Street Scene, Downtown Iloilo
Khaled Hosseini describes his first novel, Kite Runner, as a “slowstarter.” Sales were small initially but by word of mouth they grew to make the book an international bestseller -1.25 million copies two years later in 2005. Even before the manuscript was published by Riverhead, NY, it had already been optioned by Dreamworks and the producers who with Mark Foster created what Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times called “…a magnificent film.”
I want to write a fictionalized account of life in the Philippines when I was growing up and Kite Runner is an obvious model of what can be done.
In an interview done for Amazon Wire to solicit pre-orders for his second book. A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled described the writing of both books. He went back to Afghanistan in March 2003, 27 years after he left it as an eleven-year-old boy. This was three months before his book, Kite Runner, was published by Riverhead. He had written the novel based on his memories and book and online research. His editor at Riverhead asked him if he was in Kabul to research his next book. Khaled said at the time he was there just to experience the country he had not seen in all that time. When he did start to write his second book, what he saw and heard on that trip did serve as inspiration.
Khaled tells the interviewer he doesn’t structure his novels consciously. He does not plan his novels beforehand. He has a starting point and takes it from there. He does not write for an audience nor write to educate non-Afghans of Afghan history and culture:
“It’s a very self-centered act, the act of writing. I write for myself; I’m the audience. I tell myself stories and hope other people would love it as well. But in terms of culture and history of Afghanistan, those things, I try to use just what I need for the purposes of the narrative… It’s never been my intention to explain or translate or be an ambassador for Afghan culture or things Afghan… That’s too big of a burden for someone who writes novels to be an ambassador for a whole culture. I want to tell a story and since my story necessitates cultural, historical, and other aspects, I’ll use those but that’s the main reason for writing.