An Interview with Author Laura Manivong

03 Mar

Laura Manivong is the author of Escaping the Tiger which will be available on March 9, 2010. The trailer for Escaping the Tiger may be found at the end of the interview.

Please visit Laura’s website at

1. What is Escaping the Tiger about?

Caught in the crossroads of history, can a boy keep his hope—and his sister—alive?

Twelve-year old Vonlai knows that soldiers who guard the Mekong River shoot at anything that moves, but in oppressive Communist Laos, there’s nothing left for him, his spirited sister, Dalah, and his desperate parents. Their only hope is a refugee camp in Thailand—on the other side of the river.
When they reach the camp, their struggles are far from over. Na Pho is a forgotten place where life consists of squalid huts, stifling heat, and rationed food. Still, Vonlai tries to carry on as if everything is normal. He pays attention in school, a dusty barrack overcrowded with kids too hungry to learn. And, to forget his empty stomach, he plays soccer in a field full of rocks. But when someone inside the camp threatens his family, Vonlai calls on a forbidden skill to protect their future—a future he’s sure is full of promise, if only they can make it out of Na Pho alive.

2. The story is inspired by the experiences of your husband’s family. What in their experience inspired you to write this novel?

I’ve always been amazed by their happy-go-lucky approach to life, despite the hardships that could break a person’s spirit. My day-to-day annoyances were suddenly trivial once the details of their history started coming to light. It’s that hopeful attitude that I infused into my main character as a reminder to myself, and hopefully readers, that a tiny bit of opportunity can lead to great things, as long as you choose to not let the little things drag you down.

3. How did you fill the gap between fact and fiction to create a compelling story? What inspired the part of the story that didn’t come from your husband’s experiences?

Parts of the story that didn’t come from my husband’s experiences came from others in the Laotian community. The refugee camps were more dangerous in the time period before my husband’s family was there, and I drew on those episodes to keep the level of danger always lurking around my characters.

4. You’ve been a TV writer/producer for 17 years. Is anything in your job experience useful to you in writing fiction?

Sure. I write advertising copy almost everyday. You have 30 seconds to get a message across. And in that message, you consider your audience, you consider word choice— who has time for a bunch of adverbs (sound familiar?) when you have half a minute? You want to generate interest off the top, you want to keep the audience engaged, and in commercials that are more conceptual, you want to tell a story with a beginning, middle and end. Not that different from writing a novel for young readers, except that you need about 50,000 more words.

5. Escaping the Tiger is being released on March 9, 2010. Is it your first published book?

In 2006, Scholastic/ Children’s Press published a work-for hire project, a Rookie Reader titled One Smart Fish.

6. Escaping the Tiger could certainly be categorized as a boylit book. What do you think makes the story appealing to boys?

Maybe it’s the “boys will be boys” approach. Even on the opposite side of the world from American readers, in a different culture, centered around an experience that most readers will luckily never have, boys still play rough, get in trouble, make locker-room style jokes, deal with bullies, fight with their siblings, and like a good, fast, physical sport—in this case, soccer.

7. At 224 pages, Escaping the Tiger is within the page range that reluctant readers favor. Was any thought given to targeting this novel to reluctant readers or did the story just develop that way organically?

Not so much in the writing of the novel, but when it came to the marketing of it, I wanted to make sure the jacket copy was reflective of details that might appeal to boys who don’t want to read a lofty novel with a message about life. That’s why the first sentence on the inside flap mentions getting shot at, and a subsequent sentence highlights the soccer theme. And in the book trailer I produced, you hear gunfire in the opening scene, and there’s a big ol’ knife hacking into wood, danger, and more soccer images.

8. Which authors have inspired you as a writer?

Linda Sue Park, John Green, Marcus Zusak, Shannon Hale, Elizabeth C. Bunce, Ellen Wittlinger

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Written by Carl

  1. Dee Garretson

    March 3, 2010 at 10:12 am

    Can’t wait ’til this comes out! I’m very intrigued by the ‘forbidden skill’ mentioned in the blurb, and I’m sure boy readers will be as well. It’s great there are books out to help our sheltered children understand life is not so easy for everyone.

  2. Joanne

    March 3, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    Nice interview Karl and Laura. I’ve been waiting for this book since I first heard about it. Congratulations to Laura on the almost release!

  3. Joanne

    March 3, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    Oops! Sorry Carl (not Karl!)

    • Carl

      March 3, 2010 at 7:51 pm

      No problem, Joanne. 🙂

      I’ve really enjoyed these interviews. These books deserve attention and I hope they get it.

      I’ve got some more great interviews lined up. Please check back!

  4. Booksonfiction

    March 15, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    I am trying to find such posts on fiction

  5. Harry

    September 15, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    hey, this might be little offtopic, but i am hosting my site on hostgator and they will suspend my hosting in 4days, so i would like to ask you which hosting do you use or recommend?

  6. Panama Hoteles

    September 15, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    Your blog is top-notch I will have to read it all, thank you for the diversion from the books!