathtaking.”
Dana Sachs, author of If You Lived Here

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Obsessions of a Soon-to-be-Published Debut Novelist

I went from being a writer obsessed about getting an agent to being a writer obsessed about whether or not my agent would sell my book. Turns out, though, once the book is sold, that’s when the real obsession begins. Who knew that after all of the editing is done and the book goes into production, there could still be so much to fixate on, especially in the few weeks leading up to the publication date?

1.      My New Life
My publisher offered pre-publication copies of my novel on social networking book review websites. So I sit at my desk, with its view toward the hazy Hollywood sign in the distance, and click from site to site four million times an hour to see if anyone has reviewed my novel. They have. And while I calculate the average of the stars I’m accruing, what starts driving me crazy is the reader who offers a comprehensive and very positive review while calling my main character Lillian – her name is Irene! I drink some coffee and email my marketing person at my publishing house and ask what I can do about this. Her answer leaves no wiggle room: do not correct anything or challenge anyone. And welcome to your new life!

2.      The Gray Lady
Dawn breaks and I leap out of bed, hoping to keep one step ahead of a panic attack. I turn on my computer to check if there’s anything new on the review sites and instantly realize my mistake. I should have changed my home page. It’s The New York Times book review. As I stare at it, my mind races. Will they? Won’t they? And if they don’t, why not? What do the others have that I don’t have? Which leads to …

3.      The Others
Still at my computer on another overheated L.A. day, I reread the terrific magazine article that includes my book in a series of reviews about debut novels. Before I can stop myself, I’m Googling every one of the books and investigating where each is being reviewed and what lists it’s showing up on. Shaky, I switch from coffee to tea and ponder any and all reasons why the others might or might not be getting better coverage than mine. Walking my Chihuahua, I ignore my neighbors and try to figure out how to compete with the descendant of Melville or a Khmer Rouge survivor. Returning to my desk, I Google all of the names one more time, and the fixation takes on a life of its own, developing its own sub-fixation.

4.      Her
I trade the black tea for decaffeinated tea, and feel not only childish but guilty. Among the others there is a specific other, one who is burdened with carrying the weight of all my attentions. In this case, she and I have the same agent and the same publication date. I like this woman, I’m sure I’m going to like her book, and I want her to succeed. But I agonize over why her forthcoming book brings up 72,100 Google results while mine only brings up 42,300. Then I open one of the pages and gasp in pain. She has been chosen as an Indie Next pick and I have not … me, a former independent bookseller!

5.      OMG, Another One?
Between Googling and fixating on fellow debut novelists, I Facebook and I Tweet. And just when I think I’m about to explode, the message comes through from my cousin: I must now Pin! Pinning is the only way to sell anything these days! Not only that (I can feel the muscles tensing in my neck as I read on) I must connect my Facebook and Twitter to my Pinterest and vice versa. And while I’m at it, I should perhaps post on my literary blog more than twice a year, and make sure to connect that to … well, you get the idea. As I reply to my cousin, I try to figure out how I am supposed to find the energy to Pin when I waste most of it clicking the bookmark bar to see if I have any new ratings on the review websites?

6.      Say Cheese
Everyone tells me that my author photo is lovely. But as I attempt to go cold turkey on the Googling, I pull up the photo on my screen. Staring at it, I increase the resolution, just a bit and then some more. To my dismay I find that there is the slightest sneer in my smile, as if I am in my little house back in Vietnam downwind from the dried cuttlefish factory. I shift from decaf tea to chamomile and try not to think about being known as the author with the “she-smells-something-stinky” smile.

7.      The Unmentionables
I have to sleep at some point, but when I do, it is punctuated with things I want to explain, things I want to denounce, things I want to declare. I toss and turn, shouting it all out in my head, because I hate people who need to purge so badly that they’re willing to hurt others’ feelings in the process. So #7 is for all of the things I can’t say. Enough said!

8.      Making Peace
But before I go to bed, there are the evenings to fill, and I climb onto the sofa with my Chihuahua and the cup of calming chamomile, and while I watch Columbo on Netflix, I chastise myself for all of the time that I’m wasting obsessing when I could be productively promoting my novel or writing my new one. Unfortunately, I watch Netflix on my computer, and there it sits above Peter Falk, that darn bookmark bar. One more click, that’s all, I promise myself, just one last look to see if anyone else has reviewed my book. I click and then click again and then again and again, my fingers trying to outrace my thoughts.

And then something shifts inside me.

I’m panicked. I’m anxious. I’m obsessive. And I don’t care. I am about to become the one thing I’ve always dreamed of being: a published novelist! Defiantly, I make myself a strong cup of black coffee and Google to my heart’s content before going to bed, where I spend an hour or so shouting in my head before fidgeting through the night as I anticipate checking the review sites first thing in the morning.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Imagination on the Road

When I was an infant, my mom read novels aloud to me while my dad was at work. And when I was a young girl, I would tuck under the covers with my sister while our dad made up absurd stories about Raggedy Kojak (a pathetic Raggedy Ann doll that had lost its hair) and his faithful sidekick, Mousiestein. On the nights when our dad did not whip up one of his episodic tales, our grandpa sat on the side of our bed telling us exotic stories about his life as a sailor in Shanghai in the 1930s.

I was raised in a family that appreciated the imagination, and it’s no wonder that I wrote my first novel when I was ten, and half a dozen more by the time I finished college. But it wasn’t until I was 29 that I made a delightful discovery – the one thing more fun than diving into the depths of your imagination is taking your imagination out for a stroll in the real world.

I already had two “serious” (unpublished) novels under my belt when I moved to Vietnam in 1995 to teach English. Four years later, I was not only in the midst of my novel that is about to be published … I was living inside it. Inspired by Andre and Clara Malraux, a young French couple who looted a Cambodian temple in the 1920s, I had started The Map of Lost Memories, a novel about Irene Blum, an American woman obsessed with discovering the lost history of Cambodia’s ancient Khmer empire. As she traveled from Shanghai to Saigon to Cambodia in search of an elusive set of scrolls, so did I!

Hundreds of hours were spent at my desk in my little cave of a house in Ho Chi Minh City, tapping away at my laptop. But an equal number were spent out with Irene – traipsing through the back alleys of Shanghai in search of the reasons why Simone Merlin will not join our expedition; standing bewildered in Saigon’s Chinese district of Cholon, wondering how we are possibly going to keep the scrolls a secret now that Louis Lafont has become involved; viewing the Angkor temples for the first time after years of anticipation; and venturing up the Mekong River and into the jungles of Cambodia with the great hope of finally achieving what we had always longed for – she, the scrolls, and me, the publication of The Map of Lost Memories.

It was a strange feeling to return to Vietnam this past spring, since each place I visited was saturated with two sets of memories: those from my own life and those from Irene’s life in the novel. Each is equally real to me. Each has shaped my life just as much as the other. Was there any sadness in knowing that my experience in Asia with Irene could now be nothing more than a memory? A bit. But at the same time, I was already in the beginnings of a new relationship with Lena, an American woman born in Vietnam in 1937, who becomes a culinary anthropologist, studying and preserving Vietnam’s food culture, and feeding homesick soldiers during the war.

As soon as I arrived, I contacted friends in town and said, “I need an idiosyncratic house on the river for the last scene in my new novel.” The next thing I knew, Lena and I (along with my fiancé) had been invited to spend the day in a sprawling Thai villa on the Saigon River, owned by an “Irish aristocrat” and filled with ornate, mildewing European furniture. Then I told friends I needed an old French apartment for Lena’s confrontation with the man who stole her research, and lo and behold, we were taken back through the decades to a loft in the historic Catinat Building.

Each day Lena and I had a new mission, and we were succeeding until one day she informed me that she did not like where she lived. I understood her reasons, and I told my fiancé. The following morning, the three of us set off at dawn, walking the city until finally, behind the Marie Curie High School, we turned the corner into a dead end lane, and there, behind a fence, were three French villas in row. I knew, even before Lena whispered in my ear: “The middle one.” Once again, my imagination had found its way home.

Lena's house in Saigon