Episode 7

Haunted houses and horrifying insects in Vietnam with Trang Thanh Tran

Trang Thanh Tran writes speculative stories about food, belonging and the Vietnamese diaspora. When not writing, they can be found over-caffeinating on iced coffee and watching zombie movies. She Is A Haunting is their debut novel.

Our interview begins at  00:19

We've got a Substack publication now! On the last day of the month, we share recommendations for two things we reckon you should read/watch/listen to. The beauty of Substack is you can revisit all our old editions and comment on our episode updates to share your thoughts. Come say hi!

Caitlin recommends: The Trial by Laura Bates

An intense survival story about a group of teens stranded on an island after a plane crash. You'll be hooked from the start.

Michelle recommends: Homecoming by Kate Morton

A beautiful and moving novel exploring dark family secrets across parallel timelines in 2018 and 1959.

In this interview, we chat about:

  • How 'zombie ants' inspired so many elements of the haunting explored in the novel
  • How Trang revises her novels with a reverse outline spreadsheet and how this keeps tension and suspense throughout the novel
  • The ongoing consequences of families being split by an ocean
  • Feeling like an outsider in the country your parents called home
  • Weaving in historical research (without it taking over the story)
  • Exploring the relationship between 'expert' outsiders and marginalised communities
  • How music inspires Trang's writing process
  • Trang's journey to publication – within the year she'd allowed herself to explore writing
  • How it felt to see a full Vietnamese name on the New York Times bestseller list

Books and other things mentioned:

  • The Burning by Laura Bates
  • Just the Gist's episode on the Trashman Yacht Sinking
  • See the three covers of Kate Morton's Homecoming here
  • The Last of Us (TV series)
  • The She Is A Haunting playlist

Follow Trang @nvtran_

She Is a Haunting is available now. Thank you to Bloomsbury for providing us with copies in preparation for the interview.

Connect with us on Instagram: @betterwordspod

About the Podcast

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Better Words

About your hosts

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Caitlin Toohey

Hi, I'm Caitlin! I've been on bookstagram since 2016, a podcaster since 2017, and worked in publishing since 2019. So books and reading are my entire life. When I'm not reading, I like listening to Taylor Swift, watching sitcoms, and generally being a theatre kid.
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Michelle Gately

Hi, I'm Michelle! I'm an Aussie living in the UK, working as a bookseller at Waterstones. I'm obsessed with storytelling in all its forms – I spend as much time watching TV or listening to podcasts as I do reading. Other hobbies include bouldering, hiking and generally obsessing about my pug Percy.