INTERVIEW: THAO

Name: Thao
DOB: July 27th, 1991
Contact information: thaonguyen_[AT]hotmail.com
Online aliases: N/A
Forums most frequented: Soompi
Completed fics: Keys Before My Eyes, The Sheep Who Cried Wolf, [Short Stories + One Shots: Dear Tree K. Arm, The Zoo, Rose and Vase, Dear Santa, Candy Land]
Current fics: A Drifter’s Paradise, Too Beautiful to Breathe
Additional information: I have a lotttt of discontinued fics. I’m not going to bother listing them because I can’t remember them all. I actually hate to read, because I get too impatient with what’s going to happen next.  But when I do read, I love to read stories with the genre mix: Drama, Comedy, and Romance. Although I like the romance genre, I find it to be the most challenging genre to write. I don’t consider myself a ‘fanfic’ writer, but just a writer in general (I’m not much of a kpop fan, and 98% of my work is non-gasoo)…. I’m not sure when I’ll be coming back to the writing world. At the moment it’s so different from what I knew, that I feel a bit foreign to it.

fancracked: Hello Thao (: As a general starter, how did you get into fanfiction? ^^
thao: Harro phim! Hmmm, so back when I was 12 I didn’t know fanfiction existed until I bumped into the story called, What I Did For Love by Val. It circled around online and was pretty famous. I loved the story to bits and after finishing it, I went to search for more stories like it (thus, bumping into soompi.com) I guess after reading more fics on Soompi, I just kind of got sucked into the world.
fancracked: What were some fics that sort of “schooled” you on fanfiction? What fics kept you around as a reader (and later, as a writer)?
thao: It’s so hard for me to pick out a few stories that fished me! I’m not sure if anyone else on soompi was as hardcore as I was when it came to reading. I read almost every story that was out there and even various underrated ones (I guess that kind of helped me later on when I was maintaining ShoeBox). My all time favourites are Kiss the Sky by Kami and various stories by Amaranth (Moe). I was really into Moe’s The Bartender and the Beast when I was still new to this world. Needless to say, her writing style inspired me and I really looked up to her as a role model.

creds to sSsquishy
fancracked: You’re quite a big Amaranth fan (: I think it was summer of 2004 when you guys had the AC clan ?? I forgot what it was called since it’s been a long time haha. Can you tell us about it?
thao: LOL. oOoOhhh, right! Damn, almost forgot about that. That was like, 6 years ago? I don’t really remember much of it. Long story short, a lot of writers/readers on Soompi (myself included) really admired Moe and her work, so we made her a fan-club. I think it grew to over 300 members. Through that fan-club/clan thread, myself and a lot of other writers and readers got to really know each other. However, the clan thread isn’t around anymore because it got erased from the Soompi crash. Nowadays we don’t have a clan section on Soompi.
fancracked: I thought the idea of putting together the clan was really cool and sweet. It was the first time I saw like a band of fic readers support a writer so enthusiastically—I guess, in such a collective effort ^^;;


fancracked: Since you touched on ShoeBox, can you tell us more about it?
thao: I was snooping around the Requests Thread back then and found that a lot of readers were requesting stories that I knew of and have read before. Eventually I kind of realized, “Wow… I had no life back then, to be able to read and know so many fics.” [On the birth of the site…] myself, my friend Mel (MPPB_obsessed) and Sanny (xKiss_the_Sky) started a freewebs website to post up some stories we collected, and eventually we just started the hobby of making a collection–or, I guess, a library, of stories. We thought that it’d be of great convenience to readers (and I guess we were really bored back then). Eventually we transformed the webpage into a forum and then started collecting stories from other websites, such as wordpress. Later on the maintenance of the forum died. I’d to leave it to focus on school and other things, and the other two got busy with life. The forum’s still up, but it hasn’t been updated in years.
fancracked: What sort of role do you think ShoeBox has taken on over the years?
thao: I really do feel like it has helped create a some sort of ‘history’ for Soompi. After the old Soompi site crashed, the stories that had ‘always been there’ were lost. Sometimes you can find them again, other times s they’re erased forever because the original authors aren’t around to repost them. This is where ShoeBox comes in! LOL… ShoeBox acted almost like a database. Instead of fiction being finished, read, and then being forgotten or buried away, ShoeBox has helped a lot of stories be engraved into Soompi fanfic history. People can always refer back to ShoeBox to read a story. And some stories that haven’t gotten a lot of spotlight can be discovered and enjoyed there as well.

fancracked: When I think of non-gasoo fics and their original rise in popularity, I think of you right away because I feel like you were a top reader and later on, a leading writer for that “genre.” How do you think NG fics have impacted the fic world, and what do you think the “flavor” of NG fiction is? ^^;;
thao: oOoOhhh, good question! First off, I’m flattered that you think of me as a leader of NG fics. I wouldn’t say I’m a ‘leader’ though. I guess it just seems that way because my writing started to get more well-known during the period where NG fics emerged. I think NG fics have made an amazingly strong impact in the fic world. What the changes are, I can’t quite place my finger on it… but I can definitely say, the whole atmosphere of the Soompi fanfix section has really shifted after the emergence. I’m not sure if this makes sense, but it seems as if the ‘culture’ of soompi fanfix has evolved into something else. As for the flavour of NG fics, from my perspective, there seems to be a trend where many writers would write the drama/comedy/romance genre combination (which caters to the majority of Soompi readers).  However, the flavour of NG fics is really hard to fully describe and define. Each NG writer has their own ‘flavour’ and style. Usually two stories written by two different NG writers would have a different feel to them. If you’re thinking about the new emergence of a type of fiction (NG fic) in Soompi, I think it has more to do with the new emergence of a different generation of writers.

fancracked: What sorts of changes and/or developments did you see as you stuck around in the fic world? ^^
thao: I’d have to say, that what “hooks the reader in” has definitely changed. Before, people didn’t pay much attention to visuals. Over a short period of time it seems that its importance has quickly accelerated. Eventually many authors started to place a lot of emphasis on graphics, the layout and design of their posts, how attractive their thread appeared, etc. People also became very aware that in order to attain more readers, promotional material would be of great help in getting more exposure (again, placing heavy emphasis on graphics, banners and avatars). I hope I’m not sounding as if I see this as a negative thing, because I’m not. In fact I think it’s a really smart thing that writers are doing. They’re marketing their work. Another thing I’ve noticed is the evolution of ‘cliché.’ The new generation of writers made their stories revolve around clichés that are different from the clichés of the past. I think this can be explained by the change in preference and tastes over time.

fancracked: The talk of generation comparisons sounds like it’s a constant “generation vs. generation” debacle. Perhaps it’s inevitable because we all come during different times… When our generation came around we faced that sort of thing as well. So… as someone who’s seen and been on both sides so to say, what do you make of all of this?
thao: Hmmmm… What do I think of it? I think it’s all good man! I mean, I know there are a lot of writers (the older ones who’ve been writing for awhile) who’re experiencing all these changes and don’t like them, but that’s life isn’t it? Nothing is ever really consistent, change will always be. This all is kind of like a cycle to me—a cycle that’s inevitable. It’s just a matter of time until a new set of writers come marching in, along with a different set the trends, preferences, style and taste. Although there will always be disagreements and conflicts because of differences between the two generations, I feel like that this state is a sort of… equilibrium. Because let’s face it. (Soompi) fanfics will never reach ‘utopia.’ We ourselves don’t live in a perfect world, how can we expect the fanfic world to cater to everyone’s preferences? What we have is pretty healthy. All these conflicts and differences really propel writers to think more and I guess, learn from each other.

thao: There’s always been this thing with FANfiction vs. “Original” (non-gasoo) fiction… Sometimes I feel like there’s a bit of discrimination against original (non-gasoo) fiction from writers who write fanfics. Maybe there really is, or maybe I’m just trippin’. Nonetheless, I just want to just put it out there–for both fanfic and original fic writers–that we should all just hold hands and cuddle with each other. Obviously not literally. I mean that, if there are still tension between the two sides, let’s remember that at the end of the day, both types of writers are more similar than different. We all have a passion for WRITING. We all want to improve, we all get lost in this abstract world… Tsssk, yeah.. I don’t know where I’m going this… just wanted to throw that out there LOL.
fancracked: haha it definitely makes sense and I think it’s a really good reminder so thanks for touching on it (:

fancracked: Let’s talk a bit about your writing (:
thao: In the beginning I was just experimenting and oh my goodness, I was horrible!!! And being the person who has probably read more stories on Soompi than anyone else at that time, I think it’s safe to assume that I was the worst writer on Soompi when I started out. I didn’t take it seriously at first—it was more like a past time, I was a bored kid–but the more I read and the more stores inspired me, the more I tried to improve. Eventually I reached a point where after I finish a story, I literally think to myself, “Wow… That was an amazing story!… But I can do better.” LOL … It sounds so conceited, but I really did believe that back then, and that was one of the things that really kept me going. In no time I started dedicating a lot of energy and time into trying to make that statement come true—or something close to it. Criticism kept me going too, I loved the satisfaction of proving people wrong. Eventually along the way I made goals for myself. First it would be to finish a story, then it would be to improve at this and that. After Moe won Fanfic of the Year with The Bartender and the Beast, I thought to myself that one day I wanted to be nominated and have my stories be read by many readers as well. I guess you can say, what really made me jump from a reader to a writer was inspiration. What really made me stick to being a writer was the challenge. To keep on going and being the best that I can be. After a while it started to become addicting and along the way I’ve grown attached to this world. I’ve discovered that it wasn’t just a story, but there was so much more to a story–emotions and life. I just kind of fell in love with everything about this abstract world that we writers try to perfect and create. It was like art to me.

fancracked: You keep describing it as “abstract.” I’m curious to learn what that word/description means to you. ^^
thao: Abstract is real and yet surreal at the same time. When we wake every morning, that story that we wrote last night is not real. It’s just text–words. But when we’re in our zone and we’re writing that story, everything in it becomes so vivid and raw that it is almost a reality to us. It’s kind of interesting actually… that this abstract world isn’t real, but for many writers it is, and it’s almost acts as escape for them.

fancracked: Do you have any interesting back stories that go with your fics?
thao:: Well at the top of my head, I can say that my favourite story, Keys Before My Eyes, first came to life while I was sitting near a grand piano at the music store one day. I had finished piano lessons. I was lounging around, bored, and waiting for my mom. And then I had this randommm thought that it’d be so freaky to turn back and look inside the piano case to see bloody, cut up body parts LOL… not sure if that counts as a back story, but that kind of jump started KBME’s birth haha
fancracked: I’ll always remember reading that and being so shocked! haha … On the topic of gruesome bloodiness, a lot of your writing (though not all ^^) has covered dark/disturbing content, whether it’s psychological or physical. Where do you get such ideas from?
thao: Where do I get my ideas from… haha. Ever..y..whe..re..? LOL… I would say morbidness is a sort of like, a talent for me? It’s really easy for me to come up with really sick stuff. I try to keep it to a minimal in my writing though, even though it doesn’t seem like it. And why do I write that sort of content… for one, I grew up living in a rough environment, so a lot of sad, violent and twisted things don’t really bother me as they do to most people. I guess I’m a bit of a desensitized writer, and how I grew up and what I’ve been exposed to kind to seeps through my work. Secondly, these disturbing things make me feel like they make my work seem more… real. Because through my eyes, the world is a dark place. The many fortunate that haven’t really been exposed to this corruption don’t fully realize it, but I do. And I guess I kind of want to shed more attention to it in my work. Sometimes I write these things and I feel like I’m, in a way, warning my readers.

fancracked: Which fic of yours has been especially meaningful for you?
thao: Honestly, I can’t really choose. All of my stories are meaningful to me in many different ways. However if I had to pick, it would be a short story called Too Beautiful To Breathe. The thing with this story however, is that it’s unfinished, and there’s actually only two chapters that are posted. It’s special to me because I plan to not hold back on my emotions when I continue on with it. And that’s a really scary thing. One of the reasons why I’m so hesitant with writing it is because it’s a really depressing and I’m afraid my own work negatively affecting me (I used to go through depression). It’s also special to me because out of all the protagonists I’ve created, this one represents me the best. TBTB will almost me a window into myself–if that makes sense.

fancracked: Something I’ve noticed in your writing is your skill when it comes to writing dialogue and characterization… do you have any special tips? :P or thoughts on either topics? ^^
thao: To me, dialogue is derived from characterization. If you got your character down, and that character is almost… REAL to you, then dialogue should flow naturally. Characterization is quite challenging though. I don’t quite know how to give advice on this, but all I can say is just… place yourself in the character’s shoes. But don’t just IMAGINE you’re that person when you’re writing them, BE them. If you can somehow keep trying, and eventually get onto the level where you feel like all your characters are real people, then dialogue will come to you easily. I’m not sure how you get to that level… but I guess, the amount of belief and faith you have for your characters affects you as a writer. With belief and faith in them, you won’t feel that anything written about them is forced, nor will their interactions seem mechanical. That’s what makes your character more believable, and that makes a big difference at the end of the day!
fancracked: You’re such a passionate writer!!!

fancracked: Do you have any messages you’d like to send out to anyone? ^^;;
thao: My message goes out to the writers who’re still starting up, writer’s who feel hopeless, writer’s who want to be happy with the stories that they’ve written but feel that they don’t have the strength, skill and ‘talent.’ Seriously, it all takes hard work. Not just hard work, but passion for it all–your story/plot, your characters, your readers and the whole package. If you love all those things about this ‘abstract’ world, find the courage to take things to the next level and let yourself get lost in this world, you will go far. Don’t be afraid, be adventurous. There will ALWAYS be times where you’ll face obstacles in your learning journey—it’s inevitable and even the best writers face this—but keep your head up and be strong. Great writers are not born great writers—well, some are… But buddy, the vast majority just work their ass off. If you want to be something bad enough—such as, being an inspirational writer—then you’ll do whatever it takes to get there, even if the steps to being that takes a long time. I know it took me a long time to inspire people with my work—years of intense practice, tripping along the way, disappointing other and myself, and a lot of getting back up on my feet. Have hope in not just your stories, but most of all, yourself.

fancracked: If we missed anything you’d like to talk about, please expand upon it ^^
thao: Hmmmm… not really. Sucks that I’ve been away from this world for so long… I miss it. And I want to apologize to my lovely readers that I’ve been so MIA. I know it’s been almost a year, but I’ve been busy beyond imagination and I’ve other more urgent duties to fulfill.  Lemme go out to make lots of mola first, and then I’ll return to finish ADP and TBTB J I want to give a big warm shout out to all my readers, supporters and haters! My readers and supporters get the biggest shout-out because they’re the people who keep me hanging in when I feel hopeless and lost. My haters get a mention too because aside from me getting attention from my readers, I also get additional attention from you guys LOL. Thanks errbody!

fancracked: Thank you so much for sharing your time and thoughts, Thao (: Means a lot!
thao: Dude, noooo problem! Thank YOU for not only considering me for an interview and listening to my thoughts, but also for setting up the wonderful blog!

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