Today, I am thrilled to present to you the lovely Jamie Jo Hoang. Her debut novel tells the inspiring story of a young woman who is going blind. But instead of letting this defeat her, she embarks on a life adventure, traveling around the world. Are you hooked? I know I was when I read about it! Here’s the cover of this awesome story. Check it out and then join me as to hear all about Jamie’s real life travel experiences, too!
Hailed as “One of the best technical painters of our time” by an L.A. Times critic, 27-year-old Aubrey Johnson is finally gaining traction with her work. But as she weaves through what should be a celebration of her art, a single nagging echo of her doctor’s words refuses to stay silent—there is no cure. In less than eight weeks Aubrey is going blind.
Traveling on a one-way ticket around the world with childhood friend Jeff Anderson, Aubrey is in complete denial. But a blindfolded game of tasting foreign foods in China jolts her into confronting the reality of her situation. So begins her quest.
In this adult coming-of-age story, Aubrey struggles to make sense of her crippling diagnosis. But on her journey she finds a deeper understanding of herself and her life—sometimes fragmented and complex, but always with relentless truth.
Hello Jamie and welcome to my blog!
Thank you for inviting me, Fros!
I must say, Blue Sun, Yellow Sky sounds truly intriguing. What has inspired you to write it?
I had just come off the heels of reading Cheryl Strayed’s WILD and Elizabeth Gilbert’s EAT, PRAY, LOVE when I came across an article about a Dutch painter who was going blind. After reading it, I started researching other blind artists, became inspired by their work, and BLUE SUN, YELLOW SKY emerged. Our ability to adapt and overcome is what makes this story universal; you don’t have to be blind to empathize with Aubrey’s dilemma of having to reinvent her identity as an artist.
What was the first thing you ever wrote and how old were you then?
The first thing I ever wrote that I took seriously was my college entrance essay. In high school I was your stereotypical geek who did better in math and science than English, but for my entrance exam I wrote about my first trip to Vietnam, my parents’ homeland. I came face to face with poverty I had never seen before and realized that had my parents not made that fateful decision to flee, that was the life I had been destined to live. I knew then it was my responsibility to take full advantage of my situation. I was 10 years old at the time, and reflecting on that journey 8 years later for my college essay I first realized I had stories inside myself. You can imagine my parents’ disappointment when I went from Pre-med to Film School, but I think they’ve come around now.
Any hobbies or interests that you enjoy in your spare time?
I love to travel and I’m a bit of a thrill-seeker. When I was 24, I piggybacked on my friend Eric’s trip to Peru and caught the travel bug. So when I’m home I spend a lot of time surfing Google maps. There is so much beauty in the world, both natural and man-made, and I want to see it all. That’s probably why I was so drawn to the Seven Wonders of the World for BLUE SUN, YELLOW SKY. I live pretty modestly so most of my money is spent on travel. This is a map of the Maldives, off the coast of Sri Lanka, and it’s #1 on my bucket list. I’m also a certified scuba diver; there is serenity under water that I find incredibly peaceful. The photo below is of me diving in Bonaire with Dive Instructor William Wang. Ultimately, my motto in life is simply to try every thing once.
Wow, stunning photos! Do you see yourself in any of your characters, or do any of them have traits you wish you had?
The character in the book that is most modeled after me is actually Jeff. I used my experience dealing with heartbreak to develop who he was, but my friends who read the book tell me they hear more of me in Aubrey. As for traits I’d love to have, I’d want Aubrey’s skill as a painter–I myself draw pretty awful stick figures. To this day, the greatest compliment I ever got was from a reader; her dad is a painter and he said I described the world the way an artist would see it. She was my favorite person for a week.
What are you working on at the moment? Tell us a little about your current project(s).
I have a couple of ideas I’m fleshing out at the moment. One is a YA book about an unlikely and surprising friendship, and the other is a fictional account of my family’s history during the Vietnam War. The former has similar themes of personal growth as BLUE SUN, YELLOW SKY, and the latter is a lifelong passion project that has been years in the making.
What genres do you read mostly, and what are you reading now?
I don’t really have a particular genre. I prefer realistic fiction but will read everything from John Green’s THE FAULT IN OUR STARS to Junot Diaz’s THE BRIEF AND WONDEROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO. Right now I’m reading two books: 30 FIRST DATES by Stacie Wiedower and PREPARATION FOR THE NEXT LIFE by Atticus Lish.
Do you have any advice for other indie authors?
Get creative with your marketing. Go back through your Rolodex of people and get all of the help you can. Get involved in your book community–it takes a while, but visit your local bookstores with your book and ask them to consider adding it to their collection. I find that bringing your book with you and taking a picture of how well it fits next to other books of its genre helps! Word of mouth is still the best form of advertising so having your community back you will help build a strong readership foundation. Plus, having a strong network of readers will help soften the blow when those inevitable 1-star reviews suddenly appear.
Tell us about your website/blog. What will readers find there?
HeyJamie.com is my personal blog where I talk about my travels as well as my journey into self-publishing. When I first started as an indie author I was completely lost. I started writing posts about the things I learned so that I’d have a rubric for next time, but also to help fellow indie authors avoid some of the mistakes I made early on (like submitting to the wrong places or not submitting early enough to certain high-profile reviewers).
Being an author involves a lot of sitting around. What do you do for exercise?
I am a hiker. I hate the gym – not because I don’t like exercise but because I feel like it’s inhumane to walk/run for 3 miles and never actually go anywhere. When I was in Peru, I actually made the same trek Aubrey did in the book, hiking 42 km to Machu Picchu, and it solidified my love of hiking (see picture below). I also take really long walks. I use the walking time to catch up with friends on the phone, killing two birds with one stone.
Beware: four days hiking in Peru will turn your hair orange! The dazed look in my eye is exhaustion…it’s a long hike but I made it!
Well done, Jamie! Is there something you like to do to get the creative juices flowing when you write?
With BLUE SUN, YELLOW SKY, I spent a lot of time in museums getting inspired by paintings from all eras. In general, I do my best writing in coffee shops. The atmosphere is quiet enough for me to write but also offers the chance to watch people, which helps me to come up with character traits or physical descriptions. My Houston dog, Jilly (she’s not technically mine but I frequently kidnap her from my friends for play dates), was the inspiration for Aubrey’s childhood dog. I’d take her on walks when I had writer’s block and think about my story while she explored. She was the perfect companion – she kept up a good pace and was more interested in the smell of other dogs’ pee than chitchat. It helps that she’s a literary dog.
She’s a cutie! Well, Jamie, it was wonderful to have you today! Thank you, and good luck with your writing!
Same to you, Fros. Thank you for this opportunity to talk about my work.
Jamie Jo Hoang is the author of BLUE SUN, YELLOW SKY. Her driver’s license says she lives in Los Angeles, but she tries to escape to foreign lands as often as possible. She is a writer, thinker, explorer, lover of tea, certified advanced diver, and never far from an ocean. She blogs about her life and travels at: www.heyjamie.com.
Visit Jamie’s Blog
Visit Jamie’s Amazon Page
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