Thursday 24 April 2014

Alice On Self-Publishing: Once Upon a Mulberry Field

Alice Clark-Platts writes our monthly column on self-publishing. Here she talks to C L Hoang, who has recently self-published his first novel, Once Upon a Mulberry Field, through Smashwords.

C L Hoang was born and raised in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War, he then moved to the United States in the 1970’s. Like many authors, C L conducts his writing life alongside his primary profession – in his case, working by day as an electronic engineer whilst scribbling away at night.
C L began Once Upon a Mulberry Field in homage to his Vietnamese father, so as to capture the memories of family life in Saigon during the war. Later, C L discovered that the stories he unearthed deserved their place in a novel. He wanted to write about the experiences of the Vietnamese in a country destroyed by war, juxtaposed with the fates of the American servicemen who fought against them.

Once Upon a Mulberry Field is set in Bien-Hoa Air Force Base near Saigon in 1967, at the height of the Tet Offensive. The novel explores the blossoming romance between a U.S. Air Force doctor, Roger Connors, and Lien, a young Vietnamese widow working as a hostess at a Saigon club.

"Writing the novel has been the hardest task I have  ever undertaken." Says C L.  "It took me six years to finish but, if I was ever going to write a book, this was the one I wanted to write."

The choice to self-publish was as a means of achieving creative freedom: "It was a way of telling my story in the way I thought best. The process gave me the independence to choose the layout and design of the book – every aspect of the novel has been specifically selected by me."

C L admits that the learning curve has been steep. In line with the message of last month’s column, he advises that the input of professionals and experts is invaluable when it comes to the technicalities of editing and cover design etc.

The hardest part of the project was publicising and marketing the novel. "After doing your best on social media; writers’ platforms; and even working with a book publicist, the fruits of your labours are outside your control." He warns, adding that prior to publication is is a constant worry whether anyone will  actually buy the book.

Sales of Once Upon a Mulberry Field have been steady but C L admits that striving forth without the backing of a big publishing house is challenging, especially for an unknown, first-time author in a competitive market.

C L says whether he is inspired to write another novel remains to be seen. But, he adds, Vietnam is a beautiful country with a rich cultural heritage and an ancient folklore that highlights the universal human condition and spirit. "I hope to be inspired again to share that with my reading public."

More information

Click here for the Once Upon A Mulberry Field site. 
Click here for the page on Smashwords.