Q&A with Debut Author Variny Yim

When Summer Words alumnus Variny Yim contacted us about her forthcoming debut novel, we couldn’t wait to hear more about the book and her publishing process. The Immigrant Princess’s official launch date is June 14.  You can find Variny on Facebook and at

Aspen Words: Briefly describe your book.

Variny Yim: Four women from the Cambodian royal family struggle to rebuild their lives in America, while living in the shadow of a genocide that killed two million of their fellow Cambodians, including the two male figures in their lives. The Immigrant Princess is a story about love, family, cultural and intergenerational conflict, and personal transformation.

AW: What inspired you to write The Immigrant Princess?

VY: Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge invaded Phnom Penh on April 17, 1975 and began a reign of terror that killed two million Cambodians, including my father, grandparents, and other family members. I wanted to write a book to honor the memory of my father and show the resilience and quiet strength of Cambodian survivors in the U.S. The Immigrant Princess is a positive, inspiring story that spotlights Cambodian culture, food, music, dance, and joie de vivre.

AW: You attended Summer Words workshops in 2011 and 2012. How did that influence your journey as a writer?

VY: In 2011, I took a fiction class with Derek Green and it changed my life. Being in Aspen for an entire week surrounded by inspirational writers and authors, beautiful scenery, and delicious food was pure joy on so many levels. It was in Aspen that I discovered how much I love writing, and how important it is to be surrounded by other creative individuals who share this same passion. In 2012, I went back and took the same beginning fiction class with Derek and Scott Lasser. Boosted once again by their support and belief in me as a writer, I left the workshop invigorated and determined to write and finish a novel.

AW: How did your book find its way to Windy City Publishers and what has surprised you most about the publishing process?

VY: Initially, I wanted to self-publish but accidentally discovered Windy City Publishers through the Internet. I think hybrid publishing is a great option for new writers. I loved being able to make the final decisions on my book, but also get counsel and advice from a team of publishing professionals who know the business inside out. Working with Windy City Publishers was one of the best decisions I have ever made. They helped me make my dream come true.

What has surprised me most about the publishing process is that writing the book is just 50 percent of the journey. Learning to promote and market your book is the second half of the journey, and it feels a lot scarier and challenging than writing the novel.

 AW: What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve received? 

VY: After attending the Aspen workshop in 2012, I went back home and whipped up my novel in about six months. I was so happy and proud of myself. I showed the first draft to Derek and he told me it wasn’t ready. Specifically, he said, “You haven’t put enough blood, sweat, and tears into this. Go back and write some more.” Derek was right. You actually have to earn your story. I now believe that writing a novel does require a certain time and maturation period. It was hard work but so very worth it.

AW: Best piece of editing advice?

VY: 1) write in active voice and 2) every word matters so be selective and precise with your word choices. And, since my novel incorporates Cambodia’s political history, I had to do a lot of extra reading and research to ensure references in my book are correct and factual.

 AW: What are you currently reading?

VY: I like to read multiple books at a time so right now, I am reading The Geometry of Love by Jessica Levine; Publicize Your Book by Jacqueline Deval; and It Didn’t Start With You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle by Mark Wolynn.

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