A Thai lost in DC

Art June 03, 2013 00:00

By Manta Klangboonkrong
The Nati

3,852 Viewed

Expat Tichakorn Khroopan Hill's first book turns heads on the chick-lit circuit

If you’re looking for a light-hearted book with a bit of romance, drama and comedy, go to Amazon.com and get a copy of “From Bangkok with Despair: (mis)adventures in DC.” Not only is it good fun to read, but the author, Tichakorn Khroopan Hill, is the first Thai to publish a “chick-lit” book in English and distribute it internationally.

 Heart-warming, hilarious and deliriously refreshing, “From Bangkok with Despair” shares the story of Joyjira, a Bangkok journalist. Dumped by her anchorman-boyfriend in front of the entire Bangkok press corps, Joyjira decides to leave the humiliation behind and starts a new life as a reporter in Washington, DC, capital of the land of her dreams.

But as soon as she arrives, she’s up to her stiletto heels in hot water. Replete with culture shock and a dire situation on the job, the yarn soon transforms into a murder mystery that turns on an unexpected romance with a man named Luke – who turns out to be Joyjira’s competitor.

“From Bangkok with Despair” is like a twist on “Bridget Jones’s Diary”. If you like Bridget, you’ll love Joyjira and her amusing tales.

Bangkok-born Tichakorn might not have dreamed she’d publish a book – as she tells us in an interview – but it now seems written in the stars. Good at foreign languages since a very young age, she was anxious to see the world. She raided her school library’s travel section and spent nights writing.

After moving to America with her husband, Tichakorn rekindled her passion for writing and took it beyond a mere hobby. Her first novel has been met with positive reviews since its release in March.

Did you always dream of publishing a book?

I never thought about writing a book until about five years ago, when I came across this hilarious memoir, “Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy”, by Lindsay Moran. I was hooked, so I started looking for books written in a comedic tone, and most of them happened to be romantic comedy or chick-lit.

The writers I worship are Jill Kargman, Jennifer Weiner, Curtis Sittenfeld, Amanda Goldberg and Ruthanna Khalighi Hopper. But I love books by Ernest Hemingway. I’ve read “A Moveable Feast” many times and even hung out in front of Hemingway’s first apartment in Paris when I was there last year.

The Thai writers I admire are Sopak Suwan, Wanich Jaroongkit-anant, Suwannee Sukhontha and Win Leowarin.

How did the ideas of this book come about?

I started a blog and kind of rambled on about my daily life. The stories I wrote for my day job were pretty serious because they involved public policy and law, so to be able to write something light-hearted sounded very appealing and exciting.

I blogged for a year or two and some other bloggers suggested I write a novel. I quickly accepted the challenge – it was what I’d wanted to do – but I wasn’t completely sure I could do it. I started drafting a plot on my train rides home from DC every evening.

Did you base the character of Joy on yourself?

The book is pure fiction, even though the culture shock and some of the problems the characters face are based on the real experiences of Thais living in America. Joy does share some of my characteristics, likes and dislikes.

What about the other characters – any basis in reality?

No. They’re made up, even though I wish Luke were real!

Was it hard to get published?

I self-published it on Amazon, so I didn’t have to go through that process. I’d entered writing contests, and from the feedback from the judges, my book definitely had an audience. I actually placed second in one of the competitions. The book was originally titled “DC Diary”, but my editor and I agreed it needed a new title.

Are you concerned that the sensation of you being the first Thai chick-lit novelist would somehow overshadow the true value of the work?

I never thought of it that way. I wrote simply because I had a story to tell. I’m just happy that the feedback has been good so far. My only goal is to entertain. If people find it entertaining, then I’ve done my job.

How has your life changed since the book came out?

I feel very accomplished! Writing a novel was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. For the past five years my weekends and holidays were spent on the book. It was hard also because I worked full-time and was exhausted by the time I got home from work.

So it took time and a lot of determination, but I’m very happy with the end result. I’m now in the process of promoting my book on Goodreads and Amazon. It’s good fun reaching out to people and interacting with readers. I view this as a privilege. I wasn’t in the position to do this five years ago – or even last year.

So far your book is available only at Amazon. Will it be in Thai bookstores soon?

I don’t know yet, but I would love that.

What about a Thai-language edition?

It would be an honour to have my book translated. My mum complains that she can’t read it because it’s in English.

Do you plan to have the second book out soon?

Yes. I have a few ideas that need to be narrowed down.


Buy “From Bangkok with Despair: (mis)adventures in DC” at Amazon.com as a paperback for $10.95 or for your Kindle for $5.95.

Learn more about the author at TichakornHill.com.